Terragong 1858 was built in 1858 as a gentleman's country residence by the Irish-born John Marks, then a NSW parliamentarian and later mayor of Kiama. Cedar cut from the property and locally-quarried blue metal stone were used in its construction. The dairy farming property remained in the Marks family for seven generations until 2014, when a Sydney couple, marketing communications consultant Simon Milner and interior designer Darryl Gordon, bought the National Trust-listed homestead on 5 hectares, and set about an epic, seven-month restoration.
The name Jamberoo has become synonymous with a certain action park, but long before there were screaming thrillseekers hurtling down water slides with names such as The Taipan, it was, and still is, an emerald-green dairy farming area, with an eponymous village at its centre that's about a 10-minute drive inland from Kiama. Coming from Sydney – a less than two-hour drive - Terragong itself lies just after a sweeping bend on Jamberoo Road, its two-storey Colonial Georgian splendour peeking out from behind towering pine, fig and magnolia trees.
Darryl Gordon is a highly-regarded interior designer, and has brought a nothing-but-the-best sensibility to bear on his own country home, and an expertise that makes an eclectic mix of the classic and contemporary work seamlessly.
Furniture is antique, vintage and designer, and the wall art hung against bespoke wallpaper and weatherboards ranges across centuries, cultures, mediums and styles. Less is not more at Terragong 1858. Rather, the more the better, with vignettes of artfully arranged, beautiful things wherever you look, be it the library, the formal dining room, or the sunny garden room.
As part of the restoration, Darryl and Simon added a large kitchen, dining and family room, which is the homestead's new heart, and where you might find Daisy the rescue pup in repose. Late-afternoon drinks and nibbles were served here during our stay, while the super cosy library, home to a vast collection of design and gardening books, is where a selection of digestifs, chocolate and biscotti awaited us upon our return to Terragong after dinner.
Wrapping the house is a verandah with plenty of spots to relax with a book, and there's a saltwater pool out back for summertime guests. Winter visitors can get their thrills from restored original Carrara marble and slate fireplaces, and underfloor heating in the ensuite bathrooms.
Immaculately appointed like the rest of the place, the three guest rooms are situated in the homestead's ground-floor weatherboard section, dating from 1880 when it was rebuilt after a kitchen fire razed it. We have the Raj suite, so named for the solid-teak four-poster bed made in Rajasthan in 1840. The sheets are Italian-made pure cotton and, as Simon tells us, washed in rainwater, dried in the sunshine and ironed by hand (Terragong's other sustainability credentials include solar power, wastewater recycling and a Tesla charging station in the old horse box.)
The two other rooms are the white, light and airy Parlour Room, the features of which include a Louis XV commode, and the Pomegranate Room, named for the fruit pattern on its William Morris-designed wallpaper and its centrepiece a Ralph Lauren cast-iron bed.
Across a hallway hung with Max Dupain photographs is the butler's pantry where guests can make coffee and tea and indulge in Darryl's Magic Pudding-like homemade fruitcake.
Shortly before our pre-arranged breakfast time, Simon slips a personalised menu under our door. Let the feast begin.
Terragong's two-course breakfasts are proudly calorific (tip: don't make plans for a big lunch) made with fresh, local produce whenever possible. Simon is the cook, chatting away at his farmhouse kitchen work bench, a collection of gleaming copper pans hanging from the timber trusses overhead. He heaps plates with field mushrooms sauteed in garlic and garden herbs and finished in cream; crunchy polenta fingers; thick beef sausages and poached eggs from Terragong's own chooks. First course was a brown sugar and organic spice porridge, topped with cream and honey.
Next day, the starter is a fresh berry-topped yoghurt, chia seed and flaked organic coconut pudding, followed by sweetcorn and parmesan waffles served with fried egg, bacon, chicken sausage and a dollop of Moroccan-spiced corn salsa.
Long after the gorging is done, we're still at the table, shooting the breeze with Darryl and Simon and their two other visitors. It's somehow natural for the guests to help clear the table. We've been made to feel so at home. Just as the interiors are maximalist yet not overbearing, the hospitality is genuinely warm but never cloying. Hitting so many right notes suggests why Terragong is hitting perfect scores across online booking and review sites.
Kiama and the South Coast villages of Gerringong and Gerroa are short drives away, and reward exploration. Stop at the Saddleback Mountain lookout on the way for magnificent views across forest, farmland and coast.
A classy, contemporary version of a traditional B&B.
Room cost about $350 a night and there is a minimum two-night stay. Ohone (02) 4236 1836, see terragong.com
The breakfasts – but bring a spare stomach.
The lack of a hairdryer in the ensuite (a communal one is kept in the butler's pantry).
Sarah Maguire was a guest of Tourism NSW.