New lease of life

Kate PollardCountryman

Almost seven years ago, Diana Pickford was lying on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance in Fremantle close to death from food poisoning.

Diana recovered from the close call and according to her husband, John, that fateful day became the "decider" - it convinced them they should go ahead and restore a run-down old cottage on the family farm west of Woodanilling.

So they embarked on journey that could be described as mission nearly impossible.

Even at the onset, their builder and now close friend, Domenic Laurino, thought the best course of action was to bring in a bulldozer and start from scratch.

But through sheer hard work, determination and a flair to recycle farm treasures, they have succeeded.

What they have now is a home that combines old and new and one I'm sure many Countryman readers would love to live in, and that includes me.

According to Diana, who is a passionate historian, the original homestead was built around 1912 or 1913 out of granite stone from the farm and mortared with a red dolerite clay, also from the property.

Although it was about 2km from the main road, the site was selected because it was beside Wingedyne soak, after which the homestead was named.

For the last 60 years, the one bedroom house, with a sitting room and kitchen, had been derelict. "We've been farming here for 42 years and the cottage was always considered of interest but not much else," John said. "And then we needed somewhere to live."

With their son Richard also eyeing off the abandoned dwelling, Diana and John's dinner experience at Fremantle really got the ball rolling.

The main purpose of restoring the house was to ensure the old and new married together well and the original feeling of the old house was retained.

The Pickfords have doubled the size of the old cottage by using rammed earth for extensions and big windows have been included to get a perfect view of the outside world.

"We never tried to hide the fact that one part is old and one is new but it had to have the same feel throughout the house," Domenic said.

A collection of recycled materials from the farm and donated by neighbours and friends were also extensively incorporated.

Among the features is a wall made entirely of old sheep yard timbers that have been polished. The imperfections in each piece of wood have been kept adding to the wall's character.

"The house had to be different," Domenic said.

"We had the timber. John and Di didn't want it perfect or sterile, we had plenty of wood and it evolved."

"The beaut thing is there is history about it," Diana said.

John said he found himself getting up during the evening and turning all the lights on and admiring the whole thing - "walking wall to wall".

They were also able to use 100-year-old polished jarrah floorboards and the impressive old brickwork from the older part of the home is just as treasured.

Wingedyne now has two bedrooms, an office/library, bathroom, toilet and an amazing open plan living, dining and kitchen area.

"We would draw things up on the ground and just leave them," Domenic said. "The kitchen was drawn out on the ground and John and Di would go through and see how that would fit in with what they wanted to do and then we would work out the materials to use."

The three agree that the secret to the success of the project was that nothing was set in concrete - they had a broad plan, they stuck to its boundaries and let the interior evolve.

One of the most important parts of the venture was being able to use local suppliers and skilled tradies - carpenters, plumbers, electricians and tilers.

The only time they had to look outside the local community and passed Katanning was for a specialist rammed earth tradesman.

"We needed someone to put it up how we wanted, rather than the normal run of the mill," Domenic said.

"Everything is not tied. There are pieces of rammed earth and then brickwork in the middle, then more rammed earth to get the feel of the place. And it also gave us options when decorating."

The cost of the total project is comparable with buying a comfortable home in Perth but the Pickfords have no regrets.

"We aim to get old here. This is our retirement home for the next 20-plus years," Diana said.

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