Interiorssneak peeks

Sneak Peek: Ingrid Weir

by Amy Azzarito

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: A beautiful tree peony in the “Opium Den” bedroom. The bay window is customised with a window seat and Chinese doors. The room was left in its original colour. Sometimes I find self-seeded opium poppies in the garden, descendants from the opium den of the Gold Rush era.

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!

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  • Love. So peaceful. And the one garden book in my arsenal that has truly stood the test of time and gets looked at again and again is Derek Jarman’s Garden. It gets to the essence of things. I love when I find references to it.

  • I love that you have recently shared lots of amazing international homes. And, this is one of my favorites…so well loved and lived-in. And, definitely a country house. I love all the old textiles. And, the Kangaroos!

  • Wow. I love this house and history. I also see clearly how much the owner loves, appreciates and cares for this great place. Bravo, excellent post.

  • This is most certainly my dream home. Simple, beautiful, and historic. And kangaroos in the yard?! I can’t even begin to fathom that.

  • gorgeous place. i think the blue on the left side of the fireplace is just perfect! the dining room is incredible. those windows! i adore your beautiful garden!

  • From the stunning colors in your garden, to the kangaroo sightings in the distance, to the bathroom, this house epitomizes what I would look for in a home. It’s got so much rich history, yet you’ve made it your own. Bravo.

  • What a find – this schoolmaster’s house is a beauty. I’m looking forward to following the link to see more about this unusual gem, thanks for sharing.

  • I too love using things found outdoors in my decorating – pinecones! shells! feathers! Also, love the floral prints throughout the home.

  • Very nice, but are you planting any natives in the garden for all those birds?

  • I think this is my favorite home that you’ve ever featured. I feel like I would never leave that place if I lived there.

  • Love the checkerboard tiles and the vintage storage crates & touches of nature throughout…..looks so peaceful…..love the roos!!!

  • I’m always so extra-excited when you feature an Australian home – and this might be my favourite Aussie Design*Sponge home yet. Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to get stuck into Ingrid’s beautiful blog too.

  • Ingrid, how nice to see it all in one post. I’ve been following your blog for a year now and it’s like taking a break in the countryside from my hectic city life!

    I LOVE all the attention to detail and stories behind every decision made. Truly stunning. I can’t quite believe how far you’ve come within a year. Incredble!!!

  • i cant explain just how lucky i think you are to have such a wonderful view on your doorstep, i long for such a view with the kangaroos there. no need for a TV or anything, a book, a glass of wine and the perfect back drop. Stunning

  • I love your house. It seems so natural and not contrived. So much character. I love houses like that. Your fabrics are beautiful. Adore the sink and apple green used on the walls. Also love the opium den. A lot of interior design I see lately seems copied and repeated, yours is natural.

  • What can I say after all those wonderful comments. Makes me want to visit Australia. Cheers….you did a great thing.

  • This home is piece of heaven. It makes my heart go pitter-pat! So soulful, so beautiful.

  • That is now my Favorite View, the one through the window in your garden wall!
    What a lovely retreat you have. Thank you for sharing it with us. My son would say you’ve found “a little piece of quiet” for yourself.

  • Oh my goodness, what a lovely place to escape to!! I like every bit of it, you lucky gal!

  • My dream is to stumble on a Victorian version of this incredible abode (and have the money to buy it!). So beautiful and love the owners delicate style – merging the outdoors with in (and enjoying a few wines as well!)

  • Great to see another Aussie loving & living in a Federation house. They are beautiful and practical. I am in the inner city so my garden only attracts Blue Tongue Lizards, frogs and lots of birds. The little brown bottle you found often contained medicinals such as tincture of laudanum. My garden has provided lots of treasure ….marbles, toy cars, bottles a postman s whistle, aboriginal flints.

  • Garden shots which accompany the room photos help to make the viewer understand the whole picture so effectively.

    I am enthralled to see a tree peony in bloom, INSIDE! That’s a new one on me. Lucky! And the floral pillows behind the plant are quite inviting. Thanks for this brief daydreamy brain vacation.

  • It’s a day with freezing rain, wet snow, and 50km/hr winds here in southern Ontario, Canada. Seeing this gives me something a lot more pleasant for the mind’s eye than what’s outside right now! I love your garden and your home. I’d be a bit worried about the kangaroos though, they look like worse pests than our squirrels, raccoons and skunks rolled into one!

  • Having lived in the US where squirrels, raccoons, and skunks were pests (upstate NY), & back home with kangaroos, I must say in their defence that kangaroos are not at all pesky – they dont tend to break into your house (I had to chase squirrels out), rubbish (raccoons), or let off nasty stinks on summer nights so you need to close all the windows – let alone be avoided on morning walks (those skunks).

    Kangaroos tend to avoid coming close to buildings & people, eat grass & not much else, and unless you (or your dog) attack them, they keep out of everyone’s way, looking gorgeous (they have the best eyelashes) & being quiet (even the “boxing” isn’t very loud & only in season). The only problems they cause are man made: roads & farms, especially when, thanks to the droughts, they come closer in to urban areas & get hit by cars or are thought to be taking land needed for crops.

    They are also farmable, which would be more useful & better for Australia’s environment than “traditional” northern hemisphere crops & animals.

  • As an Australian reader of your blog really nice to see some local (for me) sneak peeks! Thank you.

  • I love the wall painting above her mantel. I think I will try it on canvas for the spring. Looks like such a serene place to live!!

  • Also as a reader in Australia I love this too. This would be my dream home for sure. Love the garden, the drought tolerant flowers are a good choice. I live in the hills of Perth on a fairly large block, in an old 50s home and am hoping to get my garden looking like this too!

  • Very beautiful home. It’s so nice to have the opportunity to work on different spaces differently, the city home and the country home. Thanks for including the kangaroos, they are completely foreign to me. We had a bobcat once!