At home among the gumtrees

James and Alison have added their personal touches to the home. 195148

By Danielle Kutchel

They say you stumble across what you’re looking for when you least expect it, and that’s exactly what happened to James Klaic and Alison Mendieta.

Ready to buy a home of their own, the couple had originally been looking in the western suburbs at new developments, but were burned by a dodgy developer.

Scarred by that experience the first home owners, who had been renting in Edithvale, turned their attention to existing dwellings instead and found themselves drawn to Drouin.

“You get more for your money here as far as property goes, and we had family up here so we were already familiar with the area,” James explains.

They fell in love with a freshly-renovated weatherboard cottage on a good-sized block, but faced stiff competition from other similarly-besotted families.

“There were several offers. We were lucky to get it. Our offer was a little bit more, but the other buyer was a cash buyer,” James says of the trepidation they felt after putting in their bid.

They’ve set about adding their own personal touches to the house, enhancing its natural charm. Shelves boast a lush jungle of indoor plants, velvet chairs add oomph to the sun room, and nooks and crannies are filled with ornaments collected during their travels, vintage knick knacks and intriguing antiques.

Alison describes their style as “kitsch”.

“If it’s weird and quirky, I want it,” she says, “but without looking cluttered; that’s where I want to go with it.”

Meanwhile, they have a list of upgrades they plan on getting to, including changing the cupboards in the kitchen to update old laminate, installing an island bench, upgrading the kitchen benchtops (“because wood is not a good idea”, Alison explains) and adding a greenhouse out the back to house their growing plant collection.

Despite the list, they are happy with their purchase. While some first home owners are concerned about being so far away from the CBD, Alison, who works in the city, says living in a country town has its advantages.

“We’ve done more fun things being out in the country then we ever did living in the inner suburbs. For example, we go to farmers markets all the time. You don’t have to line up for stuff. It’s a great community, things are clean.”

James, who commutes to Doncaster for work, says the distance isn’t as overwhelming as people might think.

“It’s only 15, 20 minutes from here to Pakenham and that bit is always easy, no traffic. It’s really not that far out. And the V/line trains are nice. I haven’t felt the distance really at all.”

And they gush about the country lifestyle – seeing the stars at night, hearing kookaburras nearby and spotting black cockatoos in the gumtrees.

“I could never go back,” Alison says.