For the past two years, this old schoolmaster’s house has been set and costume designer Ingrid Weir’s country escape from her city home in Sydney, Australia. The house is located high up in the hills, four hours from Sydney, in what was once a thriving late 19th-century Gold Rush town. A town that once boasted more than 20 pubs, an oyster bar and an opium den now has a population of just 200. Ingrid was visiting an artist in the village and a chance remark about a painting displayed at the local cafe led to her learning that the artist who owned the old schoolmaster’s house was selling it. Schoolmasters have lived in this house since 1893, and the tiny school, located just over the road, is still going strong — with five pupils. The house was situated on a one-acre block covered in weeds and trash and rubble with only two trees. But it had good bones, had been well maintained by the school board and was cheap. As soon as she moved in, Ingrid enlisted her brother to help her rip up all the gray industrial carpet, and Ingrid says that as soon as they revealed the wooden boards, the house started to breathe. The house has since become her respite from the stresses of modern life, a place to relax and recharge. You can follow Ingrid’s journey with the house here. (Photography and styling by Ingrid Weir.) — Amy Azzarito
Image above: The house is still a work in progress. I’m currently working on paint samples. These two are from Porter’s Paints: “Eau de Nil” and “Lake George.” I want to get some rich color into the house. All of our paints are from Porter’s Paints, which is a wonderful paint company. They have one branch in the U.S. and are known as Sydney Harbour Paint Company. They specialize in milk paint and limewash and have lovely colors. The artwork above the fireplace is an oil painting I bought at an art auction by a Sydney painter based on the work of George Stubbs, a famous 18th-century English painter who specialized in horse painting. I love how big and substantial [it is]; it gives a weight to the room.
Image above: I’m interested in vintage school pieces, given the history of the house, and have been looking online for educational charts and school rules, etc. The two school bells are the start of a collection. There are vases of heritage roses that have been growing in the front garden — the deep pink ones have the most beautiful fragrance. In the little wooden boxes are rocks, stones and pieces of china — things I have found on walks or in the garden. Not at all scientific, just things that seem interesting to me or to friends who stay in the house. Above the desk: Vintage photos often go quite cheaply, and I particularly like groups. The men in the ovals are from the NSW Licensed Victuallers Society from 1934. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but apparently it’s an old term for innkeeper. The colorised photo of the man under the crest I found in a country thrift shop. In my mind, he has become a symbol of the old schoolteachers, and he is on the header of my blog. Under the painting of the kookaburra are the dried stems of the opium poppy. I haven’t tried any of the opium, but my neighbor did and said that it gave him a headache! Also, lots of pinecones — I am fascinated by their sculptural qualities. I made a gumnut and pinecone mirror frame (and did a blog post on it) and would like to make more things out of them. I call this my naturalist desk.
See more of Ingrid’s country home after the jump . . .
Image above: I like a mix of high and low, rough and smooth. The oil painting was found at an auction, the bench is made from old bricks and a leftover rug is from a bar I designed in Mexico. The fireplaces and the wood-burning stove were there when I bought the house. Because the house is from the nineteenth century, most of the fireplaces are for burning coal and aren’t that effective with firewood. But the wood-burning stove (the one with the fire going) is amazing for the amount of heat it produces. Also you don’t have to tend to it very frequently.
Image above: The sun room, the major addition to the house — a room to catch the light and landscape. The colored glass windows are salvaged. The trim is matched to the original schoolmaster’s board grey. The timber cladding is painted in Bristol Sienna Frost.
Image above: Faded florals just work in the country. I’ve raided my mother’s 30-plus-year-old collection of fabrics.
Image above: This is my garden journal where I record all the plants I have put in and how to care for them. I painted these plant names on bits of old slate roof tiles to use as markers instead of the plastic tags.
Image above: After searching for a country-style washbasin, ended up making this from an old table and a double sink from Ikea. I also love beautiful old typography and am always on the lookout for old crates.
Image above: Interestingly, this wallpaper is from the U.S. — Thibaut Great Estates “Parrots” (it was discontinued after I put it in). I’ve seen nearly all of these birds in the garden outside. I love making indoor/outdoor connections.
Image above: The Parrot Bedroom. I chose white bedspreads and sheets, calming and refreshing after a long country drive.
Image above: It’s not all Aussie bushlore — Elvis makes a great soundtrack for the Old Schoolmaster’s House.
Image above: I installed these checkerboard tiles, such a great part of country vernacular. The hall is painted in Sienna Frost, and the green is Porter’s Paints “Apple Crunch.” The chintz curtain is from my mother’s cupboard, and the round stool is from Nepal, made of a tyre.
Image above: The home is built in the “Federation” style, very typical of Australian houses from that era. The woodwork is left in the original green and red. The house has been painted in Dulux “Portland Stone.”
Image above: It’s endlessly fascinating watching the kangaroos over the fence. I’ve seen a few boxing matches — young males balanced on their hind legs, striking out with their little paws.
Image above: A year and a half ago, this garden was mostly weeds. The gravel base was inspired by filmmaker Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness in the UK. The flowers were bought over the Internet and have taken amazingly. One local theory is that the soil is very fertile due to all the gold and fruit trees that enrich it!
Image above: I found this little brown bottle when digging in the garden as well as lots of pottery shards, horse shoes and old tools. Maybe one day I’ll find gold!