In the first issue of ele HOME Magazine we visit a Northern Rivers sugarcane farm handed down through generations, full of love and warmth where the owner has created joy through her love of colour and design. Read an extract below and to see the full article and images get your print copy of ele HOME here and digital edition here.
WORDS Katie Skinner IMAGES Sarah Walsh McIntyre
Sarah, husband Murray and their two children, moved to their sugarcane farm in mid-2017. The farm is situated in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, close to the pretty coastal town of Yamba.
Their home has a lot of sentimental significance for the family as Sarah explains “the property dates back in part to the 1870s and has been in my husband’s family since 1900. We are currently raising the fifth generation of his family in our home. I am originally from Sydney but relocated to the Northern Rivers area a decade ago. I met Murray shortly after and the rest is history.”
The Northern Rivers region has had a renaissance over the last decade, with it being one of the most sought-after places in Australia to live. It combines some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia with lush hinterland and a well-established foodie’s scene. Sarah’s family love exploring the varied monthly markets across the region and scenic drives into the hinterland behind the Tweed Coast, Lismore and Byron Bay.
Sarah also enjoys supporting local businesses “There are several boutiques in Yamba that I love to shop at – these include Island Collective, Belinda’s Store, Flots and Jets, One Country Mouse and Shack Yamba. All of these beautiful stores sell boutique homewares, art, fashion, and in the case of Flots and Jets, really funky second-hand finds.
There are some lovely places to grab a bite to eat in Yamba including Thai Payu, Karrikin, Indian Fusion and Tapas, Sassafras, and of course, the Pacific Hotel which sits above Main Beach with the best drinking view you will find on the East Coast.”
The family have not undertaken on any significant renovations since moving in, other than restoring some original timber floorboards and exposing the original brick of their living room fireplace. However, there’s been plenty of painting.
Sarah used Dulux Vivid White in living room and Dulux Antique White USA, Dulux Lama, and Wattle Teal Twilight for the kitchen. Her love of colour and texture is evident throughout the home and she mixes second-hand pieces with new to create her distinctive look “to thrift for quality, quirky second-hand finds as well as being patient enough to wait and save for the right pieces. I am now really trying to see my home as something to be curated over time. Buy what you love, what speaks to you and worry less about trends. I’ve always gravitated towards the vintage and colourful, although my taste has evolved over time.”
Sarah describes her style as a fusion of colourful eclectic boho and mid-century modern with a little rock n roll maximalist for good measure. When asked who inspires her, she exclaims “Oh so many! On Instagram, I am so inspired by the vintage, eclectic styles of Lee Alford @whatever_happened_to_miss_wolf and Kate Pearce (@katepearcevintage).
“My favourite homewares brands are Sage & Clare and Castle & Things as they get me thinking outside the box and risk-taking, with gorgeous colour combinations and harmonious print clashing. I love finding beautiful high-end pieces second-hand through brand specific buy swap sell groups on Facebook, as well as trawling Marketplace.
There are also lots of excellent Instagram businesses selling beautiful vintage treasures at very reasonable prices, which is great for me as I find it a bit difficult thrifting in a small town. That said, I still frequent local op-shops and find cool things occasionally. Many of my plants have been found at various monthly markets in our region, including some mature plants at bargain prices.”
When asked to describe what she loves most about her home Sarah says “the age and heritage of our home, as well as the views overlooking the river across the road and out to our sugarcane fields. It’s a very special privilege to live in a home that has been in the family for 120 years, there is a real sense of warmth and love in the air. Our home was originally two or three 1870s weatherboard dwellings combined into one farmhouse by my husband’s ancestors, with 1900s and 1970s additions. This has resulted in a rabbit warren layout. The exterior of our home is a work in progress, I have a lot of ideas to try and restore some of the character that was stripped back in the 1970s.
Our gardens are well established with four 120-year-old camphor laurel trees, two of which stood either side of a tennis court back in the 1920s. You can barely fit in a ping pong table between them now! Our garden has an old school subtropical feel with many palms, bird of paradise, hibiscus and jacarandas, with views across the road to a river.” The garden is also home to the family’s many chickens, a rabbit and a duck.
Whether it’s a morning swim at Main Beach in Yamba with brekkie at the beach kiosk or an afternoon boating on the beautiful Clarence River before grabbing takeaway Thai food to enjoy at home, Sarah and her family seem to have found the pot of gold over the rainbow in their joyful home, a home that by the sounds of it will be loved for many generations to come.