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A Former Pub Turned Handmade Country Home

Homes

Once upon a time, Rosie Morley and Rob McNaught were driving past a derelict former pub in Victoria’s Hepburn Shire thinking, ‘Yikes, someone’s got their work cut out for them!’ Fast forward one year, and those someone(s) are them.

The now married couple have fully restored this previously uninhabitable property into a sophisticated, contemporary Victorian home. What’s even more remarkable – they did it entirely on their own! TOP effort.

11th March, 2020

Rosie Morley and Rob McNaught’s 1870s house in Victoria’s Hepburn Shire. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The atrium was once the beer garden (with a bricked floor and tree ferns) and is now converted to provide many uses as it connects to the kitchen, bar, formal dining and outdoor deck area. Floors are reclaimed Tasmanian oak, laid in a herringbone pattern with a Belgian bluestone border. The pop-up lantern ceiling maximises light and centres over the 3.6m handmade table. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rosie Morley, associate director at architecture and design studio Carr, and Rob McNaught, project coordinator at Creature Technology. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The living area opens to combine the front bar and back kitchen/office areas, with the lounge zone sitting over the original cellar. The furniture is blend of pieces that have been in the family for over 100 years with overseas travel finds. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A view from the kitchen through to the scullery. The home’s planning has no dead ends, with one room always leading to another. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

All joinery was handmade by Rob. The original Bertoia chairs were found at auction rooms in Islington and brought over in a container from the couple’s years spent in London. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A Muuto Ambit Rail Lamp provides focused lighting over the Belgian bluestone bench. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The restored home is a contemporary Victorian that pays tribute to its history. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Each room catches glimpses to the next. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Everything is handmade, including the master bed and side tables. tossB Blackjack lamps contrast against Baltic pine lining. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A deep clawfoot baths by the window takes in green lawns and established European trees. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The original chimneys were stabilised, hand-rendered and integrated with concealed lighting to offer a dramatic backdrop to the guest bathroom. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A reclaimed bluestone mantle and a restored brickwork fireplace in one of the guest rooms. The space is flanked by reupholstered armchairs from grandparents. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The drama of dark spaces always meets a lighter space beyond. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The formal dining room was originally the pubs games room, and has dart holes still in the walls! Rob crafted the mantle from cedar timber from his grandfather, which links to the dining table that once sat in their home. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Collected treasures. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The rear of the chimney forms the backdrop of the back bar. The copper boiler is now used as an ice-bucket for parties and events. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rob in the restored bar! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The copper formwork of the bar gantry references the old railway that once ran through the property, and the Iron Bridge in Rob’s mother’s homeland. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rosie loves the mixtures of trees on the property including oaks, walnuts, pears, and chestnuts. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rosie feeding their flock of Suffolk sheep! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The couple have fully embraced their treechange lifestyle. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 11th March 2020

‘We have saved part of our history and preserved it to hopefully continue for another 150 years.’ – Rosie Morley

As designers, Rosie Morley and Rob McNaught felt a responsibility to ‘re-life’ a rundown building as their future home. When searching for a suitable heritage property around the Macedon Ranges where Rosie grew up, they came across a former 1870s pub (which they had previously marvelled at due to its derelict state) and decided to buy it. 

The property was certainly not in a liveable state at the time of purchase, with bats, owls and rats living inside, and wire wrapped around the perimeter to stop livestock entering! It was immediately clear that a complete restoration from the ground up was required. 

This original pub was inclusive of a front bar, ladies lounge, cellar, beer garden, commercial kitchen, and sleeping quarters originally used to service gold rush miners and farmers. The pub was decommissioned in 1959, later surviving two major bushfires, and was eventually used by several locals as a halfway house. ‘We are merely the custodians of a piece of Australian history. We have saved part of our history and preserved it to hopefully continue for another 150 years,’ Rosie says.

Rosie is the associate director at architecture and design studio Carr, and Rob is a project coordinator at Creature Technology, so the couple were able to draw on their extensive design knowledge to undertake this restoration without external help. In saying that, it took them three years to complete, and the project almost killed them, with Rob ending up in hospital with exhaustion and pneumonia two weeks before their wedding on the property! ‘To take something abandoned and use our every available resource to rebuild it has been the making of us. Everything in built form has been handmade without mass machinery or external workforce,’ Rosie says. 

The now restored home features a reinstated cellar and recreated bar, as a tribute to the property’s history. Attention was paid to ensure new additions remained true to the era, with every salvage yard in the area scoured for sympathetic materials. A uniform use of Dulux colours (including Night Sky on the exterior, and Natural White, Malay Grey, Domino on the interiors) highlights the Victorian detailing such as skirting and ceiling roses. ‘It is more about natural textures and how light falls across them,’ Rosie says. 

Since hosting their wedding here in 2016, Rosie and Rob have continued to host regular gatherings in the house, and immerse themselves in the local community. They happily share the property with their two dogs, cat and a flock of Suffolk sheep! ‘We love having people here. The pub feels more like itself and comes into its own when filled with people,’ Rosie says. ‘The community has fully embraced us, we have never felt more welcome and at home.’

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