There is something about the way summer makes you feel when the days lengthen and sunshine washes over you. The heart lightens and plans begin to be made for the warm days ahead and the extra hours of daylight there will be to enjoy.
Just the smell of freshly mown grass and the sight of butterflies in flight as they hurry from plant to plant leave the heart light and skipping. Summer, and all the joys it brings, leaves us with a feeling of exuberance — as if life is for living and you can’t wait to get outdoors and live it.
Now is your chance to ensure you make the most of your time outdoors.
Clear up the deck or the back verandah and find yourself a special nook from which to view the outside world. As the old saying goes, “Take time to smell the roses” and get back in touch with what the outside world offers.
Too often we are caught in a cycle of rushing here and there, working, doing errands, ferrying family to sport and doing everything but taking just five minutes to grab a cool drink, sit down and soak up the warm summer weather.
Here in Australia we are fortunate to have so many months of glorious weather whereby we can enjoy the outdoors. For some of us, the fierce heat of the day may be unbearable, but dawn and dusk are always times to put your feet up on the back verandah and relax.
A Leisurely Breakfast Of Yore
A great start to any Sunday morning is a relaxed breakfast on the back deck or verandah. Bacon, eggs, cereal, fruit, toast, juice, tea or coffee — all topped off with the Sunday paper. The experience is even better when shared with the people you love.
Your leisurely breakfast can be enjoyed anywhere, whether it be in the family room opening onto the backyard or even on the front porch.
All you need is a small table and chairs with enough room to stretch your legs and soak up the morning rays.
If you don’t have room for a table-and-chair set, there are plenty of alternatives available. You could opt for a dual bench seat with table in the middle, or even a park bench coupled with a long, flat bench that can double as a table or extra seating if need be.
But what design? There are plenty of products to choose from, including wrought iron, timber and wirework, and they come in a great range of designs, including lattice look, slats and laced wirework. Not to mention colour — dark timber, light timber, black wrought iron and distressed cream wire. If none of these takes your fancy, why not purchase a raw timber bench or setting and paint it yourself?
The finishing touch for your setting is some comfy cushions. Timber and metal seating can become uncomfortable during long sittings, so it is best to get yourself a nice comfy cushion to ensure Sunday breakfast lasts long into the morning.
Use your best china to make the ordinary task of eating breakfast special, or go for a no-fuss approach. Either way, it doesn’t much matter — the experience is about slowing down, unwinding and letting go of workday worries.
Melting The Divides
The country home offers unique opportunities to pay homage to Mother Nature by combining elements of the outdoors with the indoors. We accomplish this throughout the home, by placing glorious arrangements of fresh flowers in the bedroom and by displaying fruit and vegetables in large bowls or hanging herbs up to dry in the kitchen. Breezeways and their adjoining areas are the perfect place in the home to really meld the outdoors with the indoors.
“Let the sunshine in” should be your motto for decorating rooms adjoining the breezeway. Just as the old adage goes, there is a lot to be said for having a sunny disposition, the same is true for decorating. Using light and bright furnishings can quite literally brighten our outlook on the day.
Out on the verandah or breezeway itself, have fun with the accessories you choose. In our modern world, life can get very serious too much of the time. So think quirky, try something new and have a laugh. After all, you don’t have to look at an outdoor item as often as if it were indoors.
Remind yourself of all the gardening chores you could be doing if you weren’t so busy relaxing, with a display of garden implements that includes, for instance, an old rake or steel watering can.
Borrowing From Mother Nature
Mother Nature has provided a huge variety of decorating tools for the breezeway with her infinite array of plants and blooms. To ensure your breezeway achieves a successful flow from the home to the garden, gather your favourite plants into meaningful and nostalgic combinations and tuck them into any available receptacle. The pansies so loved by your grandmother would look great peeping out of an old cracked teapot, and that cutting you snipped from your aunt’s geranium on your last visit will keep her close in thought when planted in a window box.
While you’re at it, why not go the whole way and fill the outdoor area with pots, window boxes and hanging baskets toppling with finds collected from family and friends? There are plenty of flowering plants that look great in tubs and pots, and most friends and neighbours will gladly part with a slip to get you started. You could even adopt the Victorian language of flowers and, through your plant choices, plant secret messages to those who visit: marigolds indicate a loving heart, zinnias whisper “I miss you” and primroses hint at unspoken love.
If you have a large area with space for a big pot or a collection of pots, why not do as our profiled breezeway owner Sue Franks has done and plant a collection of herbs? Herbs such as chives, thyme, basil and mint produce a glorious scent and you will find in the warm months that the fragrance will drift right through the house. You can then pick herbs to combine with flowers into old-world tussie-mussie bouquets for family and friends.
If there are railings or posts on your deck, verandah or porch, why not soften the atmosphere and add some extra greenery by training a potato vine, wisteria or jasmine over them? It could be best to ask for some advice at the garden store before purchasing a climber, as some of the prettiest are quite destructive and could damage the house.
Regardless of what else you choose, the most important decoration on your breezeway this summer should be you. Get out there and enjoy the glorious sunshine. Gather friends and live well, laugh often and talk much.
More Than Bricks And Mortar
As a visitor to Sue and Bill Franks’ home, I was reminded of the words from a song in the musical comedy Lil Abner: “You can tell when there’s love in a home.” Just as the song suggests that “every table and chair seems to smile; come on in, sit a spell, stay a while”, from the lavender patch near the front door and the inviting Banksia-rose-covered front verandah to the washroom and cosy kitchen, every aspect of the Franks’ home says “Welcome”.
At first glance, Sue and Bill’s home is the quintessential fairytale gingerbread cottage, but it is more than a picture-book image; it is the hub of family life for the couple and their six children. The sandstone-and-brick home was built by Bill and it is his attention to detail that lends so much character to the building. Bill searched for just the right materials for every nook and cranny, sourcing wonderful recycled timbers and authentic features for every room. Bill even made all the kitchen cabinetry and much of the home’s furniture himself.
When it came to decorating, Sue applied the same loving dedication and set about creating the haven that greets visitors today. Everywhere you look there is some thoughtful little touch to delight the senses. In the bathroom it is the exquisite soap dish full of pretty little guest soaps and the fluffy bath towels that make the daily bath-time ritual special. In the living room it is a collection of Americana to remind Sue and her children of an American heritage.
The kitchen displays a lovely collection of modern willow design blue and white china, which the family uses every day.
Sue’s affectionate little touches also extend to the picturesque breezeway that encircles this salt-box-inspired building. At the front of the breezeway, peeping out from behind her cottage garden perennials, are all manner of delightfully whimsical features. Charming rustic plant markers combine with sculpted metal roosters and time-worn watering cans, but the dominant feature is the century-old penny-farthing that rests beside the door.
In true Sue style, pots of pretty annuals are tucked in between the old cycle’s spokes.
Set on 12 hectares of land, more than one kilometre from the road, it is easy to think you are a million miles from care at the Franks’ home. Sue can sit on the verandah and watch chooks, barefoot children and baby chicks playing on the lawn. “I’m very lucky to have such an idyllic life; we are very blessed,” Sue says humbly.
Not that Sue gets enormous amounts of time to just sit and relax. With such a large family and home to look after, Sue is pretty much constantly on the go, but she confesses to enjoying a quiet cuppa on the verandah whenever time allows. At the moment, Sue is helping to plan eldest daughter Eliza’s wedding next year, so time on the verandah is often spent with the two of them leafing through bridal magazines.
With verandahs on all four sides of the house, Sue and her family can enjoy the outdoors no matter what the weather, and there is a spot for almost any activity. On the north side of the verandah, Sue has pressed two big cane chairs to work with a collection of Americana, to create a wonderful sunny spot to stop and enjoy the bushland views.
On the front verandah, along from the penny-farthing, is a genteel little Colebrook Dale setting topped off with a pot of lobelias — just right for afternoon tea. There is also the stunning wheelbarrow herb garden, created for Sue as a gift by her children, with little signs and decorations tucked in amongst the parsley, coriander and chives — just handy to the kitchen for snipping a leaf or two to add to whatever Sue has cooking on the fuel stove.
The verandah also extends along the full length of the back of the house, past the laundry; here is a wood storage area and a place for children’s shoes and gumboots. The family’s chickens often wander over to lie in the shade and leave an egg or two, and their pet bunny and guinea pigs can also be found not far away. All in all, the verandah offers a huge amount of additional space to live and to house the family’s collectables.
In recent years, Sue has enjoyed scouring local country stores for bits and pieces and she often finds treasures she just has to take home. On occasion it is even a two-way flow of merchandise, with Sue taking finished craft items and stitcheries to her favourite shop to sell.
The country tidbits Sue lovingly selects means the Franks’ home is a constant work in progress. New quilts on the girls’ beds and an array of interesting candles have been on the agenda of late, and there is always room for the country cookbooks from Gooseberry Patch, which threaten to take over an alcove in the kitchen. “I just love the recipes and craft ideas in those books and I always select a few to make as gifts at Christmas time,” she says.
Craft and cooking are joys that Sue has passed on to her children. Henry, the youngest, loves to help mum make cakes and biscuits, while daughter Eliza made an entire family of primitive snowmen as gifts for friends this festive season. “Eliza recently went off to her first quilting workshop and returned with a completed Americana wall hanging — all in a day,” Sue proudly proclaims.
With such talented, polite children and a commitment to making their home a loving environment, Bill and Sue are very contented in their country hideaway.