Sumptuous Sheets And Blooming Gardens: Melbourne’s Cosy Country Retreat

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Is there anything more delightful than a flowering garden on a spring morning? How about your very own cosy miner’s cottage set amongst 1,700 sustainably-grown heritage rose bushes on a micro flower farm?

Sandy McKinley has designed her property, Acre of Roses, to be a true retreat from the busyness that infiltrates the lives of city slickers. The luxury boutique cottage in Trentham, Victoria, 90 minutes from Melbourne, is a place for concentrating on the senses. Every component of the home has been curated to encourage guests to slow down, rest, and focus on their wellbeing and a sense of serenity.

From the bedside notes that advise guests to practice ‘box breathing’, a cyclical deep breathing technique that aims to promote a sense of calm, to the Biology sulphate-free skin products in the bathroom, this cottage has been designed to promote health and peace.

With the help of her partner, master builder Rob Roy, and interior stylist Belle Hemming from the Belle Bright Project in Daylesford, Sandy’s plan was “to create a cosy but practical cottage which is about nurturing”. Every element of the house meets the brief for me.

The colour of the walls (cool whites throughout with a bold black bathroom wall adorned with antlers), the drinks cabinet, the ancient typewriter sitting on the sideboard, fluffy blankets, health-oriented magazines, the raw linen bed coverings; they create a cocoon for my busy soul.

In the kitchen, quality appliances and tableware are abundant. A Kitchenaid mixer shines like a beacon on the bench, almost begging me to bake, the Butterfly coffee machine on a cart is practically the centrepiece of the room, and the cupboards hold enough pantry staples that guests are able to cook if they feel like staying in.

There is also a little nod to Sandy’s NZ heritage, the Antipodes mineral water on the bench. However, it’s a tray of buttery croissant dough, shaped and ready to bake in the slick Ilve oven, that increases my sense of wellbeing twofold. When I discover the rose jelly (made from their roses, of course), I’m overwhelmed by the effort that has gone into every part of the experience.

Sandy’s premise is that the cottage allows people to slow down, relax, focus on their wellness and make time for the ‘little things’ that create joy and meaning in their lives.  “One guest even baked a cake,” Sandy tells me, eyes shining with delight. “She felt so comfortable and happy.” The simple act of baking a cake and sharing it with loved ones is something that people rarely have time for in the current convenience generation.

The two cottage bedrooms, the Fornasetti Room, named for the Architecturra Mural covering the back wall, and the Chinoiserie Room, are simple and elegant, with french doors opening onto a private verandah. There is also an open-air theatre room, complete with a wood stove, which doubles as a yoga deck.

Recently, Acre of Roses added ‘The Potting Shed’ to its accommodation options. This charming, dog-friendly, studio cottage is adjacent to, and inspired by, the potager garden. The pot belly stove adds an authentic rustic element to the space and the nature theme permeates the studio. The linen, the sofa, the artworks, and even the mirror, are adorned with flowers. I can imagine bunkering down here, writing a novel, wandering the farm in the late afternoon sun.

The pièce de résistance of the property is the outdoor cedar hot tub, the only one in the region. Cedar has long been noted as a substance with health benefits (improves respiratory system and circulation, releases endorphins, reduces muscle and joint pain, improves sleep) and Sandy deliberately installed this one as part of her desire to create a respite from the world.

Heated to 39 degrees all year round the natural rainwater uses minerals instead of chemicals for purity. Guests are encouraged to make good use of the spa.

Despite the freshness of the afternoon when I visit, the tub is irresistable; I disrobe and sink into the bubbling water, breathing in the fragrance of the cedar, allowing myself to unwind and fully relax. Later, I wander ten minutes up the dirt road from the property to the Wombat State Forest, and indulge in a little self-guided forest bathing.

On weekends, Sandy runs Floral therapy workshops in her garden. Participants are invited to explore sensory concepts such as fragrance and colour, while engaging in mindfulness activities and conversation with other guests. At the conclusion, guests can forage in the potager garden or flower field and create a bouquet to take home.

Sandy says, “I’m always interested to see what people produce. Some bouquets are long and thin, others are tiny posies and yet others contain only edible plants. Everyone’s idea of beauty is different.”

Acre of Roses is my idea of perfection. In the busy world of work, family, and other obligations, focusing on our own health and wellbeing is increasingly difficult. This luxe country wellness escape deserves some time in your busy schedule.

The writer stayed as a guest of Acre of Roses.

(All images: Acre of Roses / supplied)