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Belle Magazine - February/March 2022

Design duo Duet stretched the limits of their imagination with this glorious country-meets-coast homestead brimming with contemporary flourishes and vintage treasures

George Geagea remembers the exact moment this deeply personal project he started with his business partner Charles Daoud became one he needed to share. “I was standing in the driveway overlooking the large orchard with its mandarin, orange, lemon and fig trees and saw the property in a new light. It had been so neglected and I could finally see it sparkling. Even though it was meant to be a private project, we knew this was something we had the privilege of sharing,” says George. So while the Greyleigh homestead was intended to be a family weekender, it’s now available for stays and events.

The sprawling farmhouse was terribly run-down when George first saw it in 2014 but the location was so highly coveted that the purchase was a no-brainer. Established in the 1800s the renowned dairy farm was famous for its award-winning cattle. The tightly held pocket of acreage is now virtually unheard of in Kiama and it is uniquely positioned between the ocean and rolling green hills.

Dominique Brammah and Shannon Shlom of Duet were engaged to transform the homestead into an elevated farm stay with a strong connection to nature. While no architectural intervention was required, the interiors were completely gutted and restored beyond recognition. “We wanted to create something really distinctive and strong so it was about introducing layers of things that could fly in a holiday home, but not necessarily in a permanent residence,” says Dominique. “Looking back, our initial concept presentation probably wasn’t quite as bold as the final result. We may not have got it off the ground if it had been.”

However, they needn’t have worried. “We just let the girls run with it,” says George. “They showed us moodboards and their overarching vision but, ultimately, I knew that only they could bring it to life and see it through to completion.” While the footprint remained unchanged, the homestead – which sleeps 10 – was given a whole new look, incorporating everything from window dressings to furnishings and cutlery. “We would trawl around online at night, messaging each other at all hours so we wouldn’t miss out on a fantastic sofa we found on Facebook Marketplace,” says Dominique of the ever-evolving furniture scheme. With a tight budget, immense scope and short timeframe, Dominique and Shannon found new and inventive ways of working, enthusiastically rummaging through Etsy and Gumtree. “We’d buy something second-hand online but then cover it in luxurious fabric or expensive tweed. We never hit middle ground – we high-lowed it the whole way through,” says Shannon. “And if we bought it off the shelf we’d customise it with a flourish – a little cherry on top,” echoes Dominique of added pipings, trims and even scalloped marble aprons.

A wide hallway runs uninterrupted from the entry to the rear garden, decorated with plants on shelves, inspired by an indoor conservatory. A large bedroom sitting to the left is followed by a pitched-roof breakfast room and French doors that lead to the kitchen, a pretty and punchy space with new servery windows in apricot and blue. On the opposite side of the corridor is a shared formal dining and living area, a space that initially proved challenging due to its breadth, but felt immediately better after a coat of deep green-blue paint.

Wrapping the house in colour was part of the strategy “to establish spaces and minimise the disjointed rabbit-warren”, says Shannon. “When we first arrived we got lost. Colour helped define spaces, to act as an anchor. It was about creating a journey through the home, a natural order.” To that end, the library is painted three different tones: burnt orange on the walls, cornflower blue on the ceiling, and doors and architraves in a warm white. On the south-east side of the building, one large room was carved into two – a playful mustard-hued casual zone and adjoining kids bunkhouse that sleeps six. Upstairs, the master bedroom has a loft with a kitchenette and claw-foot bathtub overlooking the water.

A covered brick path connects to the guesthouse with an open-plan kitchenette in the meals and living zone and three bedrooms. Due to its comparative compactness, Dominique and Shannon approached the guesthouse with a cosier sensibility, outfitting it with an inviting reading nook, navy gingham Roman blinds and patterned wallpaper. “It’s a little more traditional and we’ve just softened the intensity,” says Shannon.

When completed, Greyleigh will have a barn, kitchen shed, cabana, pool, chicken coop, workshop for artists-in-residence and a network of cottages and silos. Currently, though, it’s occupied full-time by ponies, llamas, sheep and sprightly chickens. “It was a whopper job,” says Dominique. “And there’s so much more to come.”

Words: Carli Philips