As published in New England Living, Summer 2018
Story and Photos: Georgina Poole
Perhaps it was her unassuming Papua New Guinean childhood that inspired the clean lines and simple design philosophy behind the new build Della Barnes and her husband Justin recently completed.
Then again, Della laughs that it may well have been the relentless dusting of ornate cornices required of their previous Federation style home . “I like to think I’m a no-fuss kind of person and this home reflects that. The design is very uncomplicated – too many edgings and features just means more cleaning!”
And, just as Leonardo da Vinci famously quoted, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, the Barnes’ home radiates minimalist refinement.
Justin and Della have proudly called Moree home for the past 15 years. However, after the arrival of their two boisterous sons, Isaac and Thomas, and an infinite number of cricket balls lost over neighbouring fences, the couple knew it was time to upsize. “Never would I have entertained the idea of building, but the local real estate market was slow and nothing caught our eye,” Della admits. “We crunched some numbers and realised that a new build wasn’t as far-fetched as we always assumed.”
The family, which now included a young daughter, Paris, no sooner stumbled across the holy grail of acreage living – riverside frontage, private road, minutes from town, newly listed – and their fate was sealed. The build itself took just nine months, with the family fortunate enough to remain in their previous home while construction took place.
Enlisting Inverell builder Chris Farrugia, whose work they’d long admired, the design was based on a basic contemporary plan that Della and Justin developed with a draftsman. “Our only stipulation was that our bedroom be the opposite end of the house to the children, and space for a large verandah.” With Justin running his finance brokering business, Finagri, from home, a generous office was also a must.
“I tried to be a bit of a ‘site boss’,” Della laughs, “but with three young children underfoot it didn’t really work that well! On one occasion the children put hand prints all through freshly poured concrete. Thankfully Chris was wonderful, and so patient with us – there are still little initials and handprints hiding in a number of nooks and crannies where he let them go for it!”
The couple had a clear aesthetic vision concentrated around neutral colours and simple lines, however, engaged a Toowoomba architect and interior design firm, Feather and Lawry Design, to help with lighting and the electricity layout. In hindsight, Della admits one of her greatest regrets was not enlisting their services from the start. “I had a misconception that interior designers were a bit flashy, but it wasn’t the case at all. They provided such a helpful service, especially regarding aspects of the build I hadn’t even thought about,” reflects Della.
From the interior and exterior palette through to flooring and fittings, Della worked through the finishing details with the designers to bring their dream home to life. Today, the cool, minimalist palette inspires calm, despite the busy Barnes household. The spacious and light-filled open plan kitchen and dining area, dressed in Dulux Quarter White Duck, ensures family socialisation, with Della confessing the kitchen is one of her favourites aspects of the home. “A butler’s pantry has been a lifesaver – and hides a multitude of sins,” she laughs. “We used matt surfaced two pack cabinetry with a one-millimetre edge in lieu of handles, and we love it.” A generous Caesarstone island bench in Frosty Carina has proven its versatility for everything from meal prep to paper mache craft.
The lack of fuss has afforded the couple an opportunity to layer the room with textiles and art, with a large Catherine Stewart commission adding a dashing burst of colour and interest. A cricket scene by local artist Jo White also adorns the living area, a fitting tribute to the athletic family. “We are so lucky in Moree to have access to wonderful artists through our local galleries. I love the fact we can add personality to our walls through art.”
While initially the river frontage wasn’t a huge selling point for the couple, it has emerged as one of the property’s greatest features. “Our builder encouraged us to take advantage of the river aspect, which I’m glad we did.” A high-pitched vaulted cathedral ceiling, lined in Sydney blue gum, provides an impressive entertaining space and a seamless transition from the outdoors in. “As the children grow up we have certainly gravitated more towards the river – fishing, kayaking, taking the dog for a swim. We underestimated what a huge asset it would provide our family.”
Likewise, she did not expect the extra outdoor space to be so inducive to family time. “Every afternoon we go out and have a game of cricket – we never did that in town. We all have busy lives, but it surprises me that now, with all this space, we make time to get out and play together,” Della muses.
With their eldest son Isaac having this year started boarding school, these are the years, Della believes, the house will really come into its own. “This was always going to be our ‘forever home’, and it was built with this in mind. We were conscious that the day would come when our children would go away to school, so first and foremost our inspiration was to create an embracing space for their visits home. Boarding school is busy, full of routine, dorms and dining rooms – we wanted them to be able to arrive home, exhale, and just relax back into their haven.”
A family oasis for sure, and a home that shines in its simplicity – the Barnes family has created a beautiful space from which they could well run the risk of their three children never actually ‘flying the nest’.