Jennifer McLennan is a naturopath based in Sydney, but she's originally from the Hunter Valley. In 2019 she took the plunge into home ownership. Buying outside of the city was the only affordable option.
"I always thought it would be great to have an Airbnb to get out of the city and access the property, but also for it to pay for itself," McLennan says.
"I was also open to having a full-time rental. I have probably a vision of eventually leaving the city. I've got a 15-year-old daughter. Probably three or four years down the track it's something I can reassess."
I only saw it once. I made the offer on the Monday.
She loves cottages and village settings. She first looked in the Blue Mountains, but then spotted a miner's cottage in Mulbring. Her parents live nearby and both of them (particularly her father) are tinkerers who love to invent and fix things. She thought it would be good to have them nearby and involved. She liked that the cottage was within a two-hour radius of Sydney and, also, she simply fell in love with it.
"I only saw it once. I made the offer on the Monday. I had seen other properties that had some charm, but for some reason I didn't make an offer. I don't know, I was waiting for something," McLennan says.
She fell in love with the history and character of the property. Signs of the past are everywhere in the cottage.
"It's got the original wide floorboards. In the kitchen one whole wall is made of these really wide, thick boards; you can see the hessian cloth behind it that lined the wall," she says. "The two fire places, one in the lounge and kitchen, they were original to the house."
The house was built in the 1890s by the Latter family. It was renovated in the 1940s to include, among other things, an in-house bathroom. You can see where the original dunny used to be outside.
"Thomas Latter was his name. My understanding was he came over from England with his extensive family. He built the house and I got that confirmation, my neighbour was related to them; they were cousins," she says.
The beautiful stained glass windows were part of the work done in the forties. The home now has one bathroom and two bedrooms. The second bedroom is small, just fitting two single beds.
It's on about 1700 square metres, or half an acre, just big enough for McLennan. She loves the idea of eventually living there and being completely self-sustaining, growing vegetables in raised garden beds with a philosophy of holistic living.
On Monday she's having solar panels installed and she'd love to get a battery when they come down in price. She visits the property at least once a month to maintain the garden, which she loves.
"I was really lucky, the woman who I bought it from had it for 25 years. She spent a long time making these established, quirky, magical gardens, you walk one way, you walk around another.
"They're really organic, quite out there, diamond shapes, twisty garden beds," she says.
"She liked quite a lot of natives . . . which I would love to honour and keep."
Airbnb guests have access to the garden, and she tries to always have lettuce and herbs, and apples when they are in season.
She did some renovations when she moved in, adding a bench along one wall in the kitchen and new tiles, fixtures and cabinets. She added a ceramic farmhouse sink and a tiny dishwasher. The original brickwork on both fireplaces was exposed and the ceiling insulated. A few cosmetic things, such as painting the front screen door yellow, were also done.
McLennan is a visual artist, and she put up a pink feature wall to display her oils and watercolours. Her dad built a beautiful wooden pergola by the saltwater in-ground pool, giving it a Mediterranean feel. She planted grape vines, which will eventually cover the pergola.
She has lovely neighbours and is excited to share the joys of Mulbring with her guests.
"I can see the Watagans Range on my front porch, and then on the east side is Mount Sugarloaf conservation area. Then, 25 minutes down the road, you're in Pokolbin. With everything opening up again, so much is happening," she says.
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