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