KASTURI AND SIMON WREN BUILT THEIR DREAM HOME IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS WITH THE HELP OF THEIR FAMILY.
A few bumps in the road weren’t enough to stop Simon and Kasturi Wren from building their dream home.
THE NSW BLUE MOUNTAINS holds many precious childhood memories for Kasturi and Simon Wren, who, long before they met, both enjoyed spending their free time rambling about in wild surrounds and delighting in the natural settings. “For me, Leura was an escape from the flat and featureless suburbia we lived in,” says Kasturi of her visits to a friend’s weekender in the area with her family. “Leura had this connection to nature and held the possibilities of adventure.”
Kasturi’s husband Simon grew up in nearby Katoomba and enjoyed a childhood bashing about in the bush. However, he also remembered too many frostbitten mornings for his liking. “He wasn’t ready to move back when we first met and we loved being close to the city with busy careers to occupy us,” says Kasturi of their lives in Sydney’s inner west. She worked at a law firm while Simon was in the tech industry.
A few years ago, however, they both had a yearning for more space and a home that allowed them to indulge in their beloved hobbies. “I love reading and painting, Simon tinkers around with things and dreamed of restoring a car,” says Kasturi. Before they knew it, the couple started looking for a block of land that would accommodate their dreams for a different pace of life.
“We were avid watchers of shows like Grand Designs, and we saw the hard work and heartbreak of a dream build but — yes, a bit foolishly — we believed ours would be completely different,” says Kasturi with a laugh. “As it turns out, it was almost the same.”
Missing out on the first block they wanted, the pair were not going to let the next 1500 square-metre parcel of land they found in south Leura — complete with a tree-lined driveway — get away from them. “I walked down that driveway and I knew this was the spot for us,” says Kasturi. “But we did have to contend with the tangle of overgrown scrub, clearing it all out.”
With the block ready, the couple turned their attention to styling. “We wanted to draw on what we’d loved on our travels; so Cape Cod-style was a starting point, but I also wanted an earthiness and warmth.” Simon, on the other hand, wanted rooms for his tech gear and a double garage.
Together the couple began sketching an outline of their home and then contacted Storybook Designer Homes to translate those pictures into a functional floorplan and design. After refining the concept to make sure all their wants were covered, including traditional window panes, a New York-style master bedroom with ensuite and a guest wing, the couple then got started with the help of Simon’s brother, Thomas, and cousin, Andrew Dufton, on the build team. Only some aspects of the build were contracted out such as the kitchen and landscaping.
“It was a family project,” says Kasturi. “Which makes this house even more special. It brought the family together. Yes, there were ups and downs and challenges but we really came together and we’re so grateful to all our family who helped us make it happen.”
Of course, nothing went to plan. The build started in earnest in September 2015, with Kasturi and Simon both confident they would complete it by April 2016. “April came and went,” says Kasturi. “Then we focused on getting it done by August, which also came and went. So we thought Christmas, which also came and went!” >
The long delays, a few troubles with contract tradies and then ultimately spending all their budget took its toll. “When we didn’t have enough to finish off the job, it was heartbreaking and it was an incredibly hard time emotionally. I had this primal urge to be in the house but we couldn’t finish it!” says Kasturi.
The couple’s family helped get them back on track and finally, in March this year, Simon and Kasturi moved into their five-bedroom, two-bathroom home (complete with a double garage and workshop). The home takes full advantage of the block, cleverly orientated to capture natural light while also maintaining full privacy.
The lounge room is a gathering space with a freestanding fireplace as a centrepoint. “Simon wanted it to be gas because he’d already grown up having to chop and gather wood as a kid. But I felt that the life we wanted was one where you had to put the phone down and be in the moment, and if that means we’re chopping wood, so be it!”
Now ensconced in their dream home, Simon and Kasturi are tapping into the local community delighting in artisanal food, farmers’ markets and a real sense of community. “The magic of the area hasn’t disappeared with time,” she says. “Discovering all the local secrets and making this place our home is the adventure I dreamed it would be.” Kasturi and Simon now offer their home as accommodation. For more information, visit wrenandwhippet.com.au
The view from Sublime Point Lookout, about a four-minute drive from Simon and Kasturi’s house. FACING PAGE, CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP The fireplace is the centrepiece of the living room — the hearth was made with ‘Pietra’ marble from Rosa Stone. The ‘Balance’ sofa by Camerich in Waterloo is decorated with No Chintz cushions, while ceramics from Little White Dish adorn the coffee table; Kasturi found this doorknocker on Etsy; the couple initially wanted herringbone flooring, but felt it would have been too dominating, so only used it in parts of the home such as the entry; the exterior is painted with Wattyl Solarguard in Smiley White, while the roof is Colorbond Night Sky. “So many tradies tried to talk us out of it, saying the white would be too blinding, or the roof too hot, but we knew what we were doing and it came down to getting the right shade,” says Kasturi. For stockist details, see page 142.