MILTON: PARADISE FOUND BY THE PACIFIC OCEAN
NOT MANY PEOPLE are lucky enough to have a partner who can build the house of their dreams and just about anything they can think of to put in it. When Leah Atkins and her partner David Gleeson moved back in to their weatherboard home on the New South Wales South Coast hinterland, Leah relished a second chance to decorate it.
The historic dairy farming town of Milton is perched high on a hill about 3 hours drive south of Sydney. It has panoramic views stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the east right around to the rugged mountain escarpment, not far to the west. Leah, who grew up in the area, describes herself as a particularly restless, creative soul who loves to put her inspirations to work.
“We had built the house about six years ago and then moved away for two years,” says Leah. “I was looking forward to having a fresh look at the house because my taste has changed, fashions change and I wanted to update some cosmetic things that weren’t going to cost the earth!”
Luckily for Leah, David is not just a builder but a skilled joiner as well. “Dave made most of the joinery in the house, right down to the coffee tables, bathroom vanities and sideboards.”
Before Paddy, now 4, came along, Leah and her mother were the proprietors of one of the most successful and most loved homewares stores on the South Coast, Home At Last in Milton. David’s furniture made from recycled timbers, was always in demand. When building the house, Leah and David were conscious not to make it too “suburban” because of its context amongst the quaint old timber weatherboard cottages the town is famous for.
“Milton is a very pretty place set in the green rolling dairy farmland, but its just a few kilometres from the beach,” explains Leah. “It is definitely a country town but the beach influence is also there and that’s the style I have tried to capture in the colours and textures in the house.” The floors throughout are hardwood, once left their natural colour but now painted in an off-white in their second phase.“Suddenly when we moved back, I just had to have painted floors,” Leah laughs,” I really like the serene, reflective qualities of painted floors.”
Leah also painted out more of the wood on the kitchen cabinets with white paint and toned the interior walls down to more neutral shades in a taupe to grey palette. Upstairs the main bedroom has been updated with deep taupe painted on the tongue and groove panelling, as have the panelled walls in the dining room and lounge. In the sunroom Leah chose a sandy colour to keep the room light and airy.
“The cabana room off the pool is my little piece of Caribbean style”
In the lounge area Leah had the sofas recovered in shades of grey and added a big grey rug. “It still gets chilly in winter and this is the cosy spot in the house,” explains Leah. The coldness of the grey palette is balanced by touches of natural cane in the dining chairs and woven raffia hats hung artfully on a dividing wall. Rustic and bleached wooden furniture, hand made by David, and displays of shells provide other natural textures and a reminder of the beach.
With a passion for design books, Leah counts influences like designer India Hicks’ home in the Bahamas and Ralph Lauren’s Round Hill, Jamaica retreat as inspirations. “The cabana room off the pool is my little piece of Caribbean style,” she adds.. “The raked ceiling with exposed beams and banquette seating make you feel like you are somewhere tropical, without the airfare.”
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