December, 2022

Nicole + Lauren

Townhouse, built 1990s / 2 bed, 1.5 bath

Dharawal Land - Woonona, NSW

After making a sea change to the South Coast, Nicole and Lauren (an award-winning painter and hospitality veteran respectively) were ready to step onto the property ladder and secure their first home.

An artist and a chef might sound like unlikely candidates for a home loan. But even with less-than-typical buyer profiles, Nicole (an award-winning artist) and Lauren (a chef with 20+ years experience in hospitality and events) were able to realise their goal of “getting into the property market.”

Like many first-time buyers, the couple found the process both “exciting and frustrating.” Even with pre-approval under their belt, they felt the pressure to find their dream place in “just three months”. 

“We were really daunted about the whole process of negotiating and making an offer and dealing with the real estate agents,” reveals Nicole.  To add an extra layer of pressure, the pair found the perfect first home just a few weeks before heading off on a holiday. 

Nicole and Lauren's light-filled home
Earthy-toned bedroom

The property in question was a bright, two-bedroom townhouse on Dharawal Land in Woonona, just one suburb away from Nicole’s studio. “We didn’t have a huge budget. We knew this was just our starting point, but we wanted the property to feel kind of homely and light-filled and like us,” shares Lauren.

Keen to wrap things up quickly, Nicole and Lauren were anxious about “whether or not the sellers would accept our offer because we didn’t really want to go to auction.” Luckily, things went to plan.

“We managed to secure the home prior to auction on the morning we were due to leave for our holiday. We rushed into the real estate agent’s office, signed the contract and then went away for a month,” tells Lauren.  

One of the parts of the process that helped Nicole and Lauren the most was being able to hand off the mental load of getting their finances sorted. “It’s tricky to quantify the impact it had, but I’d never go through the buying process without it.”

With bright white walls and sundrenched interiors, the townhouse was really a blank slate for the pair to make their own. “It's hard to describe but the feeling we get in this space is beautiful. When we have friends visit, everyone says it feels like us,” tells Lauren.

“It’s at the end of a nice quiet street with bush behind us and the escarpment. It’s in a really good spot, just a two-minute drive to the beach. It’s also easy to get to my studio, and I’ll often bring my gear home and spend some time painting at our place,” shares Nicole. 

Nicole at work in her studio
Some of Nicole's work

This year has been a big one for the pair who joined forces to launch a business. After a trip to Fowlers Gap in remote NSW in 2020 with friend and artist Ashley Frost, the trio came up with the concept: to offer immersive painting workshops in remote locations to a wider audience, paired with delicious home-cooked food.

“I’ve been teaching [painting] for over 10 years and working with people across a whole range of experience levels. If you can come in with some level of knowledge (a.k.a. How to hold a brush) you’ll get the best out of it. But the workshop’s are open to everybody,” explains Nicole. 

Titled In the Field Artist Workshops, each weekend getaway is filled with landscape painting in nature, informal art discussions and plenty of time to sit back and connect with fellow guests over a meal. “The whole concept is all about coming together for meals and sharing experiences and stories from the day. Guests sit next to different people each night and have conversations around the dinner table. My role is really to foster that sense of community with food,” shares Lauren. 

In the Field Artist Workshop
Lauren and her 'community focused' food
In the field

From Broken Hill to Bundanon, the pair are passionate about “being able to take people to a place they don’t normally have access to.” 

“We linked up with the local Indigenous community in Broken Hill and visited Mutawintji (which is quite an important site) with a local Indigenous man. The feedback we received about that element of the trip was amazing. We’re looking to bring him out to the sites we’re painting in the future and get him to join us for dinner. It allows us to tap into the depth of memory and history in the land.”

You can learn more about the pair’s ‘In the Field Artist Workshops’ here and to view some of Nicole’s beautiful work, you can visit her website here.

Thinking about securing your first home? Whether you’re looking to build, buy or something in between, discover what grants and schemes are available for you both nationally, and in your own state.

Maquel + Elliot All Stories Beatrix