Inside the Rustic Country Cottage of Jemima Aldridge
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 rural accommodation spot The Repose, designed by Jemima Aldridge alongside her husband Bede, the craftsman behind bespoke leather atelier, Saddler & Co.
Repose. It means rest, relaxation and slowing down, which is exactly what’s on offer at The Repose. This lovingly restored historic cottage in the heart of Dubbo in western New South Wales is owned and run by Jemima and Bede Aldridge—the couple behind leather goods business Saddler & Co—and their friends Ric and Moir Jones.
The clapboard home wasn’t a case of love at first sight, though. “Initially we walked through and decided it wasn’t for us, as there were some tricky spaces to design around,” says Jemima. But after both couples spent some time “revolving the space” around their heads, they realised the challenge was what made The Repose such an exciting concept. They decided to buy the property and renovate it themselves, by hand—a process that took 18 months from start to finish. Now, the two-bedroom holiday home has opened its doors to travellers in regional New South Wales, offering a tranquil place for checking out of big city life for a while.
Jemima describes her design vision for the cottage as calm, a palette of white, fog and oatmeal to help travellers relax in style, whether on squidgy sofas or big beds draped with Bed Threads linen. The monochromatic backdrop only serves to highlight Jemima’s thoughtful touches: there are elegantly curved Thonet Le Corbusier chairs in the dining room, a standout brass lamp from Wo+We in the lounge room and original artworks on the walls. Her favourite room to design was the bathroom, which features a spectacular clawfoot tub and handmade tiles by Tiles of Ezra in muted neutral tones.
Next up for Jemima is a major restoration of her and husband Bede’s home, another 100-year-old house just outside Dubbo. That project will “take years” she admits, but she’s ready to apply all of the learnings from The Repose (and from designing the fit-out of Sadler & Co’s flagship studio in Dubbo) to renovating the family’s forever home. “I am hoping to apply some of my experience—and a whole lot of patience—into the creation of a home that is full of soul and warmth,” she says.
Hi Jemima! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
My work involves the making of artisanal spaces and experiences. It started with directing the Saddler & Co brand alongside my husband Bede Aldridge, who is a talented craftsman. Growing a family business together has provided me the opportunity to focus on curated styling, interior design and decorating, brand development and events.
Our latest creative project is The Repose, artisan accommodation situated in Dubbo NSW. Bede and I joined together with our dear friends, Ric and Moir Jones, to become business partners in providing a boutique accommodation retreat for regional travellers.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
Making a space, or a brand, into an experiential design of style, history, colour, and form is a direct reflection of how I see the world. Authenticity and creative work is a fundamental part of who I am, turning ideas into reality. This means that I rarely ‘turn off’ and usually have a few ‘irons on the fire’ at any time.
Tell us about your career journey to date.
My journey has been a slow and personal one. I’ve always had a creative flair and interest in homemaking thanks to growing up in a family who valued this. But with no professional training, it took years to develop confidence in the creative design world. Over the years of observing my husband Bede at his craftsman work, I cultivated a great appreciation for the work of a maker. This is reflected in my own design work now.
Having a family in my twenties meant developing these skills took a sideline pause while I focused on motherhood and busy family life. Creative opportunities came ten years later, in the form of directing our business and designing the Saddler & Co brand and flagship store.
This is when I started to develop my creative eye in earnest, taking up interests in styling, sourcing and visual storytelling. I learnt by experimentation, studying the work of other creatives, learning principles rather than copying a particular style. It has been a quiet progression, learning on the go, in response to the needs of each stage. Eventually, this sparked the interest for even greater ambition—the cottage concept—which is how The Repose came to be.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I start by dreaming up the big picture ideas, considering the space and working out how to enhance any existing features that are unique. All the nuances of a project involve writing words, sketching concepts, gathering inspiration for a specific mood board, and curating a collection of original handmade wares. My favourite part is working with artisans to create custom pieces or a unique design feature.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative businesses?
Consistency in staying true to our values, and creating our own brand story aesthetic.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your businesses?
We can’t do it ALL now. Good work is often slower than you wish, but worth it in the end.
We’ve learnt how to seek wise advice and balance our output with the value of receiving mentoring input. This has been an important part of the journey.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
Growing in confidence and knowing that we could create a sustainable livelihood and work together.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to start their own business?
Don’t compare to others but simply make sure you are crafting a business that reflects your authentic, original story and unique talents. This is how you will be able to persevere through the hard times. This is how you will find your community and provide a memorable customer experience.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you owned the cottage?
We purchased the cottage in autumn 2018 with our friends and business partners of The Repose. Ric and Moir, together with Bede and myself, took 18 months to renovate the entire space ourselves in between full-time jobs and families. Time and patience were required to create the artisan touches!
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes?
We took out the wall of an entire room in the centre of the cottage to create an enhanced living room area. We also pulled out all of the existing aluminium doors and glass windows. We sourced original French windows and doors second hand to create a beautiful feature hallway in the heart of the cottage. We also redesigned the laundry and bathroom layout to create a luxury experience with textural elements.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
While restoring this hundred-year-old cottage, I focused on a calm palette to ease the sense, with hints to the European heritage both the couples share. Curated pieces and original artworks within The Repose were chosen specifically to connect guests to the makers’ stories we admire. I also wove elements of our countryside surroundings into the styling of the rooms.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Consider the space and how to create a simple balance and harmony. For me, it is always about the experience. I believe bedrooms should be a place of comfort and restoration. To this end, I love to source a hero piece that might be a vintage furniture item or original artwork, while ambient lighting is also an important feature. I usually design around a restrained simplicity for the bed itself. There must always be layers of the finest linen and feather pillows. I try to create spaces that enhance the daily rituals—a place for books, a candle, a gathering of garden flowers.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
The next project that I am dreaming about is slowly designing and renovating my own home. We live in a hundred-year-old farmhouse in the country village outside Dubbo. It’s my desire to create a space that works functionally for our large family while being a hospitable experience of beauty and authentic design.
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