When Matthew Leenman suffered a permanent injury following operations on his knee, he was unable to cope with all the steps in the family’s split level home, so he and his wife Melissa decided to find a single-storey home and make some lifestyle changes.
They opted to look for a home with more space so they could take on different pursuits.
They stumbled upon a house in Grose Wold with a small acreage, called Belle Heath by the previous owners, and could see its potential for renovation.
“We found Belle Heath online a year-and-a-half ago,” said Melissa, “and it felt like the right property to pursue new projects and interests. We have renovated many homes over the years as my background is renovating, interior decorating and gardens. We wanted a house that primarily needed cosmetic work, due to Matthew’s inability to work as he once could. Belle Heath ticked a lot of boxes. It is a good solid home that needed cosmetic updates, and there was not much in the way of gardens, which meant we had a good blank canvas to plan a nice outlook.”
The Leenmans enjoy spacious homes, especially as they have several large pieces of furniture, including a huge coffee table. They also love entertaining so they needed a home that could become an entertainer’s delight.
“It is not out of the ordinary for us to set a table for 10, so we needed to know we could bring in enough tables and chairs when we needed to!” said Melissa.
Renovations are presently under way, but the home is already showing the Leenman touch of style and relaxed living spaces.
They also have future plans for offering luxurious boutique accommodation, and in the years ahead would love to open the garden to the public.
“The renovation and development of the property is happening now,” said Melissa. “It is an ongoing process, especially the gardens, but we have plans drawn for a beautiful new multi-purpose garden structure which will be sympathetic to the style of the homestead, and I am currently working on the layout for the boutique accommodation in what was the previous owner's art studio. It will be available for short stays and photoshoots.”
The Leenmans love the classic British Colonial style because it suits their furniture, artwork and collections. But, says Melissa, they are quite eclectic in their tastes, and crossing over a few styles.
“I love homes that really tell the story of the people who live in them,” she said.

“I get a real buzz out of working on a house and garden and seeing it transformed into something really special.”

Most of the interior of the house has been painted, with the exception of the kitchen and the meals area, which have been left until Melissa designs a new kitchen and relocates it to a different part of the room.
“We always paint the inside of our homes in Antique White USA Half Strength, which works really well with our furniture and artwork. We have knocked out an internal wall and made some internal cosmetic changes, but painting, at this stage, has made the biggest impact on the interior,” said Melissa.
“I work on the house and gardens most days. It is my job. I love seeing homes transformed. I get a real buzz out of working on a house and garden and seeing it transformed into something really special.”
Melissa has a fondness for the formal lounge room. She and Matthew sit in it every day because of its view over the hills.
“I play music and I have books around me, and if we are not working on the house we relax here. It's where all my favourite things are! When the weather is nice, however, we also love being out on the back deck with its view. We really appreciate being out there, taking in all that peacefulness. Most people don't do that enough. It's so good for us to just be.”
Melissa loves every part of the garden, even though it is still a work in progress.
“It is still in its infant stages of growth, but I can visualise it in a few years. Being in the garden is so rewarding. It is where I stay fit and healthy, and it is where I see reward for the work we put in. Most days I am covered in dirt and dust and I love that.”
Belle Heath has worked its magic on the Leenmans in a just a short time. But they’re not rushing — there is much to learn from a place over time.
“It is a very comfortable home to live in. It will all be transformed in good time. You also need to live in a house for a few seasons to get a good feel for a place,” added Melissa.
“We love living across the river in the Hawkesbury. It is a good lifestyle change and has brought us a lot of contentment already. Life is more peaceful here, but we are still near major hubs when we need to be. A couple of years ago, we used to see houses everywhere, but now we see hills and cows, and that makes us happy.”

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