An old miner’s cot­tage is a cre­ative es­cape in Hep­burn Springs, Vic­to­ria, for a fam­ily and its friends.


THESE DAYS, MANY SHARE the dream of a lit­tle cot­tage in the coun­try. It was some­thing that Ker­rie and Greg von Menge also nur­tured — to have an es­cape from their busy city lives. Their par­tic­u­lar dream had a twist though: Ker­rie and Greg ran an art fram­ing busi­ness in Mel­bourne and also wanted to share their re­treat with their artist friends. “One of the main rea­sons we wanted the shack in the coun­try was be­cause if we stay at home on the week­end, Greg tends to work,” Ker­rie says. “And as most of our clients are friends, we thought we could of­fer them a break in the coun­try, too,” adds Greg, the hands-on framer in their busi­ness. Ker­rie, who has a back­ground in in­te­rior de­sign and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion, had been keen to find a coun­try es­cape around Hep­burn Springs near Dayles­ford, 118 kilo­me­tres north-west of Mel­bourne. The town is well known for its artis­tic com­mu­nity. “We’ve been coming up to this area for 20 years and have a lot of cre­ative friends up here,” she says. Greg adds that once Ker­rie had planted the seed, it kept grow­ing un­til three years ago when she spot­ted a cot­tage on the mar­ket within in their price range. “I started get­ting ex­cited about the idea,” he says. On in­spec­tion though, the prop­erty didn’t ap­peal so they went off for lunch be­fore driv­ing home. “Then we de­cided to look in a real es­tate agent’s win­dow and that’s when we saw this place.” Built in the 1860s, the weath­er­board miner’s cot­tage sat on a cor­ner block on the road run­ning down the ridge­line into Hep­burn Springs village. From the rear, it had views high over the Wom­bat State For­est and a track wind­ing down through bush­land to Hep­burn’s fa­mous Min­eral Springs Re­serve and Bath­house and Spa in the gully be­low. They in­stantly knew it would be the per­fect week­end re­treat, not just for them and their two chil­dren, Jack­son, 25, a graphic de­signer, and Si­enna, 22, a teacher, but also their friends. Pre­vi­ously it had been used as a hol­i­day home and was still filled with all the fur­ni­ture and bits and pieces of the late owner. Look­ing past it all, Ker­rie’s eyes lit up at the green enamel stove sit­ting in the fire­place — it clinched the deal. “I loved that stove,” she re­calls. “It was a real coun­try house and, from then on, ev­ery­thing we did re­volved around that.” Ker­rie loves to dec­o­rate with her vin­tage col­lec­tions and, long be­fore they found the house, she knew she’d fur­nish their fu­ture get­away with the in­ter­est­ing pieces she’s gleaned from the road­side, mar­kets and an­tiques stores, as well as the cou­ple’s ex­ten­sive art col­lec­tion. The art­works in­clude gifts from vis­it­ing artist friends, clients and fam­ily con­nec­tions (artist Mark Schaller is Greg’s cousin, and the late David Lar­will his brother-in-law) plus Ker­rie’s own in­tri­cate wire-and-twig work, lamp­shades, bird­cages and sculp­tures, which she la­bels Ebony Twigg. These she prefers to give away as gifts, rather than sell, to friends and those who stay at the cot­tage. “We’ve called the house Ebony Twigg, too — there are lots of twigs here!” she says with a smile. As for the ex­ist­ing fur­ni­ture in the house, they in­tended throw­ing it out un­til Ker­rie started sift­ing through, find­ing sev­eral pieces that could be re­stored. “Ev­ery­thing was >

ma­hogany coloured, and there was blue car­pet and pur­ple vel­vet-flocked paint in one of the be­d­rooms,” she says. Among the pieces were a set of kitchen chairs, bed­side ta­bles and a stained pine dresser, which Ker­rie and Greg have since smartened up with a coat of black paint. Mean­while, the liv­ing area’s floor­boards were fin­ished in a black tim­ber stain while the four be­d­rooms were re­car­peted. Walls were painted sooth­ing white, and light and dark shades of grey. Greg then repan­elled the in­ter­nal doors and is still in the process of re­plac­ing all the door­knobs with old ones. For the cou­ple, one of the delights of coun­try life has been dis­cov­er­ing the bar­ter­ing sys­tem op­er­at­ing within the com­mu­nity. “We swapped one of our beds for some or­ganic beet­root and car­rots,” says Ker­rie. “We have lovely grapes and a plum tree — we started giv­ing our plums away to neigh­bours, and they came back with plum cake.” Ker­rie adds that the coun­try dream was al­ways about shar­ing as well as find­ing the right bal­ance in life. “Greg al­ways finds things to do when we’re here,” Ker­rie says. “He en­joys the morn­ing walk to get the pa­pers and cof­fee, and we both love walk­ing down the old fire track to the old Hep­burn swim­ming pool and the springs. It’s so cen­tral we can pop up to Bendigo, or drive out to the ru­ins of Yan­doit — or just sit on the ve­ran­dah watch­ing the birds. The whole idea of this place was to just get away, and the best thing is bring­ing friends up here and show­ing them around.” Find Ebony Twigg on In­sta­gram @ebonytwig­g­dayles­ford

ABOVE Ker­rie and Greg von Menge. BE­LOW The large land­scape paint­ing is by Tim Lane and the small art­work is by Heidi Yard­ley. The an­i­mal bud vase was made by lo­cal ce­ram­i­cist Brid­get Bo­den­ham.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM TOP LEFT A Pony Rider wall-hang­ing hangs above the side­board from The Amaz­ing Mills Mar­ket. The tim­ber foundry mould was also from the mar­ket, dis­cov­ered at the Wooden Duck stall. The bird­cage was a found piece; in the twin bed­room, the bed­side ta­ble is a road­side find. The knit­ted cush­ion is from Free­dom, and the lamps are from Adairs. The prints were sourced from a lo­cal Face­book group; in the bath­room, the van­ity is painted in Du­lux Domino with black tap­ware from Bunnings. For stock­ist de­tails, see page 135.

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