HOW ONE FAMILY PUT THEIR STAMP ON A BEAUTIFUL OLD FARMHOUSE IN CENTRAL WEST NSW.
How a new generation has made a 1925 farmhouse in Central West NSW their own.
SCOTT AND SALLY OEHM can trace the history of their homestead back to the 1920s. “The house was built by Scott’s family in 1925,” says Sally. “We know this because we still have the farm diaries that note when the bricks for the chimney were purchased.” It’s that strong family connection that enticed the couple out of their city life and landed them in the vast open spaces of Tooraweenah in Central West NSW. Scott left the country behind at 13 years old when he headed to boarding school. After he graduated, work kept him in Sydney, where he met Sally, who had grown up on the city’s North Shore. The pair married in 2003 and that same year decided to pack up their home in Sydney’s Enmore and move 430 kilometres north when Scott’s parents, John and Wendy, suggested forming a farming partnership at Mayfield. A 2000-hectacre mixed farm nestled in the foothills of the Warrumbungle Range, Mayfield has been in Scott’s family since 1911 and is still home to his parents. “Prior to getting married we’d spend lovely long weekends here,” says Sally. “Scott had a yearning for country life again so when his parents suggested the partnership, we embraced it.” It didn’t take long for them to feel right at home — the small community of Tooraweenah and Gilgandra (the nearest town for schools and supplies) was welcoming and they quickly settled into the rhythms of rural life. Initially the newlyweds moved into a small cottage on the property, with Scott’s parents living in the main house. Over the following four years, they renovated and extended but, as children became part of the equation, soon realised they needed more space. >
ABOUT THE HOUSE
• Interiors are painted Dulux Natural White, while the exterior weatherboards are Warm Grey with Natural White and Woodland Grey trims. 13 25 25; dulux.com.au • The floorboards are vinyl planks in Mid Limed Oak by Karndean Flooring. 1800 331 170; karndean.com • In the kitchen, benchtops are Talostone Artic White and Talostone Carrara Gioia features on the island benchtop and splashback. (02) 8783 0600; talostone.com.au • Kitchen cabinetry is by Stuart Peart of Castlereagh Cabinets. “A very patient and true artisan,” says Sally. (02) 6848 5885; castlereaghcabinets.com.au • Scott made the garden gates from an old iron bedhead and bedfoot that the family found in a building on the farm.
TOORAWEENAH NSW HOME
Lilla feeding some plymouth rock chickens outside the potting shed, which was originally a laundry. FACING PAGE Silverware from Sally’s late grandmother is on display in the dining room. ”It was given to her in 1941 as a wedding present, and she gave it to me a few years ago before she passed away,” says Sally.
HOME TOORAWEENAH NSW Scott out in the paddock with 12-year-old son Jack. “Rather than extending the cottage further, swapping houses with Scott’s parents seemed more practical,” says Sally. In 2007, with son Jack now in tow, they moved to the farm’s main homestead, a gabled weatherboard house with a bullnose verandah, surrounded by an oasis-like garden. Their ‘new’ home had been updated by John and Wendy in 2000. “It was beautiful, with a very large cottage garden and established trees,” says Sally. The original footprint had been almost doubled, adding extra living space and a bedroom, bathroom and office, all while keeping the home’s grand roofline and 12-foot ceilings throughout. However, the main house underwent another renovation in 2015 — by then the Oehms were a family of four (daughter Lilla was born in 2008). “When we moved in it had three bedrooms, now it has four,” says Sally. “We got rid of the formal living areas and turned what was the dining room into another bedroom. Then we moved the kitchen so that all our living spaces look out at the view.” Glass doors in the open-plan living area maximise light and take advantage of the view across sun-bleached paddocks to the mountain range beyond. The kitchen is the focal point of the house; the place everyone gathers at the end of the day, where Jack, now 12, and Lilla, nine, do their homework, where appetisers are set up when friends visit. “Kitchens are an investment and I’m really glad that we spent the money and made it the workable space it is,” says Sally. Around the time they made the move to Mayfield, Sally says other young couples were returning to surrounding farms in Gilgandra, as their parents moved towards semi-retirement. “The community is vibrant with a lot of younger people returning to the area…the schools are full and growing.” Mayfield was a merino sheep property with a small amount of cropping when Scott and Sally returned; today it’s mainly a winter cropping farm — wheat, canola, barley, lupins and chickpeas fill the paddocks. The farm also has a small herd of Angus cattle. Scott works full-time on the farm (his parents have since left the farming partnership), while Sally works a few days a week for Saddler & Co in Dubbo — just over an hour’s drive away — and for the regional children’s choir, Moorambilla Voices. Both children are at local schools, although Jack will head off to boarding school next year. Labrador Jett, Oliver the cocker spaniel and two cats, Sofia and Georgia, round out the family. That’s if you don’t count the 11 chooks that keep them all in eggs. Sally, who’s discovered a passion for gardening since moving to Mayfield, says the chickens are treated very much like pets. “They’re one of my loves in a country garden.” While life on the farm never stands still, Sally has certainly embraced it. “I just love the country lifestyle… It feels so comfortable to me,” she says. “We can be working on the farm one minute and feel like we’re a million miles from anywhere or anyone, then head to one of the pubs with our closest friends to share a meal. Even the daily drop-off at the bus stop can turn into a social catch-up with neighbours... We still get to enjoy the city as my family are there and we visit regularly but it feels very natural to be having our life here.”
Sally Oehm checking on the family’s Angus cattle with her nine-year-old daughter Lilla. FACING PAGE Work boots are left outside the mudroom after a day out in the paddocks.
HOME TOORAWEENAH NSW Two Bell glass lamps from MRD Home complement a dark wood sideboard in the hallway, where a runner from Freedom adds texture. FACING PAGE, CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT Tractor stools from Freedom sit under the island bench, which features a Talostone Carrara Gioia benchtop; Scott and Sally Oehm with their children Lilla and Jack; in the lounge room, IKEA sofas are styled with cushions from Once Was Lost and Eadie Lifestyle; Scott used an old iron bedhead he found on the farm to make the front gate. For stockist details, see page 135.