It’s hard to imagine how Elise Croker finds time between raising four children, working as a nurse at Crookwell District Hospital and helping her husband, Craig, on the farm.
However, during the past 12 months, she has managed to wave her design wand over the town’s old tailor shop, transforming the 1890 building into a four-bedroom, two-bathroom Airbnb.
Mister Munro, named after the tailor, William Munro, is a charming, modern townhouse encompassing original features reminiscent of days gone by, and is already booked out throughout July.
Many of the historical features, including the original French doors and Queensland kauri pine floorboards, were discovered by luck.
Elise and Craig stumbled across the doors inside the property’s overgrown corner shed, and the floorboards were beneath layers of grey carpet tiles, lime green and brown floral lino, and copies of Women’s Weekly from 1945.
Nursing scrubs and overalls don’t usually go hand in hand, but Elise says she was always rearranging her room as a child or using the garden at the farm as a canvas.
“I have always been creative, just not in the usual sense of oil paintings and drawings,” says Elise.
“After I finished having children, I started to come back into myself because you give so much to being pregnant and raising them young. That’s when I found my passion for creating homes and spaces that feel good.”
The thing that makes Elise’s design unique is her enthusiasm for sustainability and history.
She spent time researching William Munro’s story and found newspaper clippings about the time he was thrown out of court for a petty argument with his apprentice and how he died by prescribing himself a cold bath for a headache.
“He was quite a character, and being a tailor I assumed he would have been one of the best-dressed men in town,” says Elise. “I love finding these things because they give us a glimpse into what life was like in the town around the late 1800s and early 1900s.”
Elise framed the newspaper clippings, including the ones found under the carpet, and found an old pair of spectacles, cotton reels, scissors and a bowler hat to add to the decor.
Lovingly restoring homes is Elise’s happy place and a welcome reprieve from a noisy hospital or house, but it’s also provided the family with an off-farm income. In fact, their second Airbnb, Eldorado Cottage, was renovated in the middle of a drought.
Fed up of seeing what Elise described as an ‘eyesore’ on their driveway, they decided to give the old cottage a fresh lick of paint and furnish it with pre-loved items.
“I suppose Eldorado Cottage is where our creative projects started,” says Elise.
“It’s right on top of a hill so it’s got an amazing view of the Bolong River flats, and it’s sentimental because a couple of generations of Craig’s family farmed that country.
“Because it’s sustainable and off the grid, I posed a challenge to myself to see if I could furnish the cottage with secondhand items.”
Elise framed old newspaper clippings about Hereford stud run by Craig’s family; decorated the cottage with hand-welded iron stirrups made by Craig’s great, great grandfather, and old rabbit traps; and made the breakfast bar from a wooden tabletop and an old metal frame found in the shed.
Elise is also big on supporting the region by hiring local tradies and promoting local businesses for guests to visit while in town, even creating a food guide on display inside the Airbnbs.
She believes the country is as good a place as any to raise the bar for tourism.
“COVID-19 has been extremely difficult, but it’s also been a great boost for regional tourism,” says Elise. “People are really exploring their backyard and Crookwell has become a destination.
“It’s so easily accessible from Sydney, Canberra and the Central West. People want good things to look at and places to stay. And just because we’re not in the city doesn’t mean we can’t be forward-thinking or cutting edge for design.”