Hailing from Sydney but an import to California in the 80’s, Concetta always held a place in her heart to return “home,” one day…
Without clicking her ruby heels three times, she finally found her way back with the discovery of her adored “Tooraloo” in 2013.
Originally the historic McSwan Family dairy farm for generations, the farm had been sadly neglected, and was listed as an estate sale. Sitting at her computer late one night at her home in San Diego, she was forwarded a link saying “ I think I found your Federation farm in Byron Bay!” The rest is Her-Story…
Concetta quickly contacted the agent who listed the property, and after an iPhone tour, she placed an offer the next day – and was accepted. Concetta had bought “Tooraloo” sight-unseen!
She now owned a farm. Set on 12 pristine green rolling acres, with an original heritage farmhouse perched up on a slight hilltop, the property overlooked a valley that once belonged to it. Piecemealed down to the last parcel which was now rescued.
Tooraloo was in need of major restoration. Many would have simply demolished her, but Concetta’s artist eye saw the beauty that was shrouded by time and abandonment. Unknowingly, it was a project that will take Concetta over 10 years to ultimately complete – it was 3 years before it was suitable to transplant her young family and 10 pets there.
Where to start?
First the original 1910 Federation farmhouse was completely restored. It’s original cladding was covered in plastic siding and the front verandah had been fully enclosed with aluminum windows. The architraves and historic windows had been removed, and the kitchen and bathroom were inoperable. There was no water, or heat, or adequate lighting. Everything had to be repaired, replaced or removed. The task was Herculean!
At the same time, the old machinery shed was converted to what is now The Historic Barnstay. With no sub-floor that task was daunting. Two tin adjuncts on the building were immediately removed (one an old roadside cookhouse and the other a small tin store). Relocated, they are now the tin arched seat, the perfect place to watch the sunsets from – if you look carefully, the “Welcome To Byron Bay” sign is still on the back.
Next, a number of rustic structures including the garages, carports, sheds and a chicken coop, all constructed of hand-hewn wooden slabs harvested on the property, were repaired. One dwelling, now the Tool Shed, housed an old metal copper and was off its foundations. Tradesmen told Concetta to “demo it,” but in her indomnible style, she hitched it to a 4 wheel drive with chains and literally hauled it back onto its footings! It stands today, restored and a testimony to her vision that she would not compromise.
The yards were eventually cleared, with 16 large skips of trash removed – including 5 cracked water tanks! A new bore was dug and fresh Myocum Valley drinking water unearthed. Next, a new in-ground concrete pool was added. In keeping with the era of the property, it was fenced with pressed tin from another beautiful historic home across the valley – one that was not so lucky.
The old Federation portion of the farmhouse then received a 100 square metre addition, fashioned to match seamlessly. As owner-builder, white card in hand, Concetta used vintage doors and stained glass windows, antique gables, iron gates and many other architectural adornments she imported from the USA to its charm. Six 40 foot steel containers were shipped from Long Beach, CA with the treasures she would need to make Tooraloo once again “The Showplace of Myocum Valley” – a statement made by local resident George Flick who claimed that it once was a grand old lady.
At one juncture, 8 carpenters were employed year-round, with Concetta making the flight from LAX to Brisbane multiple times a year.
The Grounds & Gardens
The old creamery slab was next covered to the boho rustic pool cabana that’s now a feature of the entertainment area. The vintage volcanic rock patio (which every contractor wanted to tear up) is now an amazing historic feature of the property. She added a BBQ hut and fire pit to top off the entertainment area, making the old dame perfect for events.
The ancient fig trees were made focal with a gravel pathway through the center and one can stand there, in majestic silence, as they view the extraordinary sunsets that cover the farm at the golden hour every day. The pastures were cleared, with dams and more yet to be improved. This phase also saw the creation of “The Peacock Teahouse,” the French style vegetable garden, citrus orchard and native gardens. The gardens were complete with the full excavation and restoration of the original cottage rose garden at the front of the farmhouse. It was unearthed to reveal rock patterned pathways and re-fenced in accordance with the small stone wall that showed evidence of the original post holes. Magically, a Victorian iron gate fit perfectly where the remains of the gate hinges lay.
The Next Evolution
Construction of “The Swanky Shed,” a new American Style barn, was next on the list. It originally doubled as Concetta’s artist’s residence and Impressionist-style art gallery, a place to exhibit her 100 million color masterpieces and teach others how to oil paint, both in person and online. The Concetta Antico Gallery has now been relocated to the main street of bohemian Bangalow, and Concetta’s new Visionary Villa has been built as her private retreat. The Swanky Shed, with it’s loft, open entertaining area and gorgeous country kitchen, is now available for guests to enjoy.
Meanwhile, the wheelchair accessible Sunset Cottage has been completed. Perfectly positioned for watching the day come to a close over the fields, this petite but spacious beauty is a favourite for newly weds.
Now her eye is on the prize of her Eucalyptus Cafe, a place to enjoy a unwind with a book and coffee, also available to cater Byron Bay weddings and events on the property. She expects to have it completed by Spring 2021.
Further additions to the farmhouse loom, along with more cabins, camping and, well, whatever Concetta can conjure next! Do come visit to see all of Concetta’s creations for yourself when next you come to Byron Bay, and be sure to stay a while!
So stay tuned for the ever-unfolding story…and yes, “Tooraloo,” for now!
The song that inspired the name
Tooraloo also mean “Goodbye” or “Farewell For Now”
Perfect for our mission of being a Farmstay