PART 2 of 4


We are only now half way through the rental renovation and still have a kitchen, dining, laundry and bathroom to finish by the 18th November! Matthew has calculated 80 man hours ( that’s 40 eco mania hours)  of work left to go!

The phone just rang and I have officially settled on Catherine’s Cottage in Cook Street Lithgow! What a journey it has been. What an amazing relationship with the seller who has let us transform the interior in our pre settlement period and journey with us along the way. Life never stops for renovations, if anything it seems to get crazier just when you allocate buckets of time to one project!

Last week my beloved uncle and dear grandfather both passed away at the ripe old ages of 94 and 96 respectively, so amidst the St James Whitting Sydney Home Show bump in and four weekends renovating our rental at Lithgow I was also flying to funerals, weeping at clifftop seaside graves, and writing family funeral books whilst also teaching interior design full time!

They say give a task to a busy person… that is our daily practice at St James Whitting!

Its all in the planning…

The first week of our adventure involved all the planning – colours drawn from the architecture, recycling building materials, creating contemporary features, sorting out space planning, engaging local trades. Plans were set to remove walls, relocate toilets, brick up unwanted doors and wire up all things electrical.

Sustainable sourcing…

We sourced a second hand kitchen on eBay ( be careful when entering 000’s not to add an extra one to your online bid by mistake… it almost caused me a heart attack in the last 13 seconds of auto bidding). We then also sourced a second kitchen on Freecycle – a great online community that gifts away unwanted items that are in need of a good home. So with a trailer loaded we headed up the mountain again.

The next two weeks involved a transition from weekend stays in my camp bed with my ever loving Chloe our devoted Spoodle by my side, to using the fully redesigned and renovated  front bedroom as my own Air BnB whist finishing the rest of the house.


MASTER BEDROOM AFTER – style the skin

Rental properties are difficult to style as there is NO FURNITURE and NO ARTIFACTS to decorate with. So it is the skin of a building that you work with. The VOC free Flourish Green from Resene came up a treat and breathed new life into the tired stained glass front windows!

Kate and I discussed the colour above the picture rail and left it the bright teal from the previous owner, adding a fresh pop to the top of the room!

Style Tip

Style the skin of your rental property. Work the walls, ceiling, floor and built in architectural details. The Mantel became the focal point of the room with a lean to mirror, candelabra and local maps of Lithgow and surrounds a vignette that captures your imagination on how to style the rest of the room. Heavy curtains in deep chocolate complement the newly stained flooring.



Julie Patterson’s Australian made Banksia 110 Burnt on Raw is the focal point of this bedroom. Printed on unbleached heavyweight upholstery linen, in bone, red oxide and a splash of knocked back indigo and stretched onto timber frames hung high enough to place a bed and bed head below.

Style Tip

Take your colour palette and spread it through the interior, repeating feature colours in various proportions in different rooms. Hang wall art above the bed head height in a rental so that it stays secure with the property. Resene VOC Free Colombian red drawn from the tiles in the front room became the feature wall in the second bedroom. Colombian red paired with white paneled timber ceilings gave a fresh crisp feel to the interior in contrast to the deep oak Resene Colour wood flooring.

Colour, tone, texture and pattern are your tools of the trade . Repeat these using different principles of design such as repetition, contrast and proportion.


The Banksia image is taken from a series of Julies lino prints that she based on the native plants growing in her studio garden in the Blue Mountains. Julie is an artist and designer that makes contemporary and natural furnishing fabric by hand locally and sustainably.

This textile creates a focal point in the empty interior and unifies the architectural colour palette found in the fireplaces.



Its often the journey of design that is as wonderful as the end result itself. Kate and I recently had the fabulous opportunity of working with a delightful team of interior designers, decorators and property stylists at the 2016 Sydney Home Show. Barbara Hamilton, Principle Designer at Hamilton Mccabe design associates kindly recycled her ironwood timber panels from her beautiful Silver Vignette, so that I could continue her vision in my rental renovation.


In a four meter wide house space management is critical, so a flush mantel was needed to give a dramatic focal point without eating into the circulation space of  the interior . The ironwood timber panels were screwed into the wall and also acted as a mounting device for the Perspex horse ( I have had this tucked away for years and finally found a use for it!)

With a car loaded of timber I took the road less traveled via Richmond and due to a growling stomach that was taking over the radio, I stopped to grab a bite to eat and devoured a local interior design store Black Pebble Design on Richmond Road that was owned by an ex-design student of mine Jo Wilbow and her family. With a historical love in our family of colonial elephants – with their trunks up for good luck –  I had to pop 3 of these in my basket and carry on up the mountain.

These lucky elephants have become the feature of the fireplace, are a practical solution for storing keys and are also used as hooks in the picture frames.

Style Tip

Create your signature story in your home, take a sentimental object and celebrate it in a sophisticated way – with restraint – so that only you know its true meaning and to others it is just great design!

The fireplace was hidden behind a desk and a table cloth when we bought the house and I asked the agent to pull it all away so I could discover her charm! And my she is stunning, so some dry brushing later with Resene Black Jack and Resene Fuscous grey ( my favourite grey of all time) and we have a reinvented feature to the now open kitchen.


The local trades in  Lithgow  have been fantastic, rustic mountain bred gentlemen that take great pride in their work and are inventive with solutions,  have made the project a sheer joy – we have installed 6 meters of steel lintels welded into the roof to open up the previous rabbit warren like kitchen toilet laundry.  Local renovations enable you to build great relationships with the local community. Lithgow furniture store delivered the mattress that I ordered and threw in a complementary ensemble base when they heard that my parents were staying for the weekend in our reno rumble to help out!

Next week – Rabbit warren to entertainer’s delight – turning 4 rooms into one!







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