Inside Edwina Bartholomew's Luxury Farmhouse Retreat
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Capertee Valley, NSW where Edwina Bartholomew has turned a house on 100 acres of land into a luxury farm retreat.
During the week, Edwina Bartholomew chases deadlines as a journalist on Channel 7’s Sunrise. But come Friday evening, she’s far away from the world of television and news, around three hours outside of Sydney in the Capertee Valley in the Greater Blue Mountains. It’s here, in a beautifully renovated homestead nestled on a hundred glorious acres of farmland she calls Warramba, that Bartholomew really gets to slow down. (And you might be able to as well – the property is also rented out via Airbnb.) “We even love the drive here as you start to decompress as soon as you get in the car,” she admits.
Bartholomew and her husband bought the farm five years ago, the very first time they saw it. “I remember clearly driving through the stunning Capertee Valley and down the driveway,” she recalls. “As we came around the bend, we saw the old sandstone cottage for the first time and instantly fell in love. We had a cheque in our bag and bought it on the spot."
One of the only sandstone homes left in the area, the golden exterior of the farmhouse didn’t need much work. But the interior did, and Bartholomew enlisted the help of architects Studio Esteta to completely gut the space and transform it into a minimalist, yet still cosy, hideaway. Air conditioning keeps things cool in the summer, when those big glass doors and windows send the light flooding in, and gauzy curtains running the length of the rooms create an atmosphere of rest and repose. In the bedrooms, a mix of different coloured Bed Threads sheets – including our brand new Stripe bedding – help to set the washed-out neutral colour palette. Outside the house, Bartholomew has added orchards, a native garden, a herd of friendly cows and, one day, dreams of installing a pool.
Everything is warm, comfortable and lived-in – no wonder Bartholomew, and all of her many Airbnb guests, love staying there.
But her favourite room in the place isn’t a room at all; it’s the wraparound verandah that stretches right around the house. “We have kangaroos that drink at the dam most morning, and it’s a lovely spot to read a book or enjoy a cup of tea,” she says. Sign us up.
Hi Edwina! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
We made a farm! If you’d told me five years ago that we would be spending our weekends planting orchards, sowing vegetables, growing native plants and feeding cattle, I would have thought you were bonkers.
Warramba is an ongoing, ever-evolving project. When we bought the property in 2016, we only had a house. There were frogs living in the loo and a garden hose connecting the house to the tank. Everything you see here, we have built from scratch. It’s incredibly rewarding to ‘make’ a home that we can now share with others. We rent out the property on Airbnb so we have not only built a farm, but we have built a business.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I’m a journalist by day. It’s a fast-paced, deadline-driven job. The farm has allowed me to slow down. I can now happily spend the whole day in the garden or pottering around the property.
Our friends Studio Esteta, did the architectural plans for the house and we styled the property ourselves. It’s been a labour of love collecting bits of pieces from our travels to add to the home. I grew up in Japan so you’ll find a lot of Japanese ceramics here and the cushion covers in the living room are made from antique Japanese kimono fabrics. It’s very much a reflection of our personalities and is constantly changing as our family grows.
Tell us about your journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue journalism, and now, this property?
My job has taken me all over the country. A few years ago, I stopped travelling as much and really missed being out of the city and in the open air. Warramba is about three hours from Sydney.
I never imagined we would become the custodians of a property like this but it has opened us up to the most incredible opportunities and community. We have met some wonderful people in the immediate Capertee Valley, but we’ve also connected with a great network of farmers with a similar interest in regenerative agriculture and we have also found a lovely network of fellow creatives who have set up Airbnbs around the country.
Shop Edwina's look with Stripe and White in our Build Your Own Bundle.
How did you initially know Warramba was for you?
My husband grew up in Lithgow so already had a connection to the area. A lot of the properties around the Valley are new homes, perched on the top of hills to capture the views but ours is tucked away in a little valley. That’s what we love about it. There aren’t too many original sandstone buildings in the area so we feel very lucky to be the latest owners of the special slice of Australia.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
Building a farm is a complicated process. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing at the beginning or what we were getting into, which turned out to be a blessing.
The very first thing we did was remove all livestock from the property for about six months. The land had been heavily overgrazed for a long time. Resting the land allowed some of the native grasses to return and gave it a chance to recover. We planted five thousand trees in conjunction with our neighbour Rob Bettington and BirdLife NSW to help protect the endangered Regent Honeyeater.
At the same time, we started with the house renovation so we actually had somewhere to sleep! We wanted the house to fit seamlessly into the surroundings without being too ‘country chic’. Over time, we have added a drought-proof native garden, an orchard, and eight over-friendly Highland Cows.
What was the renovation process like?
We gutted the whole interior. We didn’t have to make any structural changes so it was mostly aesthetic. We wanted a huge bookshelf to house our ever-growing collection of books and a really easy to use kitchen. We amalgamated a mudroom and bathroom to make room for a big bath inside.
One of my favourite features is the curtains which carry all around the living room. In winter, when it’s freezing outside and the fire is crackling inside, there is no better place to be.
Shop Edwina's look with Stripe and White in our Build Your Own Bundle.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
We wanted a very neutral palette to build on and didn’t want it to feel too ‘country’. Our architects Studio Esteta are Melbourne-based so they were able to finesse all of our ideas and create the bones of a beautiful space. Because we don’t live here all the time, we didn’t need big wardrobes or storage to keep all of our belongings so we were able to have very minimal interiors.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
The dining table is an old sorting table from a shearing shed. We bought it at the clearance sale at the property next door. We bought the chairs and benches in Victoria and have gradually added a mixture of antiques and new pieces over the years. I twisted the light in one of the bedrooms around a stick from the property to make it a bit more original.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
Air Conditioning. It’s not really a decor piece but it would completely change our lives in summer. The next addition after that would be a pool. Can you call that decor?
Shop Edwina's look with Mineral and Fog in our Build Your Own Bundle.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Try not to buy everything new as antiques and vintage pieces can add so much character. We purchased bed frames from Ikea but added old wooden bedside tables to give the rooms more character.
We have beautiful Anchor ceramic lights in the main bedroom, above the dining table and also the bathroom so we can turn off the main lights and make the rooms even more cosy.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far with the house?
The most challenging aspect has been running a property remotely. We seem to spend all of our holidays working on the farm, building new projects. One of these days – we will get there to have a break.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you've had Warramba?
We kept the farm to ourselves for the first couple of years, but opening it up to guests has been such a wonderful experience. They often send us photos of their kids feeding the cows, cooking in the fire pit, the beautiful view from the Swag Deck on the top of the property. To see what we have created through someone else's eyes is incredibly satisfying.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to do something similar?
Jump in head-first. If you could predict all the outcomes, know what was ahead, you would never take the first leap. Just take the risk and work out the rest later.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
We are always working on the next project at Warramba. We put an orchard in over summer and just added a bell tent. That is the best thing about the creative process, it never ends.
For more from Edwina, follow her on Instagram @edwina_b.