Interview * Genevieve + Sonny * Flop House

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Sometimes unexpected misadventures bring with them unexpected opportunities & today’s feature story is the tale of one such joyous Pheonix rising!

After their neighbour’s renovation went drastically wrong and caused the Council to condemn their own ‘little slice of heaven’ (a home situated in Northcote by the Merri Creek literally a stone’s throw & rocks-crossing from CERES Environment Park & golf course!) Genevieve Wearne and her husband Sonny Kahuroa made a bee-line for Kyneton and they haven’t looked back since!

Fast-forward nearly 4 years and Genevieve + Sonny are now the creative & inspiring owners of Flop House in Kyneton. Once a harpsichord studio, Flop House offers Scandinavian-inspired lodgings for short & longer-term stays. The gorgeously pitched-roof & exposed timbers provide a welcoming retreat reminiscent of summer houses that line Sweden’s Haverdal coast. Genevieve’s interior styling & attention to detail add a touch of luxury-infused-with-local. From gorgeous books, exquisite textiles, furnishings by local artisans & Genevieve-selected, locally-sourced provisions, Flop House is a lovely, light-filled space where guests get to relax, unwind & connect to country. A north-facing deck overlooks raised veggie boxes & some very fancy chooks! How divine!

Some of the artwork hanging on the lodging’s walls (including the cows above the couch) was painted by Genevieve’s Great Aunt who married a Danish man. Genevieve knew her Great Aunt as ‘Tante’ (which is Danish for Aunt) an inspiring Australian woman who lived in the country and whose greatest loves were art & men! Such wonderful & personal mementos to share with guests!

Modern conveniences & technologies are a given at Flop House, so what makes it a SPECIAL place to stay is the way Flop House redefines ‘luxury accommodation’. Beyond providing luxurious mod-cons, Flop House offers the luxury of an intelligently-planned & passionately-styled space that gives guests more time to truly relax, enjoy fresh air, curl up with a good book, wake to the morning sun, commune with nature & experience local produce & culture. Genevieve + Sonny provide their guests with a must-see/must-do guide, source delicious picnic basket treats using local providores & producers and supply maps & bicycles for river-side riding & exploring. Flop House celebrates & honours local & country and responds to & caters for contemporary sensibilities.

Plans are also afoot to offer Flop House guests & on-line visitors the opportunity to purchase some of the local & designer products. AND, while Flop House shares the large north-facing backyard of Genevieve + Sonny’s own home, guests can be as social or as private as they please.

This couple’s creative & caring flame burns brightly indeed! Enjoy! x

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Tell us a little bit about your background/s – what path led you to where you are now?

We moved to Kyneton a little by accident, after a building disaster happened at the property next door to us in Northcote, rendering our home impossible to live in. We decided to rent in Kyneton for a year because it was easier to find a place with our two greyhounds and I was also curious to test out a tree-change while continuing to work in town. Kyneton, being so close to Melbourne yet still offering a taste of rural life, seemed a good choice.

You used to live in Northcote & do a lot of travelling for work (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam). Do you reside full-time in Kyneton and has the move from the city to the country been all you’d hoped it could be?

Yes, we now live full-time in Kyneton, however, my husband still travels regularly interstate for his work as an environmental scientist. He is also off to Cambodia and Laos for 3 weeks while I hold the fort at Flop House. The move to the country has been many things, some expected and some unexpected. Overall, Kyneton has been good to us. Our community is fantastic, including tree-changers and locals. I also love the fact that we are so close to Melbourne yet can reach the countryside in minutes by car and enjoy fresh produce, animals, walking in the surrounding bushland, pine forests and reservoirs. Whilst we love it here there are some challenges – lack of cinemas and good quality fresh seafood are two of the first things that spring to mind. It can get very cold. I’m hoping to install a sauna before next winter.

You have created the very gorgeous ‘Flop House’ in Kyneton! Tell us about this amazing project! What inspired this venture?

‘Flop House’ came into my imagination when we moved here three years ago but only came into existence when I stopped working full-time in the city. At the end of 2012, I decided to take a year off and get back to my creative roots.  I spent seven great years with Skills Hub – Creative + Leisure Industries Council, providing advice to government on the skills required for the creative and leisure sectors.  My role involved frequent travel around the country and after seven years I was exhausted and wanted to pursue my own creative and leisure activity.

What is the significance of the name ‘The Flop House’?

The name “Flop House” is a play on the traditional term flophouse, a run down rooming house for destitute people to instead focussing on notions of luxurious comfort and a very relaxed state of being.

Your gorgeous accommodation is filled with local produce & products. Tell us about the philosophy behind these choices?

I believe that people are yearning to connect with country life and country experiences.  This includes experiencing work by local artisans and producers. I felt that connecting people to what was happening locally was very important when establishing Flop House.  We have been open for just over a month and so far all of our guests have been inspired by the local art, design and produce on display in Flop House. It inspires them to participate and sample what is on offer locally.  We are vey lucky in Kyneton, there are a lot of talented creatives and makers and we are delighted to display some of their work in Flop House. We also offer special rates to people that are attending local workshops.  One of our first guests stayed for a week and made a beautiful Windsor Chair at a Rundell & Rundell Chair-making workshop. It was great to see the end result and to share this experience with him.

Your north-facing garden is amazingly beautiful! Tell us a little of the pleasures of growing your own produce & being able to share it & such a delightful space with guests.

Yes, luckily I inherited some gardening skills from my mother and grandmother who were both keen gardeners and vegetable growers. My grandparents had an orchard at Red-Hill that we used to visit every weekend as children. The garden was one of the main reasons we purchased the Kyneton property and we loved the fact that there were so many established trees and a northerly aspect for growing. The place also came with a chicken coup. We got married at home in January this year and performed a garden blitz, installing raised beds and some of the structural elements. It is now a very workable garden and we have managed to harvest an abundance of produce most years. There is more than enough for us, and our guests, and it’s great to be able to share. We have also done lots of preserving with our friends at Robin Hill farm. We are Diggers members and enjoy their range of heirloom vegetables and we also get a lot of our plants from the Garden Tap locally.

You have some very fancy chooks & two dogs – introduce us to them and give us a few tips on chook ownership!

Our dogs, Ziggy and Wolfie (Wolfgang) are privileged members of our house and get to sleep inside on the couch. Ziggy is an Italian greyhound and Wolfie is our newest addition, a greyhound x wolfhound pup still in training. They love guests and will come and visit by invitation. Our first flock of chickens was a present from my aunt when we moved here and they came from a “gallery” in Red-Hill. We started with four breeds, French Houdons, Polish Frissles, Wyandottes and Cochins and have since added some English Sussex and Plymouth Rock to our brood. We have had a few fox attacks that have been devastating. Thankfully, there have also been some good news stories with eggs hatching and the flock expanding again (however some of the fancy bloodlines may have been confused). My tips for chook ownership include never forgetting that foxes are a reality, keeping the coups clean with a mix of linseed and kerosene and provide the chickens with porridge in the colder months to extend the laying season.

What does a typical day in the life of Genevieve + Sonny ‘Flop House Owners’ look like; from when you wake to when you go to sleep?

Good question. There are not too many typical days. It might be easier to describe a “perfect day”, one where we are both at home. In this case, a day begins at about 7am with feeding the chickens. If we have guests we usually leave them alone with breakfast provisions that we supply the night before. I then take the dogs for a river walk and we meet for coffee at Inner Biscuit. I usually aim to start work by 9 – 9.30. If it’s a nice day and my administrivia is under control we like to spread compost around in the garden and plant things. We may catch up with guests and help them plan a road trip or picnic by bike. I might light our Rayburn in the afternoon and cook a slow dish or we could decide to go and have a bar meal at Annie Smithers Bistrot. We also like to go on drives to neighbouring towns and, if it’s the right season Sonny loves fly-fishing. We love to finish the day with a gin and tonic in the garden.

Genevieve, you are very creative and have some wonderful projects in development. Are you able to tell us about these and your creative processes? What inspires you?

Mmmmm, I have an active brain and am always full of ideas. The main issue is finding the time and money at the same time to develop them. I have a couple of projects in development and hope to have a few products released by the first half of 2014. I also plan to develop another Flop House in a neighbouring town. I often find inspiration on long walks and find that meditation really helps to channel the creative process. Whist I started off on a pretty conventional creative path and went to art school, I hope that we can all live creative lives and foster and share a love of creativity with others. Thinking creatively is important in many professions, farming included.

Do you consider yourselves to be ‘Countryphiles’? Do you love country life? Why?

I do love country life but I’m still having an affair with the city and still like to catch up on occasion. I like a bit of a healthy mix. I appreciate the life we have in the country and how privileged we are to be able to enjoy open space and local community. I love to contrast time in the country with visits to town as it always makes me value what we have here. I am an animal lover too and think I would find it very difficult now to live in an apartment with no pets.

What aspect of country life are you loving MOST at the moment?

The change of season, gardening in the warmer weather and the new creative energy that is coming to Kyneton.

What is the most CHALLENGING aspect of country life?

The cold and dealing with animals getting sick and dying when it happens. Still, it’s reinforcing that we are all part of a life cycle.

What are the ups and downs of running a luxury retreat in a small country town?

We have only been doing it for a few months and so far I can’t think of any downs. All of our guests have been lovely and very appreciative of their stay. Our local community is very supportive and there is quite a network now to recommend places to stay if “strays” arrive in town without a booking. It’s been a pleasure to host people that are coming for a wide variety of reasons – to do a workshop, test the water for a tree-change, restore some romance or bring their dogs on retreat. In fact we are enjoying it so much we hope to set up another Flop House in the not too distant future.

Tea or coffee? Do you have a favourite country café? Where and why?

Coffee without doubt and I have to say Inner Biscuit is my favourite coffee haunt because its owner, Mara Szoeke made our entry to country life so easy. Mara was a wonderful source of local knowledge when we arrived and introduced us to many people that are now our friends. Inner Biscuit offers a great sense of warmth and community.

Where was the last great meal you enjoyed/shared in the country?

It’s so difficult to say as the local choices we have are excellent. We had a lovely lunch recently in Trentham at Du Fermier and we love the new breakfast menu at Annie Smithers Bistrot in Kyneton. Annie Smithers Bistrot, Mr Carsisi and the Royal George are all excellent dinner options.

Would you ENCOURAGE others to live a country life? Why/why not?

I would encourage others to live a country life but only on the proviso that they try it first. Why not stay at Flop House for a few days? Joking aside, it is a good idea to rent first or at least consider the realities of country life. This may include long commutes to work in the city, properties that need a lot of work and being away from some services that we take for granted. There are fewer business/employment opportunities here so factoring this in is also important.

What ADVICE would you give those dreaming of making a TREE CHANGE?

Dream large but make sure that you have the energy to carry out your vision or downscale to a more manageable block that lets you enjoy the best of country life without the work.

What can we expect NEXT from you/your business in the future?

More of the same in terms of luxurious local lodgings and hopefully a small product range by middle of next year.

What would be your DREAM project?

To restore the old Kyneton Hospital to a “wellness centre” and luxury retreat.

Can you list for us 5 specific things you turn to/do when you need of a ‘dose’ of city life?

1. Spontaneous meal at Enoteca, Gertrude St
2. Victoria Market
3. Movies and for a special treat IMAX
4. Gallery crawling
5. Seafood from Canals, Brunswick

Genevieve + Sonny
Flop House
60 Beauchamp Street
Kyneton m. 0438 160 671

Just Acorn

2 thoughts on “Interview * Genevieve + Sonny * Flop House

  1. Hi Dan, lovely story – good on them. Would love to know where their bed is from – we are keen for one like this ourselves if they don’t mind sharing.

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