Like a beautiful woman, the sunroom risks not having to develop a personality- the romantic view through the windows is just too gorgeous. You can float away in it dreamily, like a bubble suspended in nature. But I want to push it; my concept is to play up the schoolmaster history- look for filing cabinets, an old desk, vintage educational charts. Sometimes I call it the schoolroom instead of the sunroom.

Not having all the furniture yet, I start playing around with textures, colours. You can have a theory but rooms take on a logic of their own; they reject some things, embrace others. The space starts to assert its own personality. A list of its favorite things: op shop oil paintings, mellow textured wood, heavy substantial chairs, pine cones, rag rugs, flowers from the garden. In the latest Kinfolk magazine, the statement that a handcrafted thing in every room makes it feel like a home. In the sunroom it’s a wonderful embroidered cushion from my mother. More finds- a painter’s bench found in the street, educational posters from some unknown Eastern European country, the remains of an old cuckoo clock, a bush table made for a recent Australian film.

A new/old phone from Papier d’ Amour. Looks like the old thing, but with a hash key- necessary for a location where a lot of mobiles don’t work. The receiver is unexpectedly heavy when you pick it up – such a surprising change from the lightweight & throwaway. It reminds me of a friend’s book on product design from the former East Germany; everything was so heavy looking. Something like a cheese grater monumental & built to last centuries.

A little bit of Elvis, just to stop everything getting too 1940s. A gift of some authentic 45 albums from a friend. In a great interview the production designer of “ Amelie” said that they would always throw something unexpected in, like a microwave- just to stop it all getting too predictable.

Later, walking down an old country road,I realize that without knowing it, the yellows and pinks of the sunset and the sky outside have inspired the colours of the palette of the sunroom.

Dry stone wall

Reading up on garden design, trying to penetrate its secrets; I come across the quote by Alain Idoux- ‘a garden begins with stone’. How beautiful. I like the stone of the area. You see it exposed and raw round the still standing 19th century mineshafts – the promise of gold never too far away. More than that I want to earth the old schoolmasters’ house – to connect it to the soil, the rocks.

The house used to belong to a stone carver- and I‘ve turned up many fragments and sculptures clearing the land of weeds and rubble. Like clues in a treasure map left behind they become part of the newly shaped garden. A carved stone face is laid in the slate path. A tiny winking cats face is found, and then lost again.

Robert and Russell return with a ute load of stone

old car on the way to get the stone

When I was a little girl, I used to make elaborate sand castles with my Dad- one of my favourite things to do. When we started, he would always say “ First, clear your ground”. Sometimes when approaching the start of a creative project- that phrase will come to mind – it’s a way in, a way to get going.

Robert, from the village used to work in the gold mines. He’s been helping clear the block- leveling it with his back hoe. He reveals a surprising talent for stone work . He understands how rocks fit together & knows where to find them. We discuss different varieties of moss like we are talking about fine wines. It’s decided he will make a dry stone wall bordering the cottage garden out the front, connecting it to the bush rocks under the old apple tree.

Flash at the door- waiting to be asked in

Russell comes to help him and brings his beautiful dog Flash, who seems to understand exactly what is going on. Working out how to shape the wall, I’m thinking of a sweeping curve- but we end up going Robert’s way; the simplest, the most practical. It’s good, natural. I think most things built or made by hand have that sense of rightness. The eye and the hand connect. No intermediary like a computer to interrupt the flow.

earth, rocks, moss

Russell tells me to pour milk on rocks to get moss to grow

The finished wall looks so beautiful to me. A wall of stone from the area, made by men from the area. The old schoolmasters’ house begins to relax a bit, to sink softly into the land.

Miniature Gardens of Moss & Stone

poplars last leaves

inspiration from Country Living

Wintertime. The village is at a high altitude; a cold snap has come through. A line between indoors and out is drawn – nature becomes something to look at through windows. I’m trying to find ways to bring it inside.

iris bulbs planted along the path

bulbs to plant

Country Living magazine has a picture of some hyacinths in an old metal tub, moss tucking them in. It inspires me. I‘ve a storehouse of bulbs piled up – mystery ones dug out of the ground, gifts from friends and neighbours. I’ve recently lined the front path with heirloom irises; tall ones to walk through- the colours not yet known.

mystery bulbs planted in an old laundry tub I had

So I find on old aqua tub & some holes are hammered in the base. Moss gathered from the shadow side of a nearby church. It’s so beautiful, green and velvety. Like a plush iridescent carpet. I’ve got a whole bucketful left over- & want to think of something else to do with it.

fresh kangaroo tracks on the ground

I go the bushland reserve behind the old schoolmasters house to collect some more moss and stones- I’ve decided to make some mini terrariums.

Milly Molly Mandy & Billy Blunt

making little gardens

Starting to make them – using what ever containers come to hand- I remember a childhood story book; “The Doings of Milly Molly Mandy”. A little girl in a pink and white striped dress, she was always doing something, having adventures. One time, she and her friend, Billy Blunt made some miniature dish gardens that she entered in the local fete. They won first prize. Strange the echoes that come down through a creative life.

Milly Molly Mandy wins first place at the fete

honey jar garden

Anything in miniature becomes more fascinating- everything takes on different dimensions. I find some sticks with dry moss and then blazing red foliage that become trees. Rocks become boulders. A little Alice in Wonderland world…

Put a bird on it!

Later, carrying them inside- they are my little fake bonsais…

A dreamy country bathroom

The first day of winter, playing around in the newly renovated bathroom, working out what looks good. An op shop picture of a sunset over water, a rough wooden crate, vintage floral fabric tacked across the window, flowers from the garden…

The bathroom’s at the back of the old schoolmasters house. The tacked on 20th century part. The small square glossy brown tiles and yellowing plastic basin very ’60s, – the kind of retro best left in the past. A complete overhaul is needed. The wall dividing the toilet & laundry from the shower/bath is the first thing to go. The space is still dilapidated but now it feels spacious, like it can breath.

bathroom alcove- before being painted

hand carved rose lintel

The first image that comes to mind for the redesign- a romantic clawfoot bath in the middle of the room. But somehow it can’t shake out. The new freestanding baths are prohibitively expensive, and the proportions seem off, slightly awkward. The old ones have the beautiful flowing lines but have to be re- enameled. The idea morphs to a step up bath- something that still gives you of the ritual of bathing. A frame to surround it, a lintel of Argentinan hand carved roses- some how this house loves roses.

I love old ornate typography

bathroom cabinet = old table + ikea!

The basin is difficult to find. All the bathroom shops seem to carry are square boxy cabinets. An old pine table from Doug up on Bourke becomes the starting point. With exciting synchronicity Ikea has an elegant double basin that fits exactly on top. They also have a lovely round mirror and some ricepaper sidelights. On the floor – to anchor the room- dark grey tiles with what looks like a powdery coating. A large rag rug from India to keep it homey.

the bathroom tiles continue into hall as checkerboard

sample of stencil- not sure what colours to use yet...

The upcoming project- to stencil the walls of the toilet area with a pattern of birds on trees. This is something I have adapted from a picture of old Scandinavian wallpaper from The World of Interiors. The trick is to spray paint it- for a softer, freer looking outline. I’ve done samples on butchers paper before- this will be the first on the wall!

abandoned house in the woods

the outdoor dunny!

Later in the day, a walk to a little house in the woods. Abandoned for some years now- the eroded exterior’s like a wonderful collage. The outdoor toilet classic Australiana. Though sculptural & definitely authentic – another bathroom design best left in the past…