After an un­ex­pected move from the city and a speedy ren­o­va­tion of a lit­tle, “ugly duck­ling” cot­tage, Nikki and her fam­ily are lov­ing their new life in the coun­try.

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lit­tle hill­side cot­tage came about com­pletely by ac­ci­dent. We were liv­ing in Mel­bourne when our house suf­fered ma­jor wa­ter dam­age from a bro­ken pipe. Not look­ing for­ward to hav­ing to rent a small city apart­ment for six months – with­out our beloved dog – while the house was re­paired, I hatched plan B: move to the lit­tle house we’d bought two years pre­vi­ously on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula! This would mean a com­plete re­lo­ca­tion, a new school for the kids and an en­tirely new life­style for all of us, in­clud­ing the dog! The prop­erty had been bought as an in­vest­ment after

I’d spent many week­end es­capes in the area – I loved the size of the block and the sim­ple cot­tage on the sunny side of the hill, but never thought it would soon be­come our fam­ily home!

Cos­metic makeover

Although the cot­tage was a bit of an ugly duck­ling, it was well main­tained and had lots of win­dows for nat­u­ral light, so the po­ten­tial was there. We moved in and be­gan ren­o­vat­ing like crazy to re­move the 1960s decor.

First to go was the vi­brant car­pet in the kids’ bed­rooms. Dur­ing the six weeks it took for Dar­ius and I to sand and whiten the floors, we all camped out in the largest room with the open fire, which was heaps of fun! The pale duck-egg blue walls through­out the house had a cold feel, so we opted for all sim­ple clean white walls in Du­lux Nat­u­ral White.

We chose to keep the orig­i­nal car­pet in the din­ing and liv­ing ar­eas, as it was still in good con­di­tion – and the colour seemed to be ex­tremely for­giv­ing to the clay mud that we so of­ten drag through the door!

Styling duo

I’ve al­ways been the chief dec­o­ra­tor in the fam­ily but I’m start­ing to share that ti­tle with Zoe – she has a real flair for it! My pref­er­ence is al­ways for items from nature over any­thing plas­tic – and any­thing that’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent.

I’m no­to­ri­ous for com­ing home with a fab­u­lous branch I’ve found on a trail or a bunch of pine cones from the bot­tom of the pad­dock. Once, I had Dar­ius drag a huge piece of drift­wood all the way up the beach to home – it was just per­fect and we still have it dis­played out­side on the porch.

The lo­cal home­wares stores al­ways seem to have an in­ter­est­ing item that says ‘take me’ – I’m spoiled for choice. Greed­ilulu in Morn­ing­ton is a favourite and where I found the colour­ful fun couch in Zoe’s room, the liv­ing room cush­ions plus a few other items.

An­other thing I can’t re­sist is art – it doesn’t need to be big or by ‘a name’. In fact the tiny lit­tle pieces I’ve picked up at mar­kets are among my favourites. I have lit­tle sub­dued land­scapes along with bold colour­ful prints. I don’t have rules about art other than I must love it. That’s key for me – to go with what you love in your home, and this lit­tle house has so­lid­i­fied that the­ory for me even fur­ther. I al­ways go with the things that re­ally speak to me.

Stay­ing put

The fun­ni­est part about this en­tire ad­ven­ture for our fam­ily is that I re­ally think it’s be­come per­ma­nent – I just can’t see us mov­ing back to our for­mer city life and leav­ing be­hind what we’ve dis­cov­ered here.

Watch­ing the sun tip over the hill each morn­ing from the kitchen ta­ble and hav­ing the whole fam­ily (chick­ens, dog and guinea pigs in­cluded) con­gre­gat­ing un­der the grapevine per­gola in the evenings is a hard life to leave! I think the ten­ants who even­tu­ally move into our fully ren­o­vated house in Mel­bourne will be very happy with it!”

“Liv­ing here has shown me how lit­tle I ac­tu­ally need to be happy.”

Ap­ples still on branches from the gar­den form a cen­tre­piece.

DE­TAIL Grouped to perfection To cre­ate a gorgeous vi­gnette, stick to one colour pal­ette, like Nikki’s neu­trals, with no more than five items of vary­ing height.

OUT­SIDE Warm wel­come

A low-main­te­nance hedge planted along the length of the house pro­vides colour for the en­try all year.

Nikki bought these chairs from an op shop. KITCHEN Co­he­sive colour Nikki makes her bright morn­ing-tead­rink­ing spot work by re­flect­ing the hues in the art­work.

Branches from the gar­den bring nature in­side. DE­TAIL

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