COMING UP ROSES
HOW THIS PROPERTY IN TRENTHAM, VICTORIA, HAS BEEN THOUGHTFULLY UPDATED OVER THE PAST DECADE, FINDING NEW PURPOSE AS A FLOWER FARM ALONG THE WAY.
Sandy Mckinley has tapped into the history of her 1860s property, Acre of Roses in Trentham, Victoria, planting a beautiful garden and updating a cottage for guests.
Keegan the Irish wheaten terrier greets visitors at Acre of Roses in Trentham, Victoria. The front door is painted Dulux Blue Ridge. FACING PAGE In Sandy Mckinley’s dining room, an old New Zealand kauri dresser displays tableware and a pewter vase filled with ‘Sally Holmes’ and ‘Jude the Obscure’ roses.
SANDY MCKINLEY KNEW she had found her home as soon as she saw her 1860s cottage in Trentham, 95 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. It was like a sixth sense; an innate sensibility of knowing, which Sandy calls “fey” — something she links back to her Irish heritage, although she was born in New Zealand. “Our family had a level of knowing and when I grew up there were always stories in my family.” Sandy’s late father David Mckinley, who was a designer in the aviation industry in New Zealand, and Sandy’s inspiration, picked up on the same vibe when he visited the cottage. “His family were very, very Irish, and he really connected with this land and the cottage, it had a sense of relaxation and calm and for a number of years he talked about its potential,” she says. It was 2007 when Sandy bought the cottage on a rambling block of land that she now calls Acre of Roses — referring to the romantic garden of some 1500 perfumed roses that she has planted in the paddock behind the house. She had arrived in Melbourne four years earlier to work in marketing, but inwardly yearned for another life. “I always had this dream to have a country cottage on acreage, with accommodation,” she says. “My friends brought me to Trentham, and I thought there was something magical and special about the area... the trees are just beautiful. I felt at home.” Sandy later learned that her timber cottage had originally been owned by a foundry worker named Ernie Elliott. His family were highly regarded for their community spirit and renowned for their beautiful garden. At one time the land had been a market garden supplying produce to the local area. “I feel the good vibes are coming through from the Gaelic connection and that history of gardening and community goodwill here,” says Sandy, who now runs a micro flower farm at the property. The field of glorious roses, mainly hybrid teas and David Austin varieties, are grown sustainably to supply florists and event planners. Basic updates had been done on the property over the years, but after Sandy moved in she started chipping away at more small renovations. Then in 2012 she met her partner, local builder Rob Roy, who was also living in Trentham. “At first we were very good platonic friends, and then we got together. He is actually like the real-life Rob Roy character with a heart of gold... We have done the majority of the work on the place together in the last three years.” When Rob took over the renovation, he added a mudroom to the kitchen entry, opened up two small bedrooms to make one large room, and raised the roofline of a 1970s addition at the rear to create the master bedroom and ensuite. “We have restored some floors, and insulated underneath. I love old black and white movies so Rob built an open-air theatre room off the sitting room.” The room is open to the garden but, with underfloor insulated decking, fibreglass blinds and a fireplace, it can be closed off and made cosy in winter. >
CLOCKWISE, FROM ABOVE Sandy uses an old picking trolley she found in a prop shop when cutting roses; the oak table is a family heirloom and chairs were sourced by interior stylist Belle Hemming. The Jean Baptiste print is by French painter Pascal Amblard; a ‘Honey Dijon’ rose; Rob built the window seat in the dining area. The pelmet and cushion covers are by the Upholstery House; Keegan sits on the front verandah; Rob built the mudroom to open into the kitchen. The fishing basket is from Dallas in Trentham. For stockist details, see page 135.
Rob rebuilt the master bedroom, installing new windows, raising the roof and making the wooden bedhead. Bed linen is Cultiver with blankets by Bemboka. For stockist details, see page 135.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT The woodland garden; the ‘Fornasetti’ room was named for the Piero Fornasetti mural. The bedhead is recycled wood boards painted with Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan in French Linen. Bed linen is by Cultiver with blankets from Bemboka; French doors lead to the verandah from the ‘Chinoiserie’ room. The pelmet was made by Spoonflower using Zazzle’s Trellis Lattice fabric; ‘Old Woollerton Hall’ roses; the basins and Bastow Georgian tapware in the guest bathroom are from Early Settler. Mirrors are from Provincial Home Living; local gardener Tim Pilgrim made the signs for the roses. For stockist details, see page 135.
CLOCKWISE, FROM ABOVE An arrangement of Lilac Wine roses sit in the IKEA sink. Tapware is also from IKEA. The tiles are from Schots Home Emporium; an artwork from Found at Hepburn hangs in the sitting room; Lilac Wine roses in the garden; a hanging chair from HK Living and wicker stool from Early Settler on the verandah; the Kingston coffee table is from Provincial Home Living. The Upholstery House re-covered Sandy’s old sofa; a family heirloom side table displays a typewriter Sandy has had since she was a child. The floating shelf is from the Pottery Barn and the urn is from Provincial Home Living. For stockist details, see page 135.
Sandy worked with interior stylist Belle Hemming to bring together a mix of ‘hero’ fabrics for curtains and furnishings — made mostly by Belle’s partner Andy Hemming of The Upholstery House — with heirlooms, artworks and vintage pieces Sandy already had. “I grew up with an understanding of aesthetics and design from my father, and when describing my overall vision, I call it Hamptons-meets-country. It’s not too frilly or fluffy, and not too French — it’s comfortable.” In the garden, Sandy engaged local stonemason Tom Hamlin to build her a brick folly, or ‘ruin’. Sandy has a fascination for ruins, which stems from family stories of an ancient castle on a clifftop that was the family seat at Rathlin, Ireland. Tom was given carte blanche to interpret the project and Sandy loves the result. “It sits well in the garden and I really think the structure feels a little bit spiritual.” Entwined in Sandy’s evolving dream is the idea of offering accommodation, so the next step is to rebuild the potting shed as her own home with Rob and then offer the main house as self-contained accommodation for visitors. “People who come here pick up on the soul of the place,” says Sandy. “Our whole idea was to create an environment that is really relaxed... I get a lot of enjoyment going through the rose paddocks and picking. Rob is a workaholic and he is always pottering and loves nothing more than working on an old piece of wood. I had a vision with my dad to put in place here, and it has developed from there. It is home.” For more information about Acre of Roses, telephone 0405 032 566 or visit acreofroses.com.au
ABOUT THE HOUSE
• Local interior stylist Belle Hemming collaborated on the interior. thebellebrightproject.com.au • Sandy chose Dulux colours Blue Ridge, Self Destruct and Hog Bristle quarter-strength for the exterior. Whisper White was used on the interior walls. 13 25 25; dulux.com.au • Stonemasonry work was done by Tom Hamlin of Hamlin Landscapes. 0419 407 107. • Sandy admires French painter Pascal Amblard so she wrote to him, asking to buy copies of his work. pascalamblard-atelier.com
‘Cinderella’ hybrid tea roses overflow from a basket on the vintage clothes stand that Sandy found on ebay. For stockist details, see page 135.
The brick folly by Tom Hamlin of Hamlin Landscapes is the centrepiece of the rose garden and was built using recycled bricks.