The call of home: a couple’s return to the family property
THIS NSW SOUTHERN TABLELANDS HOME HAS BEEN PASSED ON TO A NEW GENERATION KEEN TO PRESERVE ITS HERITAGE.
AS SHE GAZES ACROSS THE FLATS of Lake George from her kitchen window, Lauren Gundry shares a view experienced by many other generations of her husband’s family. It’s just one of many reminders that her home at Willeroo — a 2000-hectare cattle property on the NSW Southern Tablelands — has a history and a future they have been entrusted to protect. Hailing from Temora in the NSW Riverina, the 37-year-old would not have experienced that vista at all if she hadn’t met Henry Gundry, an under-23 world-champion rower, after she finished university in Canberra in 2004. “Henry was rowing at the Institute of Sport and we were pretty much inseparable,” she says. “We had only been dating for five months when I went to Japan to teach English for a year, but we stayed together and when I got back we lived in Canberra for a while.” In 2006, Henry, now 37, secured a job at Tarago’s Woodlawn Bioreactor, a facility 50 kilometres south of Goulburn that converts gas from Sydney’s landfill waste into power. To reduce the commute, the couple moved to the Gundry family farm located virtually next door, where they lived in and renovated one of the original farmhand cottages. The pair got married in 2011, holding the reception in the shearing shed, and welcomed their first child, Jack, now five. But in 2013 Henry’s father, George — an avid supporter of holistic grazing methods — discovered the cancer he was being treated for had spread, and passed away not long after at just 65 years of age. George’s wife, Erica, along with Henry and his siblings, Charlotte and Edward, were suddenly faced with many decisions they hadn’t been anticipating. “That was a really big shock,” Lauren recalls. “Edward, in conjunction with Erica, now manages the property on behalf of the family; however, the homestead takes a lot of work to maintain. When we had one child and another on the way [Amelia, now three] Henry’s mum asked if we wanted to swap houses. Three-and-a-half years ago she moved into the cottage and we moved into the homestead.” Set on two hectares of park-like gardens shadowed by radiata pines, cypresses, cedars and maples, the sevenbedroom homestead was built in 1905 by Patrick Hamilton Osborne, a respected racing stud owner. It was a grand home befitting a large family, but Patrick remained childless, as did his nephew ‘Denny’ Osborne who inherited the property. Denny’s sister Rosemary was George Gundry’s mother, and George emigrated from England to work on his uncle’s farm. So it wasn’t until Willeroo was passed down to George that the homestead was finally filled with children’s laughter. By that stage the house was in an advanced state of disrepair. “Apparently it was dark and dingy, with heavy >
velvet curtains and the archway in the main hall was held up with a piece of four-by-two,” Lauren says. “George and Erica spent most of their lives getting the house back in shape.” As a result, Lauren says her changes have been mainly cosmetic; however, this put her in the potentially precarious position of restyling a home previously decorated by her mother-in-law. “Erica’s been my greatest supporter,” she says. “She’s delighted to have us living in the family home and has personalised our old cottage with renovations of her own.” When making decorating decisions, Lauren says she is mindful of respecting the past while also adding her own style, which includes a love of antiques. “I’m sentimental and love things that have a story. I’m also passionate about buying once and buying well; choosing things with good craftsmanship rather than following trends.” In fact, much of the home’s original period furniture remains, with fresh paint and textiles used to create a more relaxed atmosphere. It took Lauren two years to repaint the home’s 20 rooms, a feat she managed while also studying interior design. She now runs Willeroo Interior Design, providing project management, styling, sourcing and design services to clients in Canberra, Queanbeyan, Yass, Goulburn, Bungendore, Bowral and surrounding areas. “I used to be a PE teacher, but when Henry’s dad and my dad died in the same year, it really made me reassess things,” she explains. “This was something I was passionate about and because it coincided with us moving into the homestead I decided it was a great time to make the change.” Whether sourcing pieces for clients or her own home, Lauren is a regular visitor to local antique stores. While on a recent trip to France she discovered the joys of brocantes (second-hand shops). “Henry often laughs that the first thing I did on our honeymoon to Hawaii was go to an antique store and buy an old-fashioned egg beater,” she says with a smile. “But it had gears, so I had to have it.” And while admitting that life is a little slower after living in Japan and Canberra, the couple love their new ‘old’ home. “It would be really hard to go back to live in suburbia now, especially with the kids,” Lauren says. “For example, last night we were burning stumps and after dinner we went outside and were playing spotlight in the dark and toasting marshmallows in the fire. The kids just loved it. “We also enjoy the freedom of having a simple life and working with what we already have. There are some beautiful old pieces here and we definitely feel like we are custodians for that time in history and the house. It’s all part of the story of family that Henry and I want to preserve.” Visit willeroointeriordesign.com.au
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP The stable walls are made of stone from a house built in the 1830s by the property’s original owners; Lauren, with Jack, five, and three-yearold Amelia, in the 10-stand shearing shed where Lauren and Henry held their wedding reception. FACING PAGE The sideboard belonged to Henry’s grandmother and was sent over from England after she passed away.
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP The pedestal table in the grand entryway was the home’s original dining table; the 1980s kitchen was still in good condition so Lauren simply painted the cabinets white. FACING PAGE, CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP In the sitting room, linen curtains let in more light than the old velvet drapes; the portrait is of Henry’s grandfather, Henry Edward Bowden Gundry, who married Rosemary Osborne; no family portrait would be complete without Roxy, a purebred Huntaway, and Nellie, a hand-raised chicken (who turned out to be a rooster).