DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

Our jaws are always dropping as we follow our friend Elise Cook’s adventures around the world. Last time we brought your Pinterest boards to life with a look through Elise’s abode, and now Elise is wowing us with her latest venture…

What does Down The Rabbit Hole represent?

It’s about transforming an ordinary day into something pretty wonderful. The joy of experiencing taste can often be almost mediative. When we sit down to eat and drink, for a very short time in our day we hit pause on everything else to be present with enjoying the experience. We want to encourage people to stretch that out. Before we had our cellar door we would encourage people to step outside, watch the sun rise or set with a bottle of wine, move away from the telly, engage with each other and with life. Now we’ve created a space where people can come and do that with us (we have beautiful sunsets here too!).

Down The Rabbit Hole is about letting the conversations wander, time slow down, a sense of peace settle, friendships deepen, and adventure unfold.

We’re all familiar with Scout ~ introduce us to your latest ‘vehicle’ and the story behind this… 

Haha, yes! Our tasting room, Lennon. A 1974 Scottish Double Decker Leyland. 

As you know, we’ve had Scout a long while – she’s been our mini tasting room many, many times, and while we were on the road we decided we needed more space to fit more people. So we began hunting for a bus. Lennon was purchased by a man who went to Glasgow, drove him to London, and put him on a ferry to Australia fifteen years ago. We loved that Lennon is almost the same age as Scout, and especially that he has an open top.

When we found the bus (on ebay, amidst many photos of toy double decker buses) we knew it was THE bus and called up straight away, but it already had a buyer. You can’t get them into Australia anymore and the open topper is very rare. So we begged, and I mean BEGGED, the owner and his wife to reconsider. We had lots of long phone calls, and even sent them photos of us in the middle of nowhere on our knees together begging. They felt terrible going back on their word to the other buyer, but both agreed they felt it needed to go to us and said if we could make it to them within a month, it was ours. 

And almost to the day we rocked up to pick the bus up, and begin another big adventure (with a few very funny stories) driving it back to South Australia. 

The renovation was daunting, as we’d never worked on anything like it, but then again… we’d never built anything or even owned a tool kit before. Once we got stuck into it, we got it done and I’m so happy with how the bus has turned out. We even created an enclosure for the top deck to keep it cosy in the cooler months. 

Where did you find the inspiration for the design and how does this differ from your beautiful home? The styling is beyond beautiful ~ what are some of the most treasured pieces on display? 

Thank you! Again, we’ve never done anything like this before transforming our house and the shed into our cellar door – so it’s been amazing to learn so much and explore our own creativity with design and styling. 

It has touches of India, Morocco, South Australia, and all the white cladding is very Byron Bay / Queensland. We had structures to work with; two old farm sheds, a crumbled tiny garden shed that had a huge tree growing into it (now our coffee hut), and a bright orange and green double decker bus. 

– There’s definitely a few key pieces that helped inspire my vision for the space, and a few treasured pieces: When I found the clay tiles for the front of the bar – everything had to work around them. They are sourced from Jatana Interiors.

– The big mirror behind the bar is from India and sourced through Alabaster Trader. Originally my vision was to do a full mirrored wall with shelves across it, but when I found this mirror – it all shifted again. 

– The big beams are the old South Australian Moonta Bay jetty – they get a lot of love from everyone who visits. Including beams into our simple structure was actually inspired by the Spell head office. I’ve always loved jetty beams, but all the white set off against the beams in the Spell head office was absolutely a picture on the mood board in my mind.

– The Moroccan rug (perfect colour to tie in with our tiles) is from Marr-Kett

– Our beautiful recycled teak furniture, which pulls everything together, is from the Queensland family run brand Uniqwa.

– We have two pieces of art that I absolutely adore. One very special bejeweled piece by Jai Vasicek. And another hand sketched artwork by our friend, Arthur McManus. Him and his wife, Sharnee, had a trip booked to come help us build, but Arf broke his leg right before. So while he was at home, unable to move, he sketched a hug image of Dom’s hand pouring a glass of wine for Sharnee and sent it to us as a surprise. I love it and I love that it’s the exact experience people are having in our space. 

– Our cushions are ours, sourced from a maker in Morocco, and will be sold in our Source of Love store in summer.

– The big double swing chair (definitely the most popular seat in the place) is from Byron Hanging Chairs.

– The picnic rugs and picnic tables are hot property on the weekends, everyone wants to roll out a rug in the sun. We have Wandering Folk rugs and Indie Tribe picnic tables for guests to use (the picnic tables have the wine glass holders so work perfectly).

– Our dried blooms (always the best investment as they last forever) are put together by Nikau

– Our plates are also something I treasure that I think are such a nice touch for people to experience, they’ve been made by Turquoise Lane x Nikau

– Our toilet block seems to be a popular spot for photos, which has made us laugh a lot. The rattan cabinets are from Oz Design Furniture, fitted with Nood & Co basins (one blush and one terracotta), and brass goosenecks from Highgrove, and we made barn style doors and painted them terracotta / blush pink  – so the toilets do look pretty groovy.

Talk us through the design, and building journey… how did the cellar door come to be? Any challenging moments or highlights?

When we arrived on the property, it wasn’t in the best state. There was a HUGE amount of landscaping to do before we even got started on transforming the old farm sheds. We also hadn’t considered that there wouldn’t be a sewage option. Every drop of water has to stay on the property and we had to build our own huge septic system… which was… huge.

Really, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We were working on a small budget, so were prepared to do just about anything and everything ourselves. But, having zero experience, many of those things took a lot longer as a result.

When we first started, we gave ourselves three months to have it open (that included us ‘doing up’ the house – as it’s the first thing people see driving in), and everyone told us we were bonkers. We worked day and night, non stop, trying to make it to that finish line. 

Everyone was right, of course, but each month we set the finish line back a few weeks, and then a few weeks more. It wound up taking nearly a year to complete, but we credit our unrealistic expectations to even having it all done in that timeframe. It meant that we didn’t stop, at all – ever.

So to answer your question, the whole year was challenging. I watched Dom push himself to the limit over and over again, and then keep going. It was scary at times, not knowing how we would or could keep moving forward, physically, emotionally and financially. I was so sure at the beginning we’d get a grant, or… win the lottery haha. But neither happened. And to be honest, I knew that was never going to be our experience.

But I don’t regret it or the way we did it. Not at all. Because it meant that so many times we were able to experience the utter grace of things moving forward, or people stepping forward to help, right when we needed it most. We experienced the depth of grace because of the depth of the challenge. 

We were literally brought to our knees and brought to tears a multitude of times by the kindness of people around us. Friends and family rocking up to help us build, paint, and dig holes on their only day off. Week in, week out for months. Or people we’d met while on our journey around Australia flying or driving down to lend a hand.

I remember one day, right at the end, and we’d both hit a bit of an emotional wall. It was pouring with rain and we had a deadline to meet, we had no toilet block, no kitchen, and no carpark, and needed all of them finished within seven days for an event. 

We didn’t want to keep having our families help so we hadn’t let them for a few weeks, telling them it was all under control. But that day, it all felt impossible. We were so, so close, but oh so far.

And then five cars came down the driveway, both of our families arriving in unison. My mum gave me a hug and said, “I just had a feeling you really needed help today, so I called the troops”.

Still makes me cry sitting here writing this now.

How much we needed it that day they’ll never know. And how much we got done that day was incredible.

There were lots of these moments, lots. And those moments, they were challenges and highlights rolled into one. And although it was a really hard year, it held some of my life’s most beautiful and humbling experiences.

Tell us about a day {or week} in your life ~ now with your home, your business space and your travels…

Gosh, there’s no ordinary day. Life is an absolute whirlwind right now. Such a contrast to our time on the road. If I’m working in the cellar door, I’m 100% present with that, the visitors that come in, and the team we have working with us.

I have months and months worth of laptop work to get through. So I’ll sometimes carve out a morning or an evening to get stuck into a bit of it. 

Our house is filled with people more often than not, whether they’re staying with us or friends and family poking their head in or dropping in morning and night.

Knock off drinks with our team and good conversations while the sun sets are common in our weeks.

With it all being so new there’s a million behind the scenes details Dom and I are working on to get things into a smooth flow.

We’re trying to start taking one day out each week to take off in Scout and have some ‘us’ time, exploring our region while we do. One thing I’ve been very aware of, right from the get go, is that our land is not just for us. It’s for people. And it’s likely to always be full of people. So, if we want space we’ve got to jump in the van and go somewhere else!

We just returned from our first little getaway (to Tahiti). When we locked it in we thought we would have been open for six month already, instead it had only been six weeks. It made us really nervous, but it was amazing to let the staff take control and to see them thrive and flourish with it. We have amazing people working with us, which is one of the things I feel most grateful for in life right now. These beautiful humans who have entered our life – it’s already feeling like a little family.

What are you wanting to achieve through the cellar door space? Describe the experience… 

We wanted to create a space that draws people in, and has them feeling right at home and welcomed from the moment the step foot onto the land. A place that takes the wine tasting experience away from the bar, and is instead an intimate experience filled with stories and conversation (whether with us, our staff, or with other visitors). I love watching people who have just met form friendships while chatting away on the bus during a tasting, and then progress onto the lawn to share a picnic rug together. We want it to be a place where people leave a little happier.

We also want this space to be an engine for something a little bigger, which will be our Source of Love store. It’s a way for us to use what is happening at our cellar door to give. When we were on our sabbatical, travelling around Australia, we were trying to decide which direction to move in with our little business upon return. We dreamt up Source of Love (a brand that will have all it’s costs absorbed by Down The Rabbit Hole, so it can be 100% to charity and projects we want to support) and once we did that we dreamt up this space we’ve now created. We have the store sitting in our carpark, we just need to finish the build on that space and we hope to open it late summer. There’s lots more to come after that happens too :)

Your favourite space, and why?

The bus! I love what happens in there. People sit down for about half an hour and engage with the wines, each other, and the DTRH team in a really special way.

Down The Rabbit Hole Cellar Door
With love to Elise Cook

Elise wears the Rizzo Silk Slip
Rizzo Silk Slip layered with the Loves Me Not Blouse
Buttercup Gown
Loves Me Not Garden Party Dress
Loves Me Not Garden Party Dress layered with the Over The Rainbow Knit
Shop Elise’s wardrobe here

Looking for more interiors inspo?
Step inside Elise’s dreamy abode here