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Interiorssneak peeks

A Remote Cottage in Australia Teeming with Artwork

by Garrett Fleming

The sun dipped low and kissed the mountains, emitting just enough of a glow for artist Helen McCullagh and her husband Liam to lay eyes on the property that would soon be theirs. The pair smiled as they surveyed the tree-filled land’s 175 acres. Lemons, peaches and kiwis blossomed and – amongst the greenery – a cottage stood tall. Left untouched for quite some time, the New South Wales, Australia home was on the brink of being totally overrun by the surrounding wood. Vines entrapped it, and you could even see through some of the floorboards down to the grass below. Helen and Liam were eager to be close to nature, so they jumped at the opportunity to make the cottage their own.

Situated near a national park and one of the cleanest rivers in Australia, the cottage is home to many critters. Some of which surprise the couple by swooping in through the kitchen’s original wooden doors and sunbathing on the porch. “Our inside (and) outside worlds are definitely one [and] the same much of the time,” the couple explains. Helen even recalls a moment recently when, while she was painting, a snake casually slithered in through her studio window. Most families would run for the hills, but this commune with nature is perfect for the self-sufficient pair. For Helen and Liam, these brushes with the wild are a worthy tradeoff for living slightly off-the-grid, growing their own food and enjoying the solitude of the park.

The cottage’s big windows, original fireplace, and wood paneling have proven to be some of the couple’s favorite aspects of their home. I particularly love how they’ve modernized the 1913 treasure’s wood-covered walls by simply giving them a fresh coat of paint and hanging works by Helen and some of her talented colleagues. These works are strategically accompanied by low-profile seating and storage, as furniture that sits lower to the ground ensures wall space is always free to be filled with even more art. Thankfully, besides purchasing a few new chairs and sofas, it hasn’t taken much to bring the 100-year-old cottage into the 21st century, and that’s a-okay with Helen and Liam! Click through to see the rest of their colorful and cozy home, as well as all of the pretty compositions Helen has committed to canvas. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography courtesy of Edwina Robertson

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Artwork by Helen and one of her favorite fellow painters, Miranda Skoczek, decorates the dining room's walls. Her and Liam's recycled-timber table, sitting in front of the works, is often drenched in the abundance of light that streams in through the home's original French doors. Beyond them sits the front deck.
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For the past seven months, artist Helen McCullagh has shared this Australian farm with her husband Liam and their border collie Rosie. They sit in their newly-renovated sunroom below a triptych Helen painted.
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By enclosing the home's L-shaped verandah, the couple was able to add this additional square footage to their property. Whenever Helen and Liam need some time to unwind, they often throw open the windows, push back the IKEA drapes and read while the cool breeze washes over them. The coffee table is from Blu Dot, and the side chair is from Jardan Furniture.
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Helen and Liam's home is very remote. That being said, the couple prepares all of their meals right here using herbs, fruits and vegetables from their flourishing gardens. The IKEA islands, which sit in the middle of the combined kitchen and dining room space, are the hub of nearly all meal prep.
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Helen collects teacups. She tells us, "Mum gave me some of these for a birthday years ago, and I just love the little green and pink ones that we found in Singapore." A cabinet left behind by the previous owners is the perfect spot to show them off.
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Helen and Liam say their living room is "probably the most comfortable and lived-in space in [their] home." The look is often refreshed through the addition of new works by Australian artists such as Judith Sinnamon, Robert Malherbe, Kate Tucker and Shane Willmett. They sit above the living room's Myer sofa and coffee table from Blu Dot.
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Helen loves "the sensory experience of clashing textures [such as] the soft wool rug, velvet bean bag, [and] cool marble [table]." Original details like the wooden door frame and paneling complement the colorful room's accessories perfectly.
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Wood paneling, as seen here in the sitting area off of the living room, is often scoffed at in the world of decorating. Here, though, it's modernized through the use of bold art and pops of color.
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Dividing the living and sitting rooms is this fabulous, original wood burner. It does chop up the spaces in an inconvenient way, but it's so nice to look at, the couple wouldn't dream of taking it out.
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The sofa, or "lounge" as the Aussies call it, is often drenched in sunlight thanks to the original stained-glass windows above it. The throw blanket is by LUCKYBOYSUNDAY.
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The sitting room's desk and chair, which were left behind by the previous owners, look out onto "abundant mango, macadamia, banana and passionfruit trees." The map is published by National Geographic.
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The morning light, high ceilings and comfy bed are a few of the elements that make this room one of the couple's favorites. These elements work with the space's muted colors to create a calming sanctuary for the pair. Their bed frame is by Jardan Furniture, and a side table from AP Design House sits next to it.
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The bedroom's old mirror is extremely heavy, so it's not going anywhere any time soon. A pillow made from a slip picked up in Turkey sits atop bedding from Aussie brand Major Minor.
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Helen's desk was made by placing two pieces of plywood over an old table's glass legs. It's a very fun piece, but her absolute favorite aspects of the studio are "the light, breeze and view out the window."
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Liam and Helen say their home's "... age, stories, [and] quirks make it an inspiring place to live and work."
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The cottage was built in 1913 and has 10 rooms totaling 1,940 square feet.

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Comments

  • What kind of snake? A python or one of Australia’s deadliest? I live in the country too and built a lovely inside outside sort of house but alas I can’t enjoy it to the full because of the snakes – King Brown (very venomous) and Red Bellied Black Snakes. It is one of my greatest fears that one will get into the house. That said I love this house, it is so charming and your art and the Miranda Skoczek painting. I love her work and own one of her pieces too.

  • Ha! I also live in Australia and recently had a snake come in my front door. Thankfully only a small one :-)
    Beautiful home

  • This is so perfect!It makes me want to snuggle up on the lounge with a good book and listen to the “wild life” outside! Thank you for sharing.

  • So glad you left some wood. It lends warmth to the space and the combination with the painted walls feels fresh.

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