Imagine having acres and acres of land around you, no other houses as far as the eye can see. Sounds like heaven – right? But what if it’s so many endless acres of space that every so often you actually end up craving a little more intimacy, a bit more privacy and enclosed space? That’s part of the story behind this garden renovation I’m sharing with you today.
I most often seem to write stories on homes that are on smaller landholdings, as little as inner-city blocks just 200sqm in size. Today I’ve got something a little different for you – it’s a courtyard garden and pool transformation on a huge 6,000 hectare sheep farm – and it’s beautiful. This complete renovation saw this once-scrubby garden in rural Bindi Bindi turned into the most blissful poolside retreat with alfresco area. It looks so lovely now you could easily believe it was the private pool of a boutique heritage hotel. You guys will love seeing the “before” shots of this one!
This farm is home to owners Tracy Lefroy, who runs online homewares store Cranmore Home, her husband Kristin Lefroy, a farmer. They live with their kids, Henry, 9, Oliver, 7, and Eve, 4, as well as sheepdogs Rippa and Rosie, and Milla, a Jack Russell x Dachshund. You might remember Tracy’s name from when I covered her farmhouse renos to date back here – and when I also visited the farm one winter for the inaugural Cranmore Home Winter Workshop.
Those photos will give you an idea of how stunning their property is – and also how big. The Lefroys live at Cranmore Park, a 6,000 hectare sheep farm about two and a half hours north of Perth in Bindi Bindi, 37km from the country town of Moora. Their farmhouse was built in stages, the first in 1909, and the build has been going on ever since! (Stone from the farm has been used in the construction of the walls, garden beds and chimneys – you don’t get more ‘locally sourced materials’ than that).
Tracy and Kristin moved into the farmhouse on June 25, 2009. “I remember the date as it was on my oldest son’s first birthday!” says Tracy. “We are the fifth generation of my husband’s family to live in our home.”
“I love that there is such a rich sense of family here. Our home is the home my husband grew up in and where my in-laws lived until they moved down to our Bindoon farm. What I love about living on a farm is that you don’t choose the house – you get one with the job! We were just incredibly lucky that our farmhouse is such a beautiful old dame.”
While the house needed a little love when Tracy and Kristin moved in, they were incredibly fortunate that the bones (or stones!) of the home were perfect. “We have tweaked things to suit the lifestyle of a young family, including enclosing a veranda to make a passageway that services the bedrooms, new bathrooms, renovated kitchen, and a separate office building.”
With a farmhouse this old, nothing happens overnight, and a commitment to doing everything to a high standard means their renovation progress has been slow but steady. When they moved in, Tracy and Kristin created a super-organised ten-year-plan for renovating the house, with a plan and careful budget for each year.
All was going well, but then came a curveball. “As with all old homes, our home presents us with lots of ‘surprises’… not all of them good!” says Tracy. “At the end of 2016, we were super-excited as we had finally saved up enough to renovate our very tired ensuite and create a new family bathroom (we used Jane Ledger for this and she nailed the brief). Then, in January 2017, we discovered that the footings of our home were not in great shape – euphemism of the century! We needed to eliminate all water from our courtyard and build retaining structures to stop our house falling down – she is an old lady, after all… everyone falls down at some stage! So we then shuffled, jiggled, raided the kids’ piggybanks and sold off unnecessary internal organs so that we could fit both a courtyard overhaul and bathrooms into one year.”
The Lefroys were told with the bad state of their old house’s footings, they needed to get rid of all garden beds and work on the structural integrity of the footings. “It was actually Kristin, my husband, who came up with the concept of using a concrete wall as both structural support and a swimming pool – genius!” says Tracy.
Then it was time to hunt for the perfect person to bring that courtyard vision to life. Tracy stumbled upon the perfect landscape designer on Instagram – Ascher Smith, exterior style consultant of Ascher Smith Exterior Styling and Landscaping. “We completely clicked in terms of our vision for how the space was going to ‘work’ and she also got that as a busy family, things needed to happen seamlessly,” reveals Tracy.
While she loves doing residential gardens throughout Perth, Ascher jumped at the chance to turn her talents to this one-of-a-kind country project. “My residential designs are always bound by harsh Colorbond fences and built-up neighbouring houses that I spend my life trying to soften or hide!” she laughs. “I rarely get to work this close to nature. For me a great design starts with its canvas and the ‘borrowed landscape’ where I like to incorporate distant elements of the surrounding landscape into these gardens, creating the feeling of greater space.”
Ascher brought her wealth of knowledge of the landscape industry to the renovation. I am always inspired by people who overcome hurdles or adversity of some kind to get to where they want to be, and Ascher is one. About 12 years ago she began her landscaping career as a landscaper in Broome where she gained the basis for her design qualifications. “I developed severe carpal tunnel in both wrists, to the point I could not work physically with my hands anymore and was told I should not landscape anymore,” she says. “But I was so passionate about the industry, and not ready to give it up – so I learnt the art of Landscape Design and soon found myself in love with the creative aspect of landscaping and the myriad of options nature has given us to create beautiful outdoor spaces. Specifically, I really love residential garden design.” Now she has her own landscaping business, working closely with her husband who manages their in-house construction team, making gardens happen from design to completion.
Ascher says she was enchanted by Tracy’s farm as soon as she saw it. “From our first meeting I adored Cranmore Park’s charm, character and function,” she says. “I feel gardens begin inside your home, on axis with key views, so I wanted to design the garden with the home and surrounding land always being the hero. I was careful not to start with any preconceived notions about what a ‘farm garden’ should look like. The last thing I wanted to create was a high-maintenance garden for Tracy who already juggles her thriving business, family, farm and other life commitments. I needed to keep an open mind about how this area could be the most functional and visually appealing garden all year round.”
Of key importance was achieving a seamless blend between the old stone farmhouse’s exterior, the interior style and the new garden, alfresco area and pool.
“I wanted the old home to have its way,” says Ascher. “I didn’t want the garden to compete with the home, only to complement it.”
“I feel we have achieved this through the natural materials chosen for the landscaping such as the tumbled travertine stone paving and spotted gum decking that surrounds the pool. It will silver off over time and blend into nature even more.”
Normally when I interview people about their home renovations, I ask them how the finished result reflects the way the family likes to live. What’s interesting about the Lefroy courtyard renovation is that the design didn’t necessarily reflect the way the family has lived, but rather represented an ideal of how they WANTED to live – a little haven from the hard work of farm life.
“Living and working at the same location can mean that it is hard to switch off, but our courtyard genuinely feels like a little oasis and a retreat from the farm,” says Tracy. “Sunday afternoons it gets a workout from the kids, whilst during the week the pool is utilised before and after school. Kristin and I relish having our morning coffee out on the deck overlooking the pool.”
I asked Ascher to give her tips for other renovators wanting to achieve a gorgeous and highly functional country garden and she was happy to help.
- “Do think about how you will use the space. The design should stem from the practical ways in which you want to use the landscape.”
- “Do use timeless materials such as timber, stone, concrete and steel to help blend the garden into its natural surrounds.”
- “Do your research and choose plants that will survive the local environment and conditions.”
“Don’t overdo the plant palette. An overly complex garden can appear fussy and demanding alongside a serene country setting.”
- “Don’t create a fad garden… Timeless gardens and landscapes have the ability to make an impact on individuals and speak to us for years on end. This has everything to do with the choice of materials and plants used within the garden to create this timeless feel.”
- “Don’t go overboard. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should! Great projects are the ones that show a little restraint.”
Since it was completed a few weeks ago, the beautiful courtyard garden and pool has been in full use every day. To Ascher, Tracy is most grateful. “Ascher as a designer has been without fault,” she tells me. “From her incredible renders of the completed space (super handy for my husband and I to visualise the end result), to the communcation regarding time frames, when her team would be on-site and absolute attention to detail, I could not receommend her business highly enough. As with most people, our lives are pretty darn busy, so knowing that Ascher was not only designing the courtyard but also coordinating the crew to carry out the work was magic!” Maya x
You can visit Ascher Smith Exterior Styling and Landscaping online here or follow her on Instagram @ascher_smith. To check out the delectable goodies in Tracy’s Cranmore Home online store, go here or follow her on Instagram @cranmorehome.
Cranmore Home director Tracy Lefroy, 38, her husband Kristin Lefroy, 41, a farmer, and their kids, Henry, 9, Oliver, 7, and Eve, 4, who live with their sheepdogs Rippa and Rosie and Milla, a Jack Russell x Dachshund
A 1909-built stone farmhouse on Cranmore Park, a 6,000 hectare sheep and cattle farm
Rural Bindi Bindi, Western Australia
THE LANDSCAPE DESIGNER
Ascher Smith of Ascher Smith Exterior Styling and Landscaping
Tracy Lefroy and Ascher Smith