THIS CHARMING CENTRAL VICTORIAN COTTAGE IS SET TO HOST A FAMILY CHRISTMAS FOR THE FIRST TIME.
One couple are putting their central Victorian cottage to the test by hosting the family Christmas.
AN UNMISTAKABLE THREAD of sustainability runs through most facets of Marnie Hawson’s life. It informs the choices she makes in the home she shares with her husband Ryan at Riddells Creek, 45 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. It influences both her ethics and natural aesthetics, the homegrown food she puts on the table, and it even extends to her work. Marnie is a photographer whose beautiful images are often seen on Country Style pages. As a former environmental scientist, “I’m hardwired to tread lightly, and prefer to work with those who share an ethical and sustainable mindset,” she says. And so, as one might expect, Marnie and Ryan’s inaugural Christmas celebrations will follow similar values. “I’d like it to be relaxed, as I don’t believe in Christmas mayhem. It will be very simple with neutral decorations,” she says. Marnie, 39, grew up with her older brother Brett on the family’s four-hectare property near the town of Wallan, and Christmas Day gatherings were generally held there or with relatives at nearby Woodend. “It was always exactly the same: a very traditional Christmas with a hot roast, even on a 40-degree day, Christmas pudding with brandy butter, and Mum would always make pashka, a delicious Russian Easter dessert similar to a cheesecake,” Marnie says. “We would go out and forage for a real tree; it would stay up until January. I just loved the smell. But this year Mum and Dad are downsizing and have just sold the place, so it’s time for something different — to create a new Christmas tradition.” >
“I’d like it to be relaxed, as I don’t believe in Christmas mayhem. It will be very simple with neutral decorations.”
While Marnie and Ryan, a sales director, will spend Christmas Eve with Ryan’s family, Christmas Day is likely to be at a long table on the back deck of their weatherboard cottage, overlooking the large kitchen garden. The garden was established with the help of Marnie’s cousin, Geelongbased permaculturalist Ben Shaw. “I like growing our food, not flowers, and so the vegetable garden has doubled in size since we put it in,” says Marnie. In the backyard, Marnie and Ryan also have a little flock of Belgian d’uccle chickens, known for their small and infrequent eggs and being less destructive in the garden than other breeds. The couple and their miniature pinscher Dexter moved into the cottage early in 2011, soon after their wedding. After a long search for a country property within easy commuting distance to Melbourne, they found this cottage, built around 1890. On the street front, and separated from the main house by a garden path, is a small building that was once Riddells Creek Post Office. This is now Marnie’s office and studio. Ryan and Marnie have refurbished the house to make it more energy-efficient, and their furnishings are mostly vintage or recycled pieces from garage sales, markets and op shops, or new items that have been locally handcrafted. While they always intended to move onto a bigger, rural landholding where they could build a sustainable off-the-grid house, seven years on, Marnie and Ryan are still happily settled at Riddells Creek and have decided to freshen up the kitchen instead. “We are keeping and putting different >
handles on the old cupboards, and putting in concrete benchtops,” Marnie says. “I’ve bought second-hand brass taps with lots of aged character.” Driving the decision to renovate rather than move was the white AGA stove the couple asked their wedding guests to make contributions towards in lieu of a gift registry. “It has taken us a long time to find a white natural-gas AGA, but one popped up on Gumtree. We just thought, since we have been here so long, that we should put it in. And that gave us a good reason to renovate.” The AGA’S installation has been perfectly timed with Christmas. “We will have pavlova for dessert, as it’s more appropriate for the weather than the hot pudding,” Marnie says. “My mother-in-law makes a really good passionfruit sponge with her mother’s recipe. I really love it, so maybe I should try to make that in the AGA!” For more information about Marnie’s photography, visit marniehawson.com.au and follow @marniehawson on Instagram.
FROM TOP Marnie with husband Ryan and dog Dexter; the vase is from Albert and Grace, and the bangle is from Rundell & Rundell. FACING PAGE Beneath an original clothes hanger is a MCM House sofa, coffee table and cushions from Trentham General, and an Armadillo & Co rug. The lamp by Von Trott was an engagement gift from Marnie’s parents. For stockist details, see page 138.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT Purple sprouting broccoli in the garden; the chicken flock consists of Wilma (white), Pebbles (brown) and Betty (black); the chook run is a converted cubby house; The extensive vegie garden: “The big table under the tree has been ‘on loan’ from the previous owners for almost eight years,” says Marnie.