Rebuilding The Barn 1890, McLaren Vale
You know how you can live somewhere forever but never really see it? Discovering the hidden gems of your own region reinvigorates your passion, and reminds you why you settled there in the first place. The people who make up a community are the ones who share its stories, and the act of rebuilding the Barn 1890 was certainly a labour of local love for Colin Elmer and his partner Lee Widdison. I had the pleasure of speaking with Colin at this spectacular property a few months ago, for a feature I wrote in Fleurieu Living magazine.
I was so excited just to be spending a day driving out to Mclaren Vale, as the drive along the pretty highway from Adelaide to the Fleurieu Peninsula is one of our state’s most beautiful. The way the road starts to open up and suddenly you are hit with the cliffs and wide expanse of ocean on one side, with the rolling green hills on the other, takes your breath away. Just before you get to this point, turn left towards the foothills of Willunga, and you will be transported immediately into a serene countryside vignette. Green hills and vines stretch out as far as your eye can see, with white clouds and the sparkling sea at your back. You are immediately both relaxed and excited by the view, and feel like you are miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
It is down one of these country roads that you will discover the charming property of Colin Elmer and Lee Widdison, jam packed full of South Australian history and stories. Colin bought the property in 1992 and lived there himself until he traveled overseas in the mid 1990’s. It now houses the Sea and Vines Bed and Breakfast retreat, and the newly renovated Barn 1890.
Colin is a musician who has lectured for over twenty years at Adelaide University, and traveled overseas as part of the Wicked musical. He is full of passion for his local area and the stories it tells. Listening to him speak about the resurrection of the barn, captures your imagination and inspires you to want to know more about the history of the buildings, set in an area once called McRae country after the pioneering family who built the cottage and owned the land for many years.
The front garden of the cottage and surrounding views will make you fall in love, as you sit down in a wicker chair with a hot cup of tea, and look across the neighbouring vines and lush cottage garden, right down to the sea. You are immediately brought to a state of peace and relaxation and may never want to leave.
Despite no real plans for the function of the barn, the couple knew that one day they would restore it back to its former glory. After traveling overseas in 2011, Colin returned and now had enough funds to start the renovations. They spent five years gradually rebuilding with local stone, which they eventually ran out of and used the clever concept of upcycling of materials from the original property, using large iron sheets across the front of the building. There are also quirky touches such as old sheep troughs and iron wheels dotted around the place which create a blend of rustic vintage and form a lovely nod to the original use of the barn.
The project was supported by local council through some small heritage grants, enabling Colin and Lee to complete the building, and hold their own wedding there in November 2014. Lee has styled the Barn 1890 beautifully, with natural flair, blending upcycled rustic and quaint vintage pieces, to create a perfect setting for a range of events. The light fall in the barn provides the perfect backdrop and creates a softness against the stone walls and polished concrete floors.
Colin is currently working with council to determine the best way forward to operate the Barn 1890, offering a space for things like workshops, meet the maker events, weddings and parties, retreats and art exhibitions. The barn has a large open space downstairs with that beautiful natural light, stone, polished concrete floors, and mezzanine at either end. A bar has been built with upcycled materials and there is a small working kitchen. The sheltered outdoor area is planned to be turned into an extensive open air sitting space.
Colin says that as one of the only properties to not plant vines in the area, it is important to offer some diversity in a region that has become a monoculture. “Something to be truly sustainable has to be built in accordance with how it was built originally using the same materials and methods” he says. It has been very important to the couple during the design process to be true to the original character of the pioneers that built it. When visiting, most people appreciate that things are as they once were, and Colin recommends if you are undertaking a project like this, that you work with what you have available in terms of materials, as it will make the project more sustainable.
Colin and Lee are delighted and excited just to be able to stand and look at this beautiful building and feel proud of their achievements. Once you visit you will also fall under the spell of this place, built by hand once over a century ago, and rebuilt again by hand through the passion and determination of this local couple, you will stand right alongside them in their vision to once again allow this beautiful barn to have a working life among the vines, with that pretty view down to the sea.
Do you have a passion for an old building you would love to bring back to its former glory?
** All words and photography by Helen Edwards. Please do not use without permission but feel free to pin! Parts of the article are an extract from the Fleurieu Living Magazine article.
Oh yes U0001f388
Beautiful photo U0001f60d
Just awesome! U0001f49c
I’ve seen this place in person, just amazing!!
I WANT THIS U0001f60d
Wow.. That looks v inviting…
Open for business in Mc. Laren Vale….??
Isn’t it wonderful
Isn’t it wonderful
it is an event space
What a beautiful place! Is it ok to share this Helen?
What a gorgeous space, I absolutely love it!!!
Brooke Foley x
Cool! Cassie Jenkins
Corrina Dunn love this ☺
Amazing! I love it!
it is so beautiful
a wonderful place