Diamond Cottage



   

This beautiful family of five made the move from Central Queensland to the Sunshine Coast , and successfully upcycled a dilapidated old home.

When you’ve spent your whole life in a small country town where everyone knows everyone and community gatherings are more like big family reunions, pulling up stumps to start a new life elsewhere can be daunting. After growing up together in the central Queensland town of Clermont, Jules and Matt Fish wanted to give their three children, Ava, Hollin and Nayten, something a little different. “We loved growing up and raising our children in Clermont,” Jules says. “But we felt it was time to go and start a new adventure.”

When Matt, a diesel fitter contracted to various mine companies, began spending more time away working, Jules set her sights on being closer to a city and the beach so the family would have plenty to keep them busy while Matt was away and be able to enjoy exploring their new surrounds together when he was home. So began the search for the perfect locale. After two years of trawling real estate sites, Jules stumbled upon a home that instantly appealed in the rural community of Diamond Valley, 25 minutes from Sunshine Coast beaches and an hour north of Brisbane. “When Matt called to inquire, they told us the house was under contract already,” she says. “I was devastated as it was the only house I had come across that I really loved.” They changed directions and kept up their search, all the while hoping for a miracle. “After a month or so, we called to make sure the house had sold and to our delight the contract had fallen through that day,” she recalls. “We threw the kids in the car and made the 10-hour road trip down to see the open house they were having that weekend.

“As soon as we pulled up, I knew it would be ours. My heart skipped a beat and I saw a beauty and uniqueness that was missing in all the houses I had seen before. The wrap-around veranda overlooking the beautiful bushland and dam was the first thing I loved about the place, as well as the French doors off every room at the front”

Her excitement was only slightly tempered by the fact that the house was in dire need of some serious work. “There were only three bedrooms downstairs and we knew we would need to put in a fourth,” Jules says. “I was told there were two bedrooms upstairs, but I use the word loosely as there weren’t actually any stairs. There were massive holes in the ceiling for a set of spiral stairs that were never put in and a look-down from the top floor. We could see through to the tin roofing. The floor and framing for the walls upstairs were in place, but never built in.”

The home had been a special project that was never quite finished — designed by an architect for his daughter. “We found out our neighbours on one side used to be the original owners and her father was the architect,” Jules says. “At 94, he is currently the oldest registered architect in Australia and lives around the corner from us — this was all his old farmland and our house was the first one built when it was subdivided into acreage.”

Fortuitously, the original owners had bought an old army barracks cottage to store hay. With a huge renovation looming, Matt and Jules soon realised that the hay shed would become their temporary home while the main house was under construction. “We weren’t able to live among the renovations as we’d thought and we couldn’t move out or go back to Clermont, so our only option was to fix up the barracks first,” Jules says. “We got to work turning it into a two-bedroom cottage. I sourced everything from Gumtree and Buy Swap Sell and bought a Bunnings kitchen, and we furnished it for $500.”

 

It made a cosy home for the family in the months that followed, as Jules learned the ropes of renovation between school drop-offs and errands. “There were lots of tricky obstacles along the way and, being by myself for most of the build, I had to make a lot of decisions on the fly,” she says. “It was quite daunting but all our tradies were brilliant and worked with me to get exactly what we wanted.” When Matt was home, there wasn’t much time for rest and relaxation. “Matt is really handy and we have done a lot of the decorative finishes on the house ourselves,” Jules adds. “He did the gorgeous trim around the laundry door and kitchen window. He’s also taught me how to use a drop saw and built some shelves and hooks.”

As renovation bills mounted, Jules put her bargain hunting to the test again and has managed to create a beautiful farmhouse ambience by upcycling old furniture. “I’ve always had a love for interior decorating or anything crafty,” she says. “My first attempt at refurbishing furniture was in my early 20′s with an antique wardrobe I stripped back and restained. My dad is pretty handy, too, so I used to come up with ideas for furniture and he would build them for me. I designed a change table when I had babies and I think he ended up having to make about four others for family and friends!”

There’s now plenty of room for their cherished old friends from Clermont, who are always welcomed by the scent of freshly baked scones made by 13-year-old Hollin, the resident pastry chef. “She has perfected choc-chip scones,” Jules says proudly. New friends are never far off, either — the former owners of the family’s haven have become much more than neighbours. “They are lovely people and we have enjoyed being able to know the history of this place and the reasons why things were done,” Jules observes. “The kids love visiting them and it’s nice to have someone look out for us while Matt is away.”

They’ve named their home Diamond Cottage and it’ll no doubt be the centre of many more treasured times ahead. “We have never looked back,” Jules says. “It has been the most life-changing and amazing experience. We’re so glad we did it.”

 

The complete story was originally published in Australian Country issue 22.3. Click here to subscribe to our magazine

Words & Styling Tamara Simoneau

Photography Anastasia Kariofyllidis