A picture-postcard farm in the NSW southern highlands provides sanctuary for a herd of Angus cattle, some exceptionally pampered chooks, all manner of visiting wildlife and an extremely hospitable couple and their lucky guests.

It’s a universal given that most renovations grow beyond initial expectations, but when property developer John Boyd suggested to his fiancé, Marly Calladine, that they should build a small chapel for their impending wedding, they had little inkling of the Ben Hur-style proportions the project would assume.

The event was planned for the grounds of the NSW southern highlands property John had owned since 2000. The house, which was unfinished and neglected at the time of purchase, had already had one extension in which an imposing stone facade and sweeping steps were added and bedrooms inserted in what was formerly a large underground garage. The chapel seemed like a good idea but then they needed somewhere to pitch the marquee for the reception and, to accommodate this, an area needed to be levelled… So, while they were at it, they decided to add extra living space onto the house with pavilions at either end. The wedding even had to be delayed until the job was finally done.

“We often share the house with family, friends and staff so, even though it seems like a big house, all of it is used,” Marly says. “At peak times, we might have up to 30 guests so, although it’s a weekender, it gets well and truly used. We tend to come to the southern highlands in winter because it’s cosy with all the fires going. In summer, we’re more likely to head for our house at Palm Beach. But at Christmas, we always end up in the country because we can accommodate a crowd more comfortably. John is nothing if not a perfectionist and tradition is very important to him. So we always have a live tree and, afterwards, a little planting ceremony when it is transplanted into the garden.”

John and Marly enlisted the support of colour consultant and interior stylist Monique Sartor of Sartorial Interiors. “Everything in our house has a back story,” Marly explains. “Most of the artworks, decorator items, even pieces of furniture, have been purchased while travelling or through people we have met socially or through business. There are antique warhorses from China, panelling from a French chateau, massive iron gates from another French property and a big bronze rooster from an antiques dealer in Sydney. The resulting composite is quite eclectic and that’s fine with us because it’s our home and it contains our history.”

This story was originally published in the February 2014  issue of Australian Country. Order the back issue here.

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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass