WOMEN IN STYLE | Meet Simone Williams of Hillview Dairy
Written by: Karla Obst
We travelled to Queensland's Currumbin Valley to discover the award winning Hillview Dairy - a rustic yet refined farmhouse overlooking Mt Tallebudgera, surrounded by National Park. Simone Williams' reimagining of the 130 year old dairy, is nothing short of amazing. We caught up with Simone on set to discover her passion for renovating and breathing new life into this unique farmhouse.
Simone, tell us a bit about yourself....
Even though I grew up in the city, my passion has always been for the country and stylish country living. As a young girl I competed in show jumping events on the Darling Downs. I never owned my own horse but I used to train other owners horses. I remember sitting in the truck travelling to events, staring out the window and dreaming of living in one of the beautiful country properties we would pass by.
I’d always hoped to travel out west and after graduating from a Journalism degree at Uni I packed my swag, but somehow that swag ended up in the snowy alps of Austria. This was followed by a long stint working on a farm in Zimbabwe, travelling to all corners of the globe and an international flying career with Qantas based in Sydney at beautiful Bronte Beach.
Still yearning for a country life, I convinced my boyfriend (now husband), Bruce that we needed to live on a farm. I found Hillview Homestead, a beautiful, historic but derelict Queenslander in Currumbin Valley. We were married in the old Church across the road (once part of the property) and so began the long and arduous process of restoring Hillview and the Dairy Bails while growing our family. I am however, still dreaming of heading out west Jillaroo- ing someday!
How would you describe your style?
My mother Ann, was definitely my biggest style/design influence. We grew up with not a lot of money, however , our home was always special. Mum taught me to “make the most of what you’ve got". She was always creatively making things work well while styling a special home. I think my style started to take shape then and was subsequently influenced by extensive travels abroad and my childhood love of the country and outback Australia.
Heritage architecture has always intrigued me and it’s unique features have influenced my design narrative. I have so much respect for our history and retaining original aspects of the historic milking shed has shaped my style decisions. I often refer to the Dairy as being “ perfectly imperfect”. Neutral tones and layered textures feature in both our Homestead and the Dairy Bails.
I would describe my style as simplistic and timeless with a little eclecticism thrown in. It was important to me that Hillview Dairy retained all original features but was both comfortable and luxurious. The term “rough-luxe” comes to mind. When Goondiwindi Cotton contacted me to shoot their Winter campaign, I was delighted. I knew the Dairy was perfect and aligned well with their brand. I’ve been a big fan of the label for many years. Style combined with comfort is important to me. I love a neutral linen with jeans and boots at home, a colourful summer dress perfect for lunching with my girlfriends and well cut pants suits when I’m abroad for work. Goondiwindi Cotton has me covered.
Can you tell us a little about how Hillview Homestead and how the Dairy came to be?
I feel very lucky to live at Hillview and to be part of this special community I call home. I would visit Bruce in Queensland when we were first together. Sneaking around the hinterland countryside looking for that “ dream farm”. When we were engaged I panicked because I still hadn’t found the farm and I knew I wasn’t keen to live on the coast. I was in Europe on a work trip scouring realestate.com and stumbled across Hillview on the market. I couldn’t believe it! I had driven past many times and knew it well. We stretched our finances, secured the sale and got married 2 months later with a large raucous country wedding at the Homestead. A very special way to begin our married life.
130 years earlier, John and Adessa Boyd arrived off a ship from Limerick, Ireland and did the very same thing. They were the first settlers of the district, married, built Hillview and raised 13 children whilst running the Dairy. They did this with minimal luxuries that we now enjoy. The Homestead has passed through many hands during its time including a Harley Davidson bikie and the Hilton Family of the famous Hilton Hotel chain. When our children were babies I used to push them in their pram all over the farm and often sit in front of the Dairy marvelling at the magic view. I think it was those moments that inspired me to eventually resurrect it.
It was never my plan to run a popular Airbnb, it just seemed to unfold that way ....my husband calls me the “ accidental inn-keeper” . Our family feel privileged to be part of the journey of Hillview, and hope that our children and their families will continue to enjoy it. We are aware that we are mere custodians and our legacy only a small part of the history of this magnificent property.
The Dairy retains a lot of its original features, can you share more on the design and style process?
I was lucky to have a great palette of raw original materials to work with. This combined with a team of enthusiastic semi -retired builders made a challenging project enjoyable and seamless. It was critical to be on-site daily as decisions were made spontaneously and the design evolved organically. We painstakingly demolished the original building piece by piece and organised the materials to be reused.
Working with the pre-existing building footprint certainly had its challenges. There was evidence of white ant damage, however, this added to the patina. I could not have achieved so much with out the guidance of our builder, Graham Boyd. He gave me options and ideas to work with. Every single original material was reused including the metal milking rings and bails to tie up the Dairy cows whilst milking.
The restoration took much time and deliberation. Our strong ethos of sustainability really encouraged all of us to “think outside the shed”. Guests have been inspired to leave us gifts that they feel should be part of the Dairy. Victoria, from We are Pampa gifted us one of her famous framed prints of a Highlander Cow. Another guest, an artist, ( her husband, broke the milking stool whilst stoking the fire) gifted a piece of her bespoke art from her next exhibition.
How does your personal style transcend into these spaces?
I tend to gather bits and pieces during my travels abroad.... Many of which have made their way into the Dairy. None of it makes style sense - wooden giraffes dragged home from Zimbabwe - Japanese Kokeshi Dolls from Tokyo and cowboy boots from Wyoming, however, in some way they all seem to fit. I have sourced many items from some of my local favourites, including Fossil Vintage Byron bay and Haveli Bangalow. I adore the eclectic wares of Chinderah Bay Museum on the Tweed River, Heaths old wares at Burringbar and Clems cargo Brunswick heads. I love searching for treasures in flea markets locally and around the world. The mice traps hanging Charley Mackesy sketches in the Dairy were inspired by a visit to a Boulangerie in the Marais -Paris.
A combination of country love and a lifetime of international travel is injected into the space , bits and pieces and heirlooms from my mother and grandmother, include an old milking stool and the famous water colour, “Spring Frost” - Elioth Gruner . With a natural palette, my aim was to ensure the dairy is super “cosy” and “cowy”. It is truly a calm and serene space.
There are little reminders everywhere of its working past life, including milk urns, milking stools, cowy egg cups, cow hide chairs and soft furnishings, including a Te neus coffee table book dedicated to “The Cow”. Photographs of the original maiden aunts milking cows in the same dairy shed hang on the wall next to rusty milking rings where cows were once tied up. Layering and textural pieces add to the character. Natural linens bring soft warm cosy comfort to the bedrooms. The fireplace hearth is a unique feature - I requested the brickies to build the hearth as rough as possible with a milky screed. Our rustic wine barrel plunge pool was an afterthought. We enjoyed a BBQ dinner to thank all our builders and they joked with me that the dairy was missing a pool. Come Monday they were all back on site transforming my water tank idea into a rustic plunge pool.
The Dairy Bails have delighted and humbled us in their popularity with our guests. We were recent finalists in the Airbnb Superhost awards - “top 7 uniquestays” in Australia. Quite an impressive accolade for an old working milk shed!
What would be the perfect day for someone visiting the Currumbin Valley?
We live in the main Homestead and our boys enjoy a “Huckleberry Fin” life here. We have the Pacific Ocean in our front garden and the Springbrook World Heritage listed National Park in our back garden. With surf, waterfalls and mountains to ride horses in we do not ever take any of it for granted. Many of our guests arrive at Hillview Dairy with plans to explore all the wonderful corners of our valley. They often tell me stories of cancellations at restaurants because they decided to stay in and enjoy the surrounds of the Dairy.
A perfect day for our special guests would include a dip at the famous surf break, Currumbin Alley, coffee at The Salt Mill followed by a slow lazy breakfast at Hillview Dairy. A warm up Yoga stretch (Yoga mats provided) on the Dairy verandah overlooking the mountains, then a bike ride ( vintage retro bikes complimentary ) up to the famous Cougal waterfalls of Springbrook National Park.
Lunch at The Potager Carool via our secret border trail accessible by 4WD only- The Green Machine our old Landrover defender is available for hire. Late afternoon gins at HUSK distillery or at Tweed River House - Murwillumbah followed by delectable Italian at Tommy’s Currumbin on the beach. Most guests simply stay in and lie on the sun- loungers beside the pool.
Are there any new plans on the horizon?
The journey of Hillview began over 130 years ago in 1887 with the arrival of John Boyd from Ireland. It’s a privilege to be part of his narrative and I feel our journey with Hillview has only just begun. After completing the enormous project restoring the main Homestead, followed by the smaller restoration of the old Dairy Bails, our family has grown and spread its wings. With all 3 children moving onto busy schedules at boarding school in Brisbane, I’m looking forward to embracing the challenges of a new project on the property. “Hillview Stables” - The Old Carriage House.
With the success of the Dairy project, many off our guests have said- “ you need to do another one” and so it has now evolved, rather organically, the resurrection of the old Stables. I’ll be fortunate to work with the same team of “almost retired” builders. With special consideration of the environment the project will be underpinned by sustainable restoration using mostly recycled materials. Inspired by cowboy outlaw cabins in Wyoming ( I’ve jokingly named it “Project Yellow Stone”) we will be using reclaimed bridge timber from an old bridge which was once the only creek access to Hillview.
Unlike the milky white Dairy aesthetic, the stables will be dark and moody- imagine “Yellowstone” with a touch of Clint Eastwood. With International travel returning slowly ...I look forward to flying the skies again and gathering trinkets and designer pieces from all corners of the world to find their new home in Hillview stables. We are extremely excited about the project and look forward to sharing it with you!