Nothing piques the interest of a design enthusiast as much as an expert working on their own home. However for Jon McKibbin, owner of design studio Kibbin, and his partner Elle, the restoration of an old worker's cottage in Mount Kembla, was more about history and authenticity than creating the wow factor. The original cottage dated back to the 1890s and is a significant building in this local NSW community, connected with the establishment of the mining village. Extensive renovations undertaken in the 1990s included an extension, and subsequent owners had changed paint colours and established a cottage garden. "The original rustic workers cottage had been lost over time and requiring maintenance and repair once more, it was our vision to restore the cottage in a true sense and reflect the authentic heritage," said Jon. "Coming to terms with the early history of the Illawarra Escarpment area, we wanted to make a small gesture in the way we could in re-landscaping to continue the authentic restoration." The old picket fencing and overgrown cottage garden were removed to increase visibility of the house. The couple learned about native species specific to the escarpment and planted a variety of dry grasses, ground covers, ferns and small trees. The original bull nose verandah was replicated using photographic records, and they also discovered many early cottages were originally unpainted. "Much care was taken by our tradesman in removing, stripping and restoring the last surviving original cladding to reveal 125-year-old mixed hardwood timbers that once clad the full exterior," said Jon. "Combined with a galvanised iron roof replacement, we applied a federation inspired colour scheme, complementing the restored timbers using off whites, adding the accent of a red oxide front door." Inside, the original fireplace was carefully repurposed to retain the charm of the original charred brickwork and allow the installation of an efficient wood burning stove. Christened "(Wallaby) Cottage", the house-cum-studio now stands proudly on the road that winds through the village, a nod to the past, and a testament to the importance of respecting and preserving buildings in regional Australia.