We (myself, photographer Eve and filmmaker Paris) had the great pleasure of spending a day with shoemaker Jess Wootten and wine buyer Krystina Menegazzo recently, at their beautiful little home in Gordon, which is a tiny town about an hour west of Melbourne. The pair have been here just one year, and both hold jobs in the city, so spend half their week here, and half in a small apartment they rent in Melbourne. They’re both country folk at heart, having each grown up in rural areas. Both have always been keen to settle somewhere outside the city, whilst maintaining just enough proximity to make the commute to work bearable. After searching for around eight months, they found the perfect spot.
The town Gordon was founded in the early 1850s, and was one of the main stopovers on the way to Ballarat during the Goldrush era. Jess and Krystina purchased their little miners cottage here in February last year. Dating back to the 1860’s, this little weatherboard house was desperately in need of some serious TLC, and luckily, it found just the right owners!
Jess and Krystina are an industrious pair – within the first two hours of receiving the keys, they had pulled out all the carpet and soft furnishings in the house! They proceeded to undertake a cosmetic but pretty major DIY renovation of their home – pulling down an internal wall to open up the kitchen and dining room, removing a false wall to reveal the original fireplace hidden behind, and demolishing the falling down deck to make way for a new one. New (salvaged) windows were installed to maximise the green views, floorboards were polished, and every room painted. In the spring, a vegie patch was planted, and in the summer, a little greenhouse was constructed at the bottom of the garden using all recycled materials.
The interior of the house is informed primarily by the two brick fireplaces, the original timber floorboards and the classic (tiny!) miner’s cottage proportions. ‘This isn’t a large house, so our choice of interior decoration has been minimal, so as to not overcrowd the space’ explains Jess – who, at over 6ft, often has to duck his head under the low doorways here! He and Krystina wanted their home to be simple and light, with a focus on the functionality of the kitchen and dining areas, because they both love to cook.
The pair have furnished their home with much loved second hand furniture, handmade details and gifts from friends and family. Treasured pieces include the mahogany standup piano – ‘a great find from a lovely chap named Tony Boadle in Ballarat who restores, services and sells secondhand pianos’ says Jess. Krystina has been playing the piano since she was six years old, so having one of her own is a dream fulfilled.
Jess and Krystina also love the work of cartoonist Michael Leunig, and have a collection of his work. They are particularly fond of an original Leunig drawing which was a wedding gift commissioned by Jess’ family last year – it depicts Jess and Krystina sharing a glass of wine, with their dog Billie under the table. (This artwork is not seen in our photographs but features in the video below!)
‘Gordon is a hidden gem. It’s a great little creative community. It’s peaceful. It’s the rolling hills. It’s the greenness. It’s also just about an hour from Melbourne making it very easily accessible’. says Jess. ‘I love the extremes in weather. You definitely know what season you are in, whether it be a warm spring with abundant flowers, or a freezing cold winter with a bit of snow falling. Fortunately for us we also have the best neighbours in the world, which makes spending time here pretty nice’.