‘A rose between thorns’ would appropriately describe Darling Downs farmer’s wife Sonya McVeigh, a quintessentially feminine woman in a quintessentially male domain.
Sonya McVeigh’s house and garden at her family’s farm, Maclands on the Jimbour Plain, express her femininity from the moment one sets foot inside the perimeter of green lawn, set within a swathe of stolid blacksoil paddocks laid out with last season’s stubble and not much else.
Sonya’s famed garden grew like Topsy’s snowball after a throwaway remark from her husband Neil some years ago, about encouraging a bit of green around the house during the drought (see story Highlife Winter 2013).
The Maclands house, however, has been an ongoing story of metamorphosis. Sonya and Neil moved in 28 years ago. At that time it was a solid and substantial country farmhouse. “It had good bones,” says Sonya. “Its stumps were 60 years old, but the basic structure was sound.”
But she had plans.
The basic structure after all these years and three bouncing sons later is no longer visible. The house has undertaken an extraordinary series of piecemeal makeovers, each planned and executed in Sonya’s inimitable style and with impeccable attention to every small detail.
It is entirely plastered inside, with ceilings that include gorgeous handpainted ceiling roses, a chandelier over the formal dining table, unique plantation fans in the entertainment room, and a huge variety of decorative light fittings throughout. Custom-made timber pelmets grace the ruched curtains in the formal lounge and turn the simple lines of an otherwise plain room into something special. The unique feature of custom-made leadlight windows, doors and skylights throughout the house contributes to its stark individuality.
A recent makeover of the main bathroom in the Rococo style is both elaborate and graceful – entirely unexpected in a Darling Downs farmhouse. Leadlighting in doors matches the leadlight skylight in the adjoining atrium; the gorgeous bath, Italian-tile mosaic on the floor and huge French provincial-style, marble-topped vanity bespeak a woman of the house with panache. The man of the house is discouraged from using this bathroom – but luckily for him, there are choices.
Similarly, when it comes to dining there are multiple choices. There’s the kitchen table, in the beating heart of this home. The formal dining room is immaculately kept but infrequently used. The timber and stone ‘informal’ table in the huge new entertainment room seats 16 in comfortable cane chairs; dining alfresco under the stars is a favourite, in faux Italian surrounds on the capacious open back deck.
Fabulous and elaborate it may be, and filled to bursting with ornaments collected over a lifetime, but every portion of this home and its garden positively shines with the love and care of its exuberant mistress. Husband Neil allows Sonya full discretion and his love and generosity are undoubtedly rewarded. This is above all a family home and, like the family of sons they have created together, it is nourished, tended, valued, cared for and nurtured.
Words by Jane Grieve | Images by Janine Waters