Split level living a contemporary western winner

Country Homes: Modern take on 1960s style for Chandlers at Barcaldine

Life & Style
Jayde and Ben Chandler and their children Viv, Wally, Charlie and Jack relaxing in the ground-level living space.

Jayde and Ben Chandler and their children Viv, Wally, Charlie and Jack relaxing in the ground-level living space.

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When you walk into Jayde and Ben Chandler's home at Gregory Park, 39 kilometres south of Barcaldine, it's hard to reconcile the cool airy atmosphere of the open plan design with an image of a civic centre.

Aa

When you walk into Jayde and Ben Chandler's home at Gregory Park, 39 kilometres south of Barcaldine, it's hard to reconcile the cool airy atmosphere of the open plan design with an image of a civic centre.

That's how Jayde described the colour scheme she inherited when she arrived a dozen years ago - an orange brick interior thanks to a double brick construction, greyish olive-green lino, and walls that were a lighter shade of the same grey-green shade.

"All the frames of the doors were the same colour," Jayde said. "It was very muted, all the tiling was the same colour - it wasn't incredibly offensive, it was actually really well done but it looked like a government building. It looked like an old civic centre."

1960s trend setter

The house was very stylish for its time, designed by architects for the Cameron family and taking three years to build, beginning in 1964.

"To build a house like this on a small property was pretty amazing for back then," Jayde said. "They had big issues with the roof. Apparently they had issues with the ability to stay it because of the wide span."

The working drawings, which the Chandlers plan to frame and display, show areas for a maids wing and staff eating quarters, and according to local stories, neighbours would come over on weekends for movie screenings on the wall of the lower entertaining area.

The architect's working drawings for the mid-1960s-era double brick home.

The architect's working drawings for the mid-1960s-era double brick home.

For that and other social occasions, the area was fitted with a bar, a sink and a double-sided fridge accessible from both the living area and the kitchen.

"They'd line up chairs against the walls and the women would sit on one side and the men would sit on the other," Jayde said.

When she and Ben arrived, the house hadn't been lived in for 15 years and the garden consisted of mimosa bushes and mother-in-law's tongue plants plus a chainlink fence.

A rugby fan, Ben would practice his lineouts against the wall of the long living area and an esky acted as a coffee table.

Jayde's whole aim has been to soften the look of the interior and give it some character, while showing off the architect-designed features - high ceilings, split levels, and free-flowing air and light.

A kitchen renovation saw the lino disappear under dark timber oozing with a century of character reclaimed from wharves and wool stores; two dividing walls and the brown laminate and cabinetry that went with them pulled out; the wall between the kitchen and sunken living area given a wide open window; and the walls and ceilings painted a crisp white.

A minimalist at heart, Jayde has stored appliances behind closed doors and in big drawers under an island bench.

She had two ovens installed - although not a fan of baking she loves entertaining.

"We just thought, if we're going to do it, may as well do it once and properly," she explained. "This is great for when we've got a full table - the veges are in one oven and the meats in another and you can feed a crowd."

The Chandlers considered polished concrete floors as a replacement for the lino but a few experiences with their children slipping and smacking their heads on the lino, and the lack of 'give', convinced them otherwise.

While oversize louvres are a definite feature of the house, Jayde says she would love to replace the majority of them, especially in the bedroom wing.

Replacing them costs $200 a pane - a cost learned from experience - so there's about $10,000 on show in the big bank of glass on the home's eastern side.

They offer a fabulous view and cooling breezes when the temperature is right but they also offer little defence when the hot furnace of summer is blowing and dust storms approach.

"When a storm comes you're bolting round the house shutting all the louvres," Jayde said. "And because they're so old they don't actually seal properly so the dust slips in, and little black bugs."

Apart from those problems, bore water residue built up over 60 years makes them hard to shine to a crystal clean.

Front entry plans

The couple has big plans for the triple bank of louvres lining the eastern side of the home - they want to take them out and replace them with windows and a front entry.

That will lead out to a deck that will square the house up when matched on the southern end by an extension to add bedrooms to cater for their four children.

An outside area to relax in when the day's work is done is something Jayde and Ben miss greatly.

"We've got these little gauzed-in concrete areas but we struggle with not having an area to go and sit outside," Jayde explained.

The deck will also lead out to a new main entrance to the house, complete with a roundabout.

Like many outback homes, most people drive up to the back of the house, or the 'tradesman's entrance' but the Chandlers would love to bring back the tradition of a grander formal entry.

It would also help add structure to the garden, which is a work in progress thanks to the relentless drought of the past 10 years.

The original garden was, in Jayde's words, "very snug, very close around the house".

They have some of the finest artesian water in Australia to water their garden with but the bore head is very close to the house and comes out of the ground at an extremely high temperature.

A turkey nest now cools the water down before it's used on the garden but before that was installed, Jayde said she was boiling plants when she watered them.

She thought that may have contributed to the small size of the 1960s garden.

"The only issue (we have now) is the rate of evaporation through the turkey nest," she said. "Aside from the very heavy clay soil and the challenges you have with drought, we should be able to build some sort of garden here."

Her aim is to take it stage by stage, starting at the utilities area and working around.

"This framework that's already here, that will be the extent of the garden and out further we're going to fill it with lots of trees," she said.

All the design ideas and purchases made for the kitchen renovation were sourced online by Jayde.

"I didn't go to a single showroom," she said. "I couldn't because I had little children."

They included handmade subway tiles that intentionally match the brick tiles over the fireplace in the adjoining TV room, a visual continuation that shows Jayde's innate artistry and design flair.

"The builders must have struggled with me big-time - these tiles are handmade and they're all imperfect," she laughed.

More of her flair is on show in the guest bedroom where raw leather swatches sourced from the saddlery at Blackall are nailed to the built-in cupboard doors as handles.

The leather swatches for the doors.

The leather swatches for the doors.

She says beautiful furniture is on hold at the moment "because the kids will destroy it and I'll have a meltdown", but there is plenty of scope to add colour and excitement via the gallery space offered by the big white walls.

Sometimes they display Jayde's own work - a big floral canvas is a permanent fixture in the TV room - but she has ambitions to support lots of Australian artists via purchases for her home.

"I want it to be like an art gallery in here," she said.

Jayde said she was beginning to think they were making the living space homely, saying it wasn't as hard-lined with horizontal lines anymore.

Asked what her favourite feature was, she nominated the amount of light she has.

"I don't think I could move to another home that has a low ceiling or not this much light," she said. "It's how I've learnt to live. It's uplifting and it's fresh."

Jayde's art studio

Jayde Chandler has a number of artwork projects on the go from her studio.

Jayde Chandler has a number of artwork projects on the go from her studio.

A childhood fascination with her grandfather Sir James Walker's pastel landscapes in oil, and the special room he went to paint in, fuelled Jayde's interest in art.

Then when she was renovating the Gregory Park kitchen she rediscovered her interest in interior design, so much so that she undertook a diploma in the subject online.

While that was enjoyable, it was only a sideline to what was to come in 2018 when a creative outlet away from the anguish and frustration of drought was needed.

"And I didn't want to get to 80 and have regrets," she said.

"My first painting was of a droughted scene from one of Lisa Alexander's photographs.

"Ben said, you need to show this to people - I said absolutely not. He then said, why don't you auction it for Rural Aid."

That 'little piece' sold for $2000 and gave her the confidence to enter her first local exhibition.

An Instagram page followed, galleries are stocking her work, and now she has so many commissions she's about to put up the shutters there.

And to comfortably undertake what's become her full-time profession, Jayde has moved out of the spare room in the homestead to a disused cottage that was serving as the Chandler family's 'boating, camping, fishing' storage space.

"It was totally run-down - broken windows, this much dust through the place - but they did things well with the structure," Jayde said.

"I got Kev Russell to come out from Blackall and he said they hadn't worked on a home that was so straight, even the more modern ones."

Between them they created one big self-contained room, complete with a big storage cupboard for boards, a mini kitchen and toilet, and lots of windows to let the natural light stream in.

From there, the textural memories from her childhood inform her stunning landscapes and abstract works featuring in offices and homes around Australia.

The art studio is just far enough away from the main house that Jayde can keep an eye on both areas.

The art studio is just far enough away from the main house that Jayde can keep an eye on both areas.

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