When the owners of this colourful Cardiff Heights home bought it 12 years ago, it was a very different beast to the one that exists today.
“We gave it a bit of our style,’’ says Andrew Whitbread-Brown, in typically understated fashion. From the bright blue, bright yellow and bright green walls to the vividly painted Roman fresco, full-size mannequin and antique dentist’s chairs, there is no hidden treasure here – the treasure is on display for everyone to see.
Andrew’s eclectic collection also includes early enamel stoves (one of which has been converted to a bathroom vanity), antique irons and other repurposed finds, like the butter churn that’s now an incense burner. Other treasures are simply kept as conversation pieces, or party favourites, like the old hairdresser’s chair with its cone-shaped overhead dryer still attached. It was found by friends at the side of the road during a council clean-up some years ago, and they knew instantly that it would find a happy home here.
Andrew and his husband Bill, who were married four years ago in Canada, recently installed a new kitchen in the 1950s-era house and it, too, is a backdrop for Andrew’s artworks and colourful curios. Other recent additions include two oversized upholstered armchairs, painted silver and throne-like in both size and appearance. They each sit in front of a computer in the corner of the living area, a work station to the factor of wow.
But the house is only one small part of the picture. Known as Trash Acres, the property is technically only one acre, but that 4000squaremetres is crammed full of surprises.
Beyond the inground pool, down the slightly sloping block, is ‘‘Ferntasia’’, a fernery that Andrew built only a year ago but that’s already home to some remarkably healthy tree ferns, thanks in part to the wet summer but also the installation of sliding glass doors removed from the house, and the Wino Walls, a series of hand-made walls built using about 70 dozen wine bottles.
Then there’s the chook house, home to two feathered residents and a disco ball. A bit further down the winding trail is the home of Phoebe Figalilly, a nanny goat named after Juliet Mills’s character in The Nanny and the Professor. These days Phoebe is given the trimmings of trees after a gardening session, but when Andrew and Bill first came here it was free rein for five goats and even they struggled to make an impression.
“It was just covered in lantana and privet, the whole area,’’ Andrew recalls.
“We had to get in and clear it all by hand.’’
The couple have since planted around 2000 trees and shrubs, mostly natives, and the first gum trees to take root here are now towering specimens that create their own canopy as well as providing mulch to limit the spread of weeds – not that there aren’t enough still here to keep Andrew busy.
The planting has been done to incorporate a winding walking path that wends in and out of the trees, sometimes doubling back on itself. With eucalyptus underfoot and in the air, it’s every bit a bushwalk but right in the middle of suburbia.
The end destination, past a small timber shack labelled the ‘‘Hillside Hippie Hut’’, is the very humble beginnings of Ironbark Creek. Andrew has built a timber bridge over the creek complete with a timber bench on which to sit and listen to the birds, or the trickling creek, or just the serenity.
It’s not your average back fence, but then it’s not your average backyard or your average house either.
Most of it has come from hard work, but every single part of it comes from the heart.