Painting new dreams in Tenterfield

Sandy and Tim Palmer have set about transforming their new home in the midst of a Tenterfield winter.

Even if you don’t believe in the notion of fate, it’s hard to ignore when the universe taps you on the shoulder.

Tim and Sandy Palmer were ready for a change; dreaming of experiencing four seasons and open horizons. The long-term residents of the Gold Coast felt that tap when Tenterfield, a tiny town nestled in the elegant paddocks of New England in northern New South Wales, found them and presented them with the opportunity to buy a subdivided farm.

“I was delivering some furniture in Toowoomba and got chatting to the client’s parents about their property for sale in Tenterfield. They showed me a photo and I thought ‘my gosh, this is divine’ and I asked them to keep me posted,” says Sandy.

“Later in the year, they invited us to have a look. We pulled in the driveway and didn't even go into the house before I just knew it was the one. Tenterfield really found us. You couldn’t wipe the smile from our faces.”

Fast forward four months and the pair are well into the rejuvenation of the property that is just over a hectare and a part of what was the Delmont apple orchard.

“All the locals still call it the Delmont, so we’re running with it,” says Sandy.

“We’re overwhelmed by the unexpected beauty of it. I am surprised every morning- the landscape is just gorgeous.”

For 25 years the Palmers called the Gold Coast home, having moved from Victoria as newlyweds to work in hotel and resort management.

A keen interest in renovating homes in their spare time soon morphed into a career for Sandy who created her own painting and decorating business, Paint Me White, and today restores and sells one-off vintage pieces and collectables.

Prior to the Tenterfield project, many of the renovations the Palmers have tackled have concentrated on the interior, finessed with simple but eye-catching décor. At Delmont, they are challenging themselves across multiple fronts by undertaking the renovation of buildings, gardens and livestock facilities, and doing it at a cracking pace.

As soon as they arrived their attention was immediately turned to the main house – a beautiful old brick home, more retro than their usual taste. Sandy and Tim have since made some adjustments to rooms, sanded and repainted floors and will soon replace the steepled glass windows to reclaim the view of their paddocks and bring more light.

“One of our main issues has been waiting for a glazier to come and replace them all,” says Sandy.

“They've got to reglaze every window so it’s a slow process, especially with weather delays. And because it’s such a messy process, we’re reluctant to move too much (furniture) in before it’s finished.”

Both Tim and Sandy benefit from big imaginations, and it’s the potential of what they can achieve that keeps them motivated. With multiple sheds, a quaint glass conservatory and rollicking gardens, they are toying with ideas of venue hire or bridal photography.

Sandy quite literally uses her business name ‘Paint Me White’ as a personal motto, layering each room in gallons of white paint, and allowing the natural light to pour in and open up space. That is, until they attacked the enormous apple picking shed. In stark contrast to the natural landscape, it’s painted black.

“It’s huge! We’ve completely renovated it as my shop and included some gorgeous new French doors. It’s big enough to not just be a shop front, but a teaching space as well,” says Sandy.

Sandy and Tim Palmer leaning against a sign that says 'Delmont'
“I've got the room for people to bring their own piece of furniture and just do what I normally did on the coast. Having all that room is a gamechanger. I can store all my treasures that I've collected over the years and the furniture and contents we’ve collected from our other houses to move into the main house when we’ve finished there.”

Not a single apple tree remains in the orchard, which means they have a clean slate in the garden- a daunting prospect for two non-green thumbs. The Palmers say they were overwhelmed by the palm trees on the coast and want to take advantage of the rich New England soil to plan a seasonal garden.

“I’m learning fast! There's a beautiful well established cottage garden, full of roses and it's gorgeous, so hopefully I can maintain that. We’ve been using the greenhouse to pot a few things up and plant some seedlings,” Sandy says.

Like any lifestyle farmers, the Palmers are amassing a shed of new equipment as the needs arise- chainsaws, brushcutters, hedge trimmers, and their new favouritr – the blower – for the endless Autumn leaves.

For Tim, the move has meant a return to worksites, drawing on his carpenter’s trade and donning a tool belt to help renovate the heritage listed Royal Hotel a few days a week. But perhaps the boldest evidence of his country conversion is the fact he had to sell his boat to make way for farm machinery.

“It’s wonderful he’s back using his trade, but I don’t want him to work too much because I need him here, at Delmont,” Sandy says.

While there are vague plans for small livestock eventually, the couple have eased themselves into farm life with the purchase of four chooks after being inspired by the discovery of a magnificent hen house in the overgrown paddock.

“We might get some sheep or alpacas down the track, but at the moment we need the freedom to leave for the occasional weekend without too much work for someone else to do,” says Sandy.

For now, the Palmers are excited about their new rural life and the challenges and discoveries they are making on their new property. The biggest hurdle, and one many in the bush are all too familiar with, has been a lack of phone service. However, when there is a cosy fire and a glass of red wine inside, and outside a southerly wind is howling, they feel a million miles away from the coast. The Palmers are all in on their new adventure.

Rustic brown shed
Sandy Palmer smiling as she paints a wooden table