Hanging on the wall in the entry of the cottage owned by artist Amica Whincop and her husband, Clayton, is the original deed to their property. It’s signed by a gentleman called Henry Devine and dated 1890. Horse-drawn wagons would have lugged the lumber from a local mill to build the worker’s cottage, amid the hustle and bustle of a developing regional centre where scores had come to find their fortunes since Queensland’s biggest gold nugget was found here 22 years earlier. Gympie’s gold rush of the late-19th century came and went of course, but not before the throngs of treasure hunters and their investment dollars saved the fledgling state of Queensland from bankruptcy.
Beloved relics from those pioneering days are preserved throughout the town’s modern-day landscape, steadfast in the shifting sands of time. Amica and Clayton’s cottage is a bit like Gympie itself, with one foot in history and the other firmly in the here and now — a laid-back blend of old and new. When they pulled up in front of it 10 years ago during a hapless hunt for a new home, it serendipitously seemed to beckon them. “We were driving around Gympie looking at all the places on the realtor’s pamphlet and nothing was impressing us,” Amica explains. “We pulled up outside this house to check the brochure and I said, ‘Oh, I wish this house was for sale,’ and then we noticed the For Sale sign! We bought it straight away.”
It wasn’t exactly pretty as a picture, but Amica and Clayton saw a future for their family in the run-down cottage. “It was in pretty bad nick. Verandahs and stairs were rotting, and there was bright yellow and blue paint everywhere. Pretty much everything needed TLC,” Amica recalls. But those quintessential Queenslander lures of bullnosed verandahs, soaring ceilings and old timber floors were enough to entice them to sign on the dotted line and get to work. “Clayton is really skilled at building and making, and we dived into it with gusto,” Amica says. “It did take us longer than we anticipated so we just did it bit by bit as we could afford to and mostly on the weekends.
“We put in new decks, a swimming pool, new stairs, two new bathrooms, re-stumped, re-roofed, added a new fence and the list goes on.” They also added a new kitchen that opens to a breezy deck, perfect for al fresco entertaining. Clinton cleverly designed and built all the cabinetry with Tasmanian oak and vertical VJ boards, transforming a dark and dated space into the light-drenched heart of the home.
The couple decorated it simply, with op-shop finds and family heirlooms, and embraced the original light pendants they were lucky enough to inherit. “We love things that are raw