The call of home: a cou­ple’s re­turn to the fam­ily prop­erty



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 willerooin­t­e­ri­orde­

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).

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