Consummate entertainers Chyka and Bruce Keebaugh are discovering the simple pleasures of a leafy weekender an hour from Melbourne, where they can kick back and unwind in style.
Hostess extraordinaire Chyka Keebaugh has a new home away from home.
Two years ago, Chyka and Bruce Keebaugh were scrolling through Instagram when they discovered a property with promise on the Mornington Peninsula. “It was the Saturday nightofDerbyDayandBrucerang the agent for us to see the place on the Monday, then we bought it at auction the following Saturday,” says Chyka, who runs a catering and events company called The Big Group with Bruce, as well as her own lifestyle brand.
The time was right for the couple. Their careers were ticking along and both their children were grown and living overseas, which meant no more Saturday sport to attend. Only an hour out of their base in Melbourne, the property offered a lifestyle where they could decamp for weekends and comfortably entertain or just suit themselves. Wedged between Red Hill and Flinders, it’s surrounded by dairy farms and vineyards yet is only eight minutes’ drive to the beach. Fresh produce, gourmet restaurants and nearby activities such as horseridingandwinetastingsealedthedeal.“Thereareincredible vineyards and olive groves all around here,” says Chyka.
While they loved the look and feel of the house, both Chyka and Bruce wanted more space, and more light in some areas at certain points of the day. Bruce actually drew up the plans – “he’s a frustrated architect” says Chyka – and a draftsperson finessed them. Within the year they had doubled the size of the home to include a beautiful new main bedroom with a dressing room and sitting area, a bar adjacent to the family room and a large mudroom connecting the house and garage. “We used the builder who did the original renovation so he matched the style and materials perfectly. In fact, it’s hard to tell where old meets new.”
The expanded design suits them to a T. There are now four bedrooms in the main house, all with ensuites and dressing rooms, plus a cottage with its own sitting room. “We wanted the property to be somewhere Bruce and I can enjoy together, but that would also work if we had four other couples staying for the weekend,” says Chyka.
Everywhere you look, the decor is pure Chyka: functional and elegant, in a well-considered neutral palette. She chose oak for the floors and opted for cathedral ceilings where possible. Another of her masterstrokes was the black internal doors, which match the external windows and doors. Behind one set, the library has a cosy European-lodge feel. It contains 2600 black books to match the design scheme. “I bought them at op shops in Melbourne,” Chyka explains. “They are all hardbacks that had to be black under the dust jackets. I love the impact they have when people see them for the first time.”
Outside, a large outdoor entertaining area and swimming pool were a must, enhanced by Paul Bangay’s beautiful garden design. “This place was designed around entertaining as that’s our business. With plenty of areas to socialise, people are here throughout the year. That might be a long, lazy lunch, drinks at the bar or a barbecue around the pool. We have a lot of friends in the area and are constantly catching up here.”
Chyka and Bruce recently sold their family home in Melbourne and are downsizing to an apartment they’re in the middle of building while renting elsewhere, so time out of the city is more important than ever. The couple have also just decided to call their country home Green Acre. “It sits on only one acre, which is a rare thing in this area,” says Chyka. “We love this house and wouldn’t want any more than we have.” >
Bryan Myers Builder, Balnarring, Victoria; 0418 144 229.
Paul Bangay Garden Design, Cremorne, Victoria;
(03) 9427 9545 or paulbangay.com.