With grapevines, a veggie patch and livestock to tend, this Mornington Peninsula property ensures action-packed escapes for a prominent Melbourne family
This modern farmhouse among the vineyards is what dreams are made of
When Samantha and Charlie Baillieu are at Bulldog Run, the first chore of the day is letting the chickens out, followed by spot checks on the animals and grapes. It’s a busy yet rewarding routine for the couple, who divides time between the 120ha farm and vineyard and their home in Melbourne.
“We have a strong country heritage and are quite attached to some of the horses and cattle we breed,” says Sam. A tireless philanthropist, she has retail barons Anthony Hordern and Sydney Myer on her family tree. Charlie, a financier, is a direct descendant of influential businessman WL Baillieu.
With industry and retail in their blood, it’s not surprising that the couple and their three adult children – Christopher, 26, Georgia, 25, and Hamish, 23 – have developed a thriving enterprise of their own, one that dovetails neatly with farm life.
Seven years ago they came up with the concept of Merricks General Wine Store, a cellar door for the wines they produce at Bulldog Run and Elgee Park, an adjoining property owned by Sam’s parents. Its buzzing restaurant and retail arm has made Merricks one of the go-to pitstops on the Mornington Peninsula.
Ten minutes from the store, Bulldog Run is a relaxed haven, enjoyed by family and friends. Designed by architect David Wilkinson, who lives nearby, and decorated by their great friend Adelaide Bragg, the six-bedroom, single-level home is modern country in style, with English cottage and Hamptons touches.
“I love interiors and arranging flowers,” says Sam. “Charlie has a great sense of style and is terrific with scale and layout. We worked carefully with David on the design of the house. We wanted uncomplicated and practical living spaces for casual country life and entertaining.
Extended family and guests gather frequently for weekends or long, casual or more celebratory lunches. When people stay over, there’s a range of accommodation on offer: a room in the main house, the loft above the garage or the spacious cottage, where the Baillieus lived until the house was built 16 years ago.
There’s a lot of colour outside and in, along with a very personal collection of artworks by both well-respected artists and virtual unknowns.
Almost 10ha of the property is devoted to vines of popular grape varieties (whites and reds), while Hereford cattle, horses and a small herd of alpacas run everywhere else. The flower and vegetable gardens weren’t part of the plan until a number of Sam’s rose bushes fell victim to clumsy kangaroos and vineyard machinery. She called on another talented friend, landscape designer Paul Bangay, who has created a gated enclosure for the roses – with netting to deter birds – along with a herb and vegetable garden.
Sam loves to collect basketfuls of flowers for the house and ingredients for the simple meals she prepares: dishes such as flavoursome zucchini soup and roast chicken or slow-roasted lamb, finished with rhubarb and berry crumble. “I am a basic cook but always have jugs of fresh herbs on the kitchen bench,” she says.
In summer, the long days might be spent down at the poolhouse, also decorated by Adelaide. Winter evenings draw the family to the sitting room in the main house, where they curl up on sofas in front of the fire with their assortment of pets: mini dachshunds Barnaby and Fritz, labrador Cheekah and cats Tiger and Cappy.
It’s big country life with small pleasures, enjoyed by all who visit the property. “We love being at Bulldog Run,” says Sam. “The house always looks lived-in and cosy, with massive bowls of roses and dogs and cats scattered everywhere. Here I can move things around a lot and add to them. It’s a very relaxing home – exactly what I wanted.”
Words by: Deborah Grant. Photography by: Martina Gemmola.
This article was originally published on Homes to Love Australia