Interior designer and stylist, Rachael Leslie, has redefined the notion of creative space in her Daylesford home and guest house. She is certainly expected to continue the tradition.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, according to Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet, but for interior designer and stylist Rachael Leslie, finding an appropriate moniker for her house in the Victorian spa town of Daylesford was of ultimate importance. As a long-time musician and inveterate traveller, Rachael knew the importance of a catchy title to ensure the success of a business. Although she initially had no intention of opening her home to paying visitors, she did feel strongly that a “good fit” was essential when it came to naming the property.


So it seemed a stroke of serendipity when, in 2008, about the same time as Rachael was establishing her Daylesford property, she heard about the work of celebrated Sydney photomedia artist Anne Zahalka through a friend who was helping her style the house. Rachael subsequently visited one of Anne’s exhibitions and was totally captivated by the artist’s hauntingly evocative work. Further enquiry revealed that “Zahalka” translates as “loafing” or “idleness” in Bohemian language, a perfect fit for the kind of retreat Rachael was in the process of creating. With the permission of the artist, whom she met at a private viewing, she named the property, Zahalka House.

A long-time resident of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, Rachael was well accustomed to accommodating fellow musicians, artists and travellers in her St Kilda home. She expected to continue the tradition when she bought the bare block of land on Daylesford’s outskirts where Zahalka House now stands. Aiming to create a nurturing environment for family and friends to gather at weekends and on holidays, she bought a weatherboard cottage from the outer Melbourne suburb of Officer and transported it to the site.

She then set about extending the back using loads of recycled and reclaimed materials sourced through a friend who ran a secondhand dealership in Castlemaine. Another friend, boat builder and wood craftsman Mark Anstey, helped her turn these found objects into useful materials and realised her design drawings into a functional yet trademark quirky kitchen and bathrooms.

This story was originally published in Australian Country issue 15.3. To subscribe to our magazine, click here.

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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass