Australian House & Garden
A chef and furniture restorer have carved a big-hearted home out of a rustic barn in NSW’s Southern Highlands, and now delight in sharing the fruits of their labour, writes Vanessa Walker
The first time Brigid Kennedy and Kevin Nott laid eyes on their future home it was a 41x12m barn. A barn with a concrete floor and double-brick walls, but a barn nevertheless. Set on 40ha of undulating land near Berrima, a historical village in the Southern Highlands of NSW, the barn was on the first package of land released by Boral when it divvyed up a 1214ha former quarry in 2011.
Both Brigid and Kevin come from rural families but had spent years carving out careers in Sydney: Brigid is a chef and author who owns an event space at Walsh Bay and Kevin is a landscaper by trade; a furniture restorer by preference. For this couple, buying the property was the first step in a return to full-time country life.
It took 18 months to convert the barn into a home, during which time they camped out in a partitioned-out corner of its cavernous shell. Kevin took on the role of owner-builder, living on-site full-time. Brigid, who lives in Sydney during the week, where her teenage son is at school, helped at the property on weekends.
Despite having eight renovations under her belt, Brigid says this conversion was no picnic. “Kevin used to throw water over – at! – me for a shower and there was no toilet,” she says. From the outset they decided to add another storey to the barn, with a separate entrance and four bedrooms to be run as boutique farm-stay accommodation.
On the ground floor, in their two-bedroom home, Brigid has created an open-plan space that reflects the home’s origins and speaks to its bucolic surrounds. Room-wise, the kitchen was her focus. As a chef who specialises in slow-cooking, she had her heart set on an industrial kitchen with three ovens. One Emilia and two Bakbar models were duly installed, as was a vast island bench that can seat six.
Design-wise, paint colours were her primary concern. “We took every green in existence and worked out which three had the most harmony,” says Brigid. This turned out to be Dulux Plantation Green, used in the guestroom, a now-discontinued colour called Blaxland for the trims and Porter’s Paints Chintz Grey in the living areas.
Today the homestead is surrounded by 2ha of companion-planted gardens. There are vegie beds as well as vegies dispersed among the trees; onions surround the brassicas to keep white cabbage butterflies away; chives, garlic and basil ward off aphids from the roses. Silver birch, poplars, magnolias and native frangipani are dotted throughout. Beyond this is an orchard planted in fig, quince, medlars, apricot, plum, peach, pear and apple trees. There is also pasture for the couple’s five horses and accommodation for a brood of ISA brown hens.
The newly christened Loch farm is a study in building a lifestyle around what you love. On a fine day, Kevin refurbishes antiques on the verandah, which he sells from the old stables. Brigid spends Saturdays harvesting produce for her delicious condiments and jams, which she sells at the Loch Sunday Stall, located on her front verandah. As Brigid says, slowly and steadily, their dream is coming to fruition.