Wren & Whippet -
A Home In The Mountains
Crafted™ interviews Kasturi Wren on her inspired Leura renovation project,
and what drives her to create beautiful spaces
What is 'home' to you?
In September of 2018 we started our renovation of a cottage in Leura, built in 1911 and situated on one of the most beautiful streets in the area.
Simon and I had just returned back from a trip to Europe where my brain was buzzing with ideas. I had been to the flea markets in Berlin and bought artwork which I was eager to put up when the house was done.
As time progressed, I realised what home really meant to me – it was a place that had soulful corners, and doors slightly ajar and spaces that told a story. I loved a good story and I wanted this home to be brimming with stories.
What inspires you?
I think about my earliest memory.
Perhaps it’s the smell of Jasmine petals coming out of the prayer room where my grandfather would start his mornings, or was it the men with their cotton grey pants and unbuttoned white shirts pacing around in our lounge room talking in a soft undertone or simply sitting by the drafting tables sketching drawings for my uncle who ran an architectural firm from our house.
I remember my mother would say that he was so popular the Maharaja clan would use him to build all their commercial buildings. All that meant very little to me. My uncle had been like a father to me in those first few years of my life while my father worked in Saudi Arabia. I loved my Uncle. He was full of life and all his ideas were always so big, so delicious, so exciting.
I spent the first years of my life in a house in the capital of Sri Lanka that was built by my grandfather who had been during his younger years the countries chief engineer, travelling around the entire country building bridges. I had such delightful memories there, that is before the war, before the bloodshed, before we had to escape and seek refuge in Australia.
The house was grand. I remember the patterned exterior walls that allowed you to look right through to the outside, and a floor to wall bookshelf that guests were made to stare at when they were first ushered into the house. I am not sure what this entrance room had been, but it soon became the waiting room for my uncles’ clients.
My favourite part of the house had to be the spiral pillars found throughout the house and the red polished floors. All the main hallway entrances had these doors that would open and close like the shuttered doors you find in a whisky saloon. And perhaps my most cherished part of the home was the lounge room. We had beautiful colonial furniture throughout the home and the lounge room was no exception. I absolutely loved sitting in the large rattan plantation armchairs and watching the world go by while drawing on a piece of paper my mother had given me. I could entertain myself for hours on end.
My uncle in later years renovated the home. This was the first renovation I had ever seen. He had taken down walls and opened up the already expansive lounge area to include an indoor open roofed garden with an outside shower. It was amazing and completely out there. He then created a bar area where he put up in big neon letters the words MOO MOO. My uncle was outrageous, and I loved it.
Fast forward 30 years and I wasn’t in Sri Lanka anymore. In fact, my life resembled very little of the coconut island I had left behind. I was well and truly an Aussie now. I had grown up in the west, finished my Law degree, climbed the corporate ladder and then had a melt down before quitting my job over an early morning breakfast meeting with my boss. I had planned this though. In fact, I had timed it perfectly. 3 years before, my husband and I thought about buying a bigger property in Sydney and like many we wondered if we could really afford it. So, instead we went looking for land in my most cherished place in the world – Leura. We eventually did find land. It was overgrown with large shrubs, trees and unwelcome sharp and assailing thorn bushes that would catch you every time you passed.
We both had a dream to build and build we did. That’s how Wren & Whippet was born. It was going to be our forever home and then it wasn’t. We loved this beautiful home so much, but life had a different purpose for us. So, we sold it, and we made enough money to pay our debts and then buy another cottage. This time I wanted to renovate. I wanted to take something that already had a history and then make it my own.
Who do you want to inspire?
When sketching my interior design of the renovation I had always visualised the place being a studio for creatives. A place where photographers would find the perfect angle. A place where chefs could bake a cake full of memories. A place where a writer could pen words that were befitting the start of a great novel.
What are you working on next?
My brain never stops. Ideas keep growing and manifesting itself. Perhaps I am a little like my uncle – big ideas, big dreams – everything short of a sign in big neon letters that say ‘MOO MOO’.
And so, this renovation is simply another milestone in a new venture – The Wren & Whippet collective. Towards the end of the year I will be launching the W&W collective where I shall be managing and promoting a handful of beautiful Airbnb properties in the Blue Mountains. I am excited.
I hope to bring wonderful and amazing people together, to hold workshops and retreats and importantly challenge myself. And, if all goes well, I just might even launch a magazine. Our house in Sri Lanka now no longer stands. It has been replaced by a block of apartments lacking in character and soul. Never mind, everything that made our home is still with me. And now its my turn to create new memories and share with the world my story.