The Bargain Farmhouse



   

An ex-footballer and his style-savvy wife transform a demountable office building into a bright and breezy family farmhouse.

The sun did come out in time of course, and Kris and Michelle, now with three young kids, managed to make the most of the spare time they had. “Due to the football schedule, we didn’t see much of the UK,” Michelle says. “We did get to go for local scenic drives, though, and one of our favourite places we would go to regularly was Whitley Bay.” But when the club went into receivership, Michelle wasted no time packing for home and the promise of a more settled existence near Kris’s hometown in Queensland. “Kris grew up on a dairy farm in Gympie and we wanted our kids to have a life of enjoying the outdoors,” Michelle adds. “We loved the idea of the kids having lots of animals and space to run around. We could enjoy farm life but not be too far away from the coast and the city.”

They sold a canal-front home they’d owned on the Gold Coast and purchased 15 acres (six hectares) outside Gympie, 170 kilometres north of Brisbane. That’s when Kris bravely suggested something out of the box, a long way out of the box — buying a demountable office building via eBay to convert to a house. “As soon as I saw the front aspect of the house on eBay, I thought it would work,” he says. “I was working close by, so thought I would have a look and loved it.” Michelle admits she was not sold so easily. “A demountable office building as a house, who does that?” she says. “I couldn’t visualise it at first and Kris had promised me a Queenslander, so when he suggested the office building, I was picturing desks and chairs everywhere and those dividing walls.”

In time, Michelle started to come around to the idea. “Although we owned a lovely home on the Gold Coast, we knew that we could never get ahead in life with a large mortgage,” she says. “We also wanted to be able to travel back overseas when the kids were older and having a smaller mortgage makes that seem much more possible.”

Their home was delivered in six pieces on the back of a truck, and a small army of helpful and handy family members has slowly but surely helped Kris and Michelle dramatically transform their unusual delivery. “Kris’s uncle was our builder and got us to lock-up stage,” Michelle says. “My dad built the bedrooms and wardrobes and timber front deck for us. There was a kitchen already in there and up until last Easter, that was my kitchen until my mum found a nicer one on Gumtree for $500 and we bought new countertops from Bunnings to finish it off.” They added a pool bought from a defunct pool company at a bargain price and upcycled anything they could along the way. “We try to use as many recycled and repurposed items as possible and I’m always on the hunt for exciting new bargains,” Michelle says.“We are a good team,” Kris adds. “Michelle is always finding ideas and I am not afraid to take them on. Everything has turned out well so far, so we will continue to experiment with different things and in the process hopefully continue to save money.”

They’re so delighted with the home they’re building that Michelle proudly documents it on her ever-growing Instagram account @thebargainfarmhouse. Followers from here and abroad love her practical DIY tips and glimpses into Aussie farm life. “My advice is that you can get your dream home without spending a fortune,” she says. “Look on Gumtree, eBay and auction sites and upcycle. Not only are you saving money but you’re also helping the environment with landfill.”

As light and lovely as the farmhouse has become, the real charm lies beyond its walls — a pretty dam with a rustic dock attracts wild birds and the resident ducks and geese. Rescue horses amble around the paddocks grazing in the Queensland sun with two Shetland ponies and two scruffy mini horses for company. A pair of bouncing Border Collies and cute calves, along with a galah Kris saved from the roadside, a beloved old pug and two spoiled Ragdoll cats complete the menagerie. “The kids love it, especially our eldest, Isabelle, who looks after the calves,” Michelle says. “She hopes when she’s older she will have a property and be a vet.”

Kris now runs his own earth-moving business, and is relishing in his new passion off the field. “I do miss footy when I watch big games but the majority of the time, I have no regrets,” he says. “I have a nice house, a lovely family and we are now settled in one place. I’m not a fan of city life and always wanted a little farm.” As for the city girl turned country in a most unconventional journey, she couldn’t be happier in her nest. “My favourite part about our home is walking out onto the verandah and looking out to see the animals walking about and the kids running around,” Michelle says. “Every time I look out, I know we made the right choice escaping to the country.”

The complete story was originally published in Australian Country issue 21.4. Click here to subscribe to our magazine

Words Tamara Simoneau

Photography John Downs