Jane and Leeroy Hutton have created a French provincial-inspired family home and B&B in the picturesque town of Montville behind Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
“Having a Montville bed and breakfast is a little bit like travelling, without having to go anywhere,” Brisbane-born Jane Hutton says. “You meet people from all over.” Well-travelled Jane had spent time in Europe after finishing school and met husband Leeroy while skiing in Austria. Born in England, Leeroy grew up in Sydney and he and Jane were married within a year of meeting. They spent the next 12 years living in the beachside northern Sydney suburb of Manly, until Jane eventually “dragged him away from the sea and up to the mountains”.
That was 29 years ago and “now Leeroy looks like he was born to drive a tractor”, Jane laughs. The couple moved to Montville on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where Jane had spent time growing up on her parents’ farm. In fact, her mum and dad owned the land she and Leeroy ended up purchasing. “My dad originally bought the farm so that the cows could have access to the creek and then when he was putting it on the market, we decided to buy it,” Jane explains. “So we look across to the family farm, which is beautiful.”
At the time, Jane and Leeroy’s twin girls, Chloe and Emily, were just two years old, which was part of the reason for the move. “I wanted my girls to go to Montville Primary School, which is the most beautiful little local school, so we wanted to be there in time for that.”
Another reason was to fulfil a dream to open a B&B reminiscent of the provincial farmhouses they fell in love with while cycling around France together.
So, upon acquiring the 2.2 hectares of bare paddocks, the Huttons engaged Sydney-based architect Sue Connor to draw up plans for the family home and guest accommodation. “It took about three goes,” Jane says. “The first design was lovely, but it didn’t really use the land well. The second one was probably a bit too spectacular. Then this third one was a bit of a mix of the two.” But it would be another five years before the plans came to fruition. “I presented the plans to the Montville Village Association with the girls in a pram at two-and-a-half years old and we opened when they were seven,” Jane recalls. “Approval was the longest hurdle, but the build itself took about 12 months to lock-up, then we did everything else after that.”
Named The Spotted Chook, the property has been cleverly designed to include a guest lounge and dining room in the centre of the building, the family home to one side, then the guest rooms on the other. Privacy was key, both for the guests and the Huttons, especially with the twins being so young when they opened to the public. Jane and Leeroy did the interiors themselves, with much of the inspiration taken from those charming guest houses in Europe.
“Once the build was complete, we did all the painting inside and out,” Jane recalls. “Leeroy did the skirtings and architraves, and I did all the soft furnishings, such as the curtains and upholstering the sofas. When we first opened, we picked up as much European fabric as we could from Brisbane, but then every time we travelled, I’d come back with another 10 metres of fabric in my hand luggage from Paris and all over. That’s where I splurged.” Today, pretty pastel hues adorn the walls and soft furnishings, with pops of pattern provided by the wallpaper and curtains. Leeroy’s former life as a carpet layer has come in handy as he has a staple gun at the ready when Jane comes home with a new bit of fabric to reupholster a piece of furniture or two.
Other décor and furniture items were either bespoke-created or sourced from antiques stores. There are the “little chook” doorknobs on the kitchen cabinets handmade by a local potter, the beds in the guest house built by a friend named James Larson, a custom-made table in the entryway, antique French parquetry tables and the garden gazebo, which was built by both Leeroy and James. “We built the gazebo so we could host events, such as weddings for people who got engaged here, birthday parties and so forth,” Jane explains. “It is quite an amazing piece, it’s got a big gold chook on the top, which is a concrete sculpture that Leeroy made. He hired a cherry picker to put that up there. And it’s got these Romanesque ironbark posts.” Leeroy also built the chook shed on the property and together the couple maintain the garden, which features various local species, a vegie patch and beautiful hydrangeas planted by Jane’s mum and dad. “Anything they planted grew,” Jane says.
When it comes to running the B&B, Jane and Leeroy usually have someone on staff to help — “Having the right extra person on our team has always been vital,” Jane says — but otherwise they pretty much do it all, with help from their girls, including reception duties and cooking. “Since I turned 17, my mum would pay me to cook for her dinner parties,” Jane, who has simultaneously maintained her career as a social worker, says. Guests who stay at The Spotted Chook receive a warm family welcome and are treated to splendid views of the surrounding rolling hills from each room, as well as access to the creek and rainforest at the bottom of the property. The Huttons have had people from all walks of life stay with them and often receive hot travel tips. “We had a guest one day with a ski-goggle tan and I was like, ‘Where did you go skiing this time of year?’” Jane says. “He told us about this amazing little village in France and we’ve since been three times! It is like travelling at home and then when you do get the chance to travel, you know exactly where to go.”
Nowadays, with two grandchildren under two and another one on the way, the Huttons are starting to slow down. “We want to be there for our kids and grandbabies,” Jane says. “And we’re getting old,” Leeroy quips. So the family are shutting up shop and have put The Spotted Chook on the market. But they won’t be going far. “We are only moving across the way to the family farm,” Jane laughs. “We may have to plant some trees to block our view of this place as it will be sad not to call it home anymore.”
Photography Anasastasia Karifyllidis,
Styling Lara Cross