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Exterior image of James Watt's Werona Cottage

Werona Cottage with James Watts

Armadillo’s Managing Director James Watts divides his time between Sydney and the charming village of Burrawang in the Southern Highlands. Immediately enamored by the slower pace of life, James, his partner Tony and their dog Teddy leapt at the opportunity to move to the country and lovingly restored Werona Cottage, presciently named for the Aboriginal word for “quiet”, into an idyllic retreat. Read on for a tour of their beautiful home.

Styling by Olga Lewis

Photography by Marnie Hawson

Tell us about the property and its history.

The house is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom timber weatherboard cottage built in the 1930s. It is located in Burrawang, a secluded and tranquil village, about 20km from Bowral in the Southern Highlands, that was first settled in 1862. We believe this plot of land used to house the stables in its former life.

Exterior image of James Watt's Werona Cottage
Image of James Watt's dog at Werona Cottage

How did you come to find the property?

We had been searching for a country retreat in the Southern Highlands area, a two-hour drive from Sydney, without any luck for about a year before we stumbled across the village. We immediately fell in love and since properties can be slow to come onto the market, we decided to take a novel approach – door knocking. We left flyers in mailboxes, introducing ourselves and explaining how keen we were to plant roots in the area. Soon enough, in June 2019, this cottage came to our attention and we bought it not a week later.

Image of kitchen in James Watt's Werona Cottage

What was the renovation process like?

For the first six months, we just lived in it to get a feel for its bones and decide how it could best suit our lifestyle. The renovations began in January 2020, just as the area was hit by devastating bushfires – which, thankfully, missed the village – and was completed in April 2020, the week before Australia went into lockdown due to the pandemic. We didn’t engage any architects or interior designers – we did it ourselves. However, we did have an amazing local builder, Rofe Build, and later engaged a local landscaper, The Shrubbery, to do the garden.

Kitchen shot of James Watt's Werona Cottage
Kitchen shot of James Watt's Werona Cottage
Right: River Ticking runner in Natural & Indigo.

What attracted you and Tony to the village?

We were really drawn to the idyllic sense of community. Burrawang has a permanent population of about 300 people, so it is small, intimate and extremely friendly. It’s almost like living on a television show – we know everyone, and their dogs! People will just drop in to share freshly baked bread or fruit and vegetables from their gardens. The spirit of neighborliness is very old-fashioned, in the best possible way.

Bright living room in James Watt's Werona cottage

How do you split your time between Sydney and the Southern Highlands?

We spend three to four days of the week here. We drive down every weekend and normally do a day of working remotely, either the Friday or Monday.

Dresser in hallway of James Watt's Werona Cottage
Decorations on bookshelf of James Watt's Werona cottage

What do you love about country life?

Burrawang reminds me of the English countryside; it really takes me back to the ebb and flow of village life from my childhood. Tony and I both have busy jobs that at times can be quite high-pressured, so this softer pace of life helps us to wind down and stay balanced. Our two-year-old Airedale Terrier, Teddy, loves to roam and taking him on walks through the village also lends itself to some quiet, creative time for me – that’s when the ideas tend to blossom in my head.

James Watts sitting in breakfast nook looking out window
Sahara entrance mat in Charcoal.

How would you describe the house?

It is a quiet sanctuary, both comfortable and comforting in its size and setting. We set out to create something that retained the original charm of the cottage whilst maintaining its existing footprint. Accordingly, we steered clear of a big extension and didn’t build outwards apart from the front porch and the deck. To me, there is beauty in utilizing every inch of space so that your home is no larger than it needs to be. You don’t need a big space to create your perfect space.

Lamp on dresser in James Watt's Werona cottage
Image of chair near shelf with flowers in James Watts' Werona cottage
Right: Bramble runner in Natural.

Tell us a bit about the exterior and the garden.

The cottage is at one with its surroundings; every outlook within the house enjoys an aspect to the outdoors. The façade is quite classic – my favorite feature is the old laundry sink repurposed as a planter – whereas the rest of the garden has a meandering looseness that feels like a journey through nature. The landscaping makes a feature of all the trees, with a lovely canopy of claret ash, cherry, crab apple and maple trees.

Sahara Nook rug in serene bathroom in James Watt's Werona cottage
Bedside table and corner of bed with deep blue wall in James Watt's Werona cottage
Left: Sahara entrance mat in Natural.

Where did you draw inspiration for the interiors?

There is a British nuance to the interior scheme, leaning towards heritage-style textiles, brave color combinations and vintage artworks. The art throughout the home is actually a mixture of pieces picked up on our travels, more contemporary artists and family heirlooms, including some paintings by my grandfather. We wanted to pay tribute to the property’s history, so we kept all the original windows, light fittings, doors and hardware, floorboards and even the fireplace. At the same time, we added in all the modern comforts, such as heated floors and reverse cycle heating. Our favorite room in the house is definitely the kitchen, with its stable doors and cozy electric AGA oven, that opens up into the dining nook.

Armadillo Agra rug in the color Duchess in living room with natural light
Agra rug in Duchess.

Finally, we can’t help but ask – what is your favorite Armadillo rug to have underfoot?

The Agra rug in Duchess – the unexpected burst of color adds an easy elegance to our living room.

James Watts' Dog running down stone pathway at Werona Cottage
Tree with budding flowers overhanging two side by side lawn chairs at Werona Cottage

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