Inside @elisecook’s Dreamy Abode

Spell Spell Spell Spell

We’ve loved following our good friend Elise Cook’s travels around the world, and across Australia in the most aesthetically pleasing Kombi van – lovingly named Scout! But now Elise has created a home your Pinterest dreams are made of.

We chat with Elise on her renovation process as she reveals her styling secrets and we play a game of ‘Where’s Wilkie’ through all the photos {spot their adorable kitten Wilkie, hello that first shot!}Spell Spell Spell

Give us an insight into your journey, what led you to this point and now this beautiful home?
Dom and I just spent two years living in our Kombi van, exploring Australia. During the first year on the road we spent hours and hours on many long roads talking about our dreams for our next project, how we want to use the cellar door we hoped to build (for our winery) for that project, and dreaming up what the space had to be like.

For us it was all about finding the right piece of land. We hoped to find something with a house on it as doing both on our return was outside of our budget, so when we stepped onto a block of land early last year that was everything we’d been describing to each other – and it had an old house on it – we didn’t even care what the house looked like! It felt like a little miracle that this land existed, and that somehow it could be ours, that we weren’t phased about the house. In fact, we didn’t even see the house until six months later when we got the keys. It was a little more dated than I’d imagined, and when I told people there was an old house on the land they’d say, “Oh, is it a cute old house?”, and I’d have to answer truthfully, “Um, no… there’s nothing cute about it. It's just… daggy old.”

We’ve never renovated anything before, but we thought we had some good ideas on giving the exterior a facelift, and then we started on the interior and it snowballed. Because of our tight budget we were both hands on, all day every day – taking on every job we could. I even got on the power tools many a time! Very quickly I had a strong vision of what it could be… but it even surprised me when a house I didn’t particularly even like started to feel like my dream home.

It felt pretty amazing to create something like this together, each day I think we were both in awe of what the other was capable of. I never could have imagined us pulling a house reno off ourselves. Well, ourselves and with the help and hands of our family who rocked up for many Sunday working bees.

But good gravy… it was hard work. Spell Spell Spell Spell Spell Spell

How would you describe the space… 
Oh I’m not good at this… it’s farmhouse, meets coastal, meets bohemian, with a dash of Scandi, and a pinch of retro – surely someones come up with a word for that?! Haha. I would describe it as a peaceful space. That’s been a common word many of our guests and visitors have used coming in. Which is amazing if you compare that to how it felt only a month ago. But there’s this real sense of peace over the space now, and I have been waking up feeling so grateful – that the renovation is over!

Where did you find inspiration for the design and styling of your space?
The palette is inspired by the colours of outback, where we always feel such freedom. With most rooms I would start with one piece, and then style the rest of the space in my mind around that one piece. For our bedroom it was the colours of our bed linen, which we travelled with through the outback. For the dining room it was the vintage Moroccan rug – that had to be the loudest piece in the room and I worked back from there. With our living room it was the print of us driving Scout through the outback. The colours in that image set the tone for the whole space.

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How is the space a representation of you and your partner?
Our hands have touched everything – hammered in the nails, sanded, painted, grouted… we laboured over this space together, turning it into our home, so I feel that when I’m there. I think you create a different kind of connection to a place when your blood, sweat and tears have gone into it – and all three of those things did.

It’s also very warm and inviting, it is constantly full of people – so many interstate guests have come to stay and friends and family will rock up just to come and hang or sit on the deck (while we work!). In four months, we’ve only had two days on the property alone. So I hope that’s a representation of us too. Spell Spell Spell Spell

What is your favourite space in the home, and why… 
The outdoor living area is a favourite, I love sitting out there at the beginning or the end of the day, when it’s all a little still and calm, listening to the birds and watching the roos. We’ve only had our house donor three weeks and we’ve already had a few very memorable nights sitting our there with our friends and family. And I love my little corner of the house – my dressing table! I love slow mornings… so I’ve always dreamt of having somewhere to sit while I get ready (especially after getting ready in a kombi van for two years!) haha. It feels like a total luxury and every time I sit there I say out loud how much I love it. Spell Spell Spell Spell

What addition or change through the renovation has made the greatest impact on the space?
Definitely the deck. It was the first thing we started working on and even without the rest of the house done, it made the house become somewhere I wanted to live. Also – it’s incredible what a bit of white paint can do! Although, I’ll never use the phrase “it just needs a lick of paint”… so deceiving! It makes painting sound easy breezy. We were painting, and sanding, and patching holes, and painting some more… for weeks and weeks. But a fresh clean white transforms everything.

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Your Instagram is constantly commented with “where is this from” ~ what are your top stores for homewares and furniture?
Uniqwa Furniture is absolutely incredible – for everything from big pieces like our daybed and outdoor dining, to little details like vases, pots, and the wood I used for our curtain rods
HK Living have a pretty amazing collection, lots of retro, 70s inspired pieces (like our sofas)
Byron Hanging Chairs for a bit of rattan
Nikau Store for all things blooms and decorative
And Alabaster Traders have incredible antique Indian pieces

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The most treasured item in your home…
Our little ragdoll kitten! He’s our very first pet and although I’ve never been a cat person (I got him for Dom), I’ve fallen in love with him (and I get it now!). My photos of our house are more of a ‘Where’s Wilkie?’ Spell Spell Spell Spell

What was the most challenging moment in your renovation journey, and how did you overcome it?
All of the physically challenging moments, or the moments when something went wrong (like a wall falling down!) we took it in our stride and powered on. But the most challenging moments were the days when you feel emotionally drained. There’s one day that stands out in my memory; we’d been painting for weeks and I so wanted it to end, we were having a heatwave so it was about 39 degrees, and I started crying while I was painting. When Dom came in and found me he told me to stop, and still crying I kept painting and said, “I can’t. I HAVE to finish this.” So he literally scooped me up, carried me outside, pried the paintbrush from my hand and then banned me from painting.

Even though he was also beyond exhausted, he got up in the middle of the night and finished it when I was asleep. Spell Spell Spell

Best piece of advice ~ What would you tell yourself knowing what you know now at the beginning of the renovation?
“One day, you’ll be sitting on your rocking chair on your deck, this old house will feel like a home, and even though you don’t really like it now… it’s going to turn out better than you could imagine… and you are going to LOVE it. All the beds in the house will be full with people you love, all the time. And here, you’ll feel really pretty happy. So… power on.” Spell Spell

Elise shares her blitz reno – from old house into new home on her blog. See the before-and-afters here

From dancing the days away at festivals, to beach picnics and beyond, we love sharing sunsets with Elise, spotting her in Spell and following her travels.

Explore more at @elisecook

Elise wears the Amethyst Frill Skirt in Amber
Camp Fire Lounge Top + Grace Tulle Maxi Skirt
Maggie Embroidered Midi Dress