Lucy and Michael made their dream of home ownership a reality by turning their little Blue Mountains house into a holiday rental.
Lucy and Michael worked fast to transform a Blue Mountains cottage into a cosy weekender that they also rent out.
“ONE NIGHT LAST YEAR Michael and I started talking about how lovely it would be to have a holiday home. We rent in Sydney and, as we can’t afford to buy here, a holiday home sounded romantic and achievable. Then Michael found a listing online for a cute 1930s two-bedroom cottage in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains.
Luckily, the showing was the next day, so we set out after breakfast for the drive, which is just under two hours. The showing was packed with people and as I walked around I could see why. We went out the back and couldn’t believe what we saw: a huge, 960 square metre landscaped garden which sloped down towards the national park and had views to the cliffs through the trees. It was beautiful.
After being there for only 10 minutes, I knew it was perfect for us. I felt at home – and started to get anxious that if we didn’t put in an offer, we’d lose it. My husband was more logical! He wanted to take the time to work out our finances. In the end, we agreed that the only way we could afford to buy the house was to use it as a holiday home for some of the time and rent it out for the rest.
Researching other Airbnb homes in the area and asking family and friends what they liked – and what they didn’t like – in holiday rentals helped us work out our approach. We decided to make the house feel modern but with a nod to its heritage. The first thing we did was organise for the original floors to be sanded, and the carpet in the front bedroom to be replaced. These made a huge difference. We also changed most of the curtains to wooden venetian blinds, and updated most of the light fittings.
The biggest change was to add a balcony along the back of the house. There was a side door down to the garden, and an asbestos-walled laundry under the kitchen window – but there was nothing connecting the house to the garden. So we asked a local builder to demolish the laundry and build a balcony with stairs to the backyard. It was an investment but the difference it makes is phenomenal. Fortunately that was our only major construction.
OLD AND NEW
For the bedrooms we bought replica vintage bed frames, new mattresses and linen, then added antique side tables and chests. I found two beautiful rugs for sale on a Facebook group and put those in the living room – they divide the space nicely into a dining area and living area. Due to its layout, we felt this room needed an attentiondrawing feature piece so, inspired by the emerald green colours of the 1930s, we bought a green velvet sofa on sale from Matt Blatt. It centres the room and I’m obsessed with it!
I had a lot of fun collecting pieces for every room – I love to recycle and our neighbourhood is known for its street finds. The ottomans, a coffee table and the cane chairs were off the street and just needed a clean and some varnish. I also found bargains at warehouse and end-of-stock sales. Generally, I find the pieces and show them to Michael. And about 99 per cent of the time he loves them. But if he doesn’t like something, I won’t buy it. He’s got to live with it, too!
Michael is incredibly handy and has hung up all the paintings and blinds, sanded back furniture and benchtops, chopped the firewood and put up the lattice. He also designed the lighting in our backyard, so the stairs to our back deck, fruit trees and old gum trees are illuminated at sunset. And he installed the Nest Home system which, via a phone app, lets us turn on lights and heating before we or our guests arrive.
First we invited friends to stay, as guinea pigs, and they gave us great feedback. Then we took a deep breath and listed it on Airbnb. After a week or so our first few guests booked in! It was a little scary wondering if they’d like it. Turned out they did, phew! And now we’ve been coming up here for a year, we have friends nearby and feel right at home in Blackheath. Everyone is so friendly. We even eloped here a few months ago and were wed on the side of a cliff near our house with incredible views. We stay every few weeks, when we don’t have bookings, and spend our time either in front of the fire on the couch, or on the back deck, halfway down the garden. The view from there is incredibly beautiful, especially in the mornings and afternoons when the sun hits the cliffs in the valley.
We feel really lucky that by renting out this little house when we’re not using it, we can afford to own it! The mountains do feel like home and sometime, way in the future, we may end up moving here. Then we might make more changes but for now, we are so happy with everything as it is.”
GUEST READY Handy items like hats, torches, umbrellas and a picnic rug await guests when they arrive, along with a vintage crate for shoes.
True getaway At the end of the gravel driveway is a fully-equipped artist’s studio, where guests can be arty – or just sit and relax.
For all seasons The light and airy sunroom captures light and warmth in winter and offers shade in the summer months.