White is Lynda Gardener’s go-to hue and headlines the interior decorator’s country celebrations in the township of Trentham, Victoria. It’s a family affair with a cool vintage twist.
Designer Lynda Gardener puts her own stamp on a country celebration in Victoria.
HALL/MAIN BEDROOM Lynda (pictured) and partner Mark live here most of the time, except when the property is rented out for weddings and functions. Those who visit at Christmas usually stay over. Wreath made by local florist Acre of Roses. Interior walls painted Wattyl Freesia.
EXTERIOR Trentham is 75 minutes north-west of Melbourne and the home is next to the Domino Rail Trail walk. While the couple updated it to suit, they retained charming aspects such as the verandah’s climbing roses. White chairs, Ikea. Hanging seats, HK Living.
Anytime is a good time to visit the beautiful Victorian town of Trentham, but being there over Christmas is magic for Lynda Gardener and Mark Smith. That’s when they down ‘tools’ and take a well-earned break from Trentham General, the cafe and old-wares store they recently opened in a restored 1880s bank building.
Former events director Mark helms the cafe all week and Lynda is also at the store a lot – when she’s not working as an interior decorator with partner Belle Hemming at their business, Inside Story, or renting out the four properties she has renovated in her inimitable old-meets-new style.
So, when the couple are home at The Estate, their Federation-era cottage purchased in 2014, that time is very precious. Many people know Lynda from her 24 years running renowned homewares store Empire Vintage in Melbourne’s Albert Park. She closed it two years ago and relocated many pieces she couldn’t bring herself to sell before to the Trentham store. Others found their way into their cute weatherboard home on the town’s main street.
Set in more than 2000m 2 of gardens and orchards, it’s a two-bedroom house with period features plus a number of outbuildings Lynda and Mark have put to good use. The largest is an old work shed they’ve transformed into a venue called The Barn, the other is an extra bedroom created out of a potato pickers’ shed. All have original floorboards and the palette of fresh white and natural tones Lynda is known for (she is also a brand ambassador for Bauwerk Colour, and the company’s wall-friendly Bleached and Raw Whites in particular).
LIVING ROOM Lynda and Belle wrapping gifts for Lynda’s family, overlooking what’s called the ‘summer garden’ because of its year-round northern light. Even in warm weather, the throws and rugs are kept close by. “It’s that kind of house,” says Lynda. “It is always cosy, warm and cuddly in here.” The Christmas decorations are a mix of old and new pieces. Modular sofa upholstered in linen and the easy chair in hessian. Coffee table and wool rug, Trentham General. Knitted ottoman and white side table, HK Living. Vintage artworks.
LIVING In a corner of the room is this old factory bench and chair in corduroy. Above is a fragrant pine-tree branch freestyled by Lynda.
The Christmas ‘crackers’ are actually sweets. Rug, Freedom. Leather bag, Nique. KITCHEN Lynda designed the new kitchen and sourced everything in it. The benchtop is concrete and the pendant lights are from Ikea. Rug, HK Living. Apron, Major Minor. SHORTBREAD These biscuits are the stars of the show at Christmas, made in a large batch by Lynda. GUESTROOM Set in the garden, this space has its own bathroom. Linen, Major Minor. ‘Cherry tree’ printed lantern, HK Living.
While the house and its bedrooms are an intimate set-up of luxuriously soft linen sofas and bedding, retro crockery, one-off vintage artworks and a touch of Scandi in the rustic timber and fur hides, The Barn is a lofty space with a pitched roof. Vintage cage lights suspended from the rafters provide just enough light for the bespoke events held there.
Christmas this year will be a simple affair for about eight family members and friends in The Barn, with Mark in charge of the cooking. Lynda always decorates, starting with a tree from nearby Daylesford Christmas Tree Farm. “It’s such a lovely experience, picking out a tree and bringing it home – and the smell is like no other,” she says.
Apart from a sit-down lunch, the day is unscheduled. “We never have a regimented plan; we just go with the flow. Some years it’s been a casual picnic in the garden and other years we’ve set up in the dining room of the house,” Lynda explains.
Festivities will start with drinks in the garden, followed by lunch inside. Mark’s menu will include roast turkey cooked according to a Nigella Lawson recipe. Lynda’s sister makes the salads and her mum is in charge of dessert.
Afterwards, everyone hangs out in the garden with more cocktails and nibbles. “Then everyone stays overnight if they want to,” says Lynda. It’s hard to imagine anyone leaving such an amazing place before they absolutely have to... The Estate, Trentham, Victoria; theestatetrentham.com.au.
THE BARN There’s an elegant driveway up to this versatile space. Hanging on the door is a wreath made from foraged eucalyptus branches by Acre of Roses. The antique tools are purely decorative pieces. GIFTS To fit this year’s natural theme, the presents are simply wrapped in brown paper and twine, then decorated with ric-rac ribbon from the 1950s and pine-needle sprigs. Small bird found at a Paris flea market. Dress, Hope & May. Bracelets, made by Lynda (small) and found at auction. Silver necklace by Vikki Kassioras. TABLE DETAIL
“The look is all about naturals, browns, 1970s ceramics, wooden utensils and a gorgeous linen tablecloth from Cultiver,” says Lynda. The crockery is a mix of 1970s Arabia ware (dark brown) and light brown and mustard pieces by HK Living (as are the glasses with cane detail and vase), all from Trentham General. The pudding was Lynda’s first attempt at making one. Chairs and trestle table, Lynda’s own.
CHRISTMAS SETTING Preparations usually involve everyone at hand. Mark is kept busy with the catering while Lynda and Belle work on the huge statement piece to hang over the table. It was made from the base of a large floral arrangement by Flos Botanical, used for a wedding held at The Barn the week before. They added striking wattle branches to tie in with the table. The Barn’s floor is newly laid concrete and the white paint on the walls and ceiling is Wattyl Freesia, another of Lynda’s favourite interior whites. For Where to Buy, see page 212. #