In Conversation with Gemma Andrews of Le Viti

Gemma Andrews stands in the doorway to the barn at Le Viti

 

Climbing vines, olive trees and views for miles are just some of the Mediterranean elements to be savoured at Le Viti Newrybar. Tucked amongst the local farms and rolling hills and just a stone's throw from well-known shopping and food delights, this latest luxury getaway to join the Byron Bay region of Australia is the brainchild of Gemma Andrews.

After relocating from Sydney with her family, Gemma set about converting an 80 year-old-barn on the property into a relaxing, yet sophisticated place for people to come and stay. With couples, weddings or a small group of family and friends in mind, she added warm and rustic elements to her original design brief after holidaying in the Italian region of Puglia.

Think stained weatherboards, over-sized barn doors, forged metal and soaring white ceilings painted white - blended with soft, delicate and luxury furniture pieces and textiles. And a beautiful old oak tree that perfectly frames famed hinterland sunsets. The Dharma Door collection was recently photographed in Gemma's new retreat, so we took some time to learn more about the design of her special new space.

Olive trees and rosemary plants in the courtyard
Natural materials and textures on display inside the barn

How would you describe Le Viti to a good friend?

I would describe Le Viti as a luxe barn in the heart of Newrybar with a delightful blend between high-end luxury and warm, natural elements.

Le Viti means ‘Vines’ in Italian and Newrybar is known as ‘a place of climbing vines’ by local Bundjalung people. How do vines feature in your property and where did this inspiration come from originally?

We have planted a couple of grapevines around the deck at the farmhouse. Not the barn – as yet – but we do have plans to plant a lot more grapevines around the property and to also include a small hobby vineyard.

The kitchen at Le Viti in white and neutral tones. Image of a neutral couch with a handwoven jute basket next to it.

Your property is also surrounded by a beautiful Puglia-inspired garden containing citrus, olive trees, rosemary and lavender. Can you tell us more about this and the surrounding landscape your property sits in?

Yes, our gardens do contain a beautiful mix of citrus, so far we have planted navel oranges, blood oranges, kumquats and lemons. We have four olive trees, two of which were on the property when we bought it, but we have since relocated them to a more appropriate position. And we do have lots of rosemary; I love rosemary so much for borders, and to grow wild in the garden, for the pretty purple flowers they produce and of course it’s a must for cooking. I arrange bunches of them in vases and let them dry out scattered around my home.

I’m also in love with lavender. I remember pressing the flowers in books as a child and then framing them as a gift for my mum. We have a bay leaf tree and we will continue to plant a lot more silver, grey and green tonal plants with touches of white, yellow and purple pops of delicate flowers.

This time last year we were lucky enough to fit in a trip to Italy and fell head over heels in love with the Puglia region for all things landscape, architecture and design. The mix of a modern, country farmhouse is a favourite of ours and it works so well with our Australian hinterland way of living. Puglia continues to be our inspiration, combined with the natural, effortless and uncomplicated landscape of our Australian bushland and lifestyle.

Looking into a living area with a handwoven jute basket on the ground. Black wood burning fireplace.

As visitors approach the farmhouse, they are greeted by two oversized timber barn doors, stunning terracotta herringbone-tiled entry and views of an ornate French vintage chandelier. This sets the tone for a space that is both sophisticated and warm - can you tell us about your vision for the space and its mix of high end and rustic elements?

When we purchased the property, we were very new to the Northern Rivers after having just moved from Sydney three weeks earlier. We literally had no idea where to source items like basins, tapware, timber etc., so we employed help from Mel Gubbin from Avenue Twenty Two very early in the piece.

I am one of those people that finds beauty in so many designs - whether it’s modern, minimalist, rustic or vintage, all these styles are beautiful to me. Mel was fantastic in coming up with a mood board to narrow all of this down and keep me on track.

Once the design was set for a very refined, luxe project I threw Mel a curveball and said that I needed to introduce more natural and rustic elements to include touches from my travels in Puglia. Needless to say, I am very happy with the outcome.

A living area at Le Viti in neutral tones. Close up of black coffee table with candles and glasses of sparkling wine.

In working with Mel, you created an environment that also features high ceilings, white-washed walls and the occasional curve. Can you share a little about the process you followed to make these and other style choices?

Mel was an absolute star in helping us from start to finish. Her talents stretch from the building finishes right through to the interiors. The Barn has been on the land for approximately 80 years. We stripped her right back and were incredibly lucky that we had a grand space to work with.

With the soaring high ceilings, the design process was limitless. Looking back now we did change our minds on decisions quite a few times - from switching the bedroom into a kitchen/ living area and vice versa and removing the brick herringbone verandah to a streamline timber deck. As the property evolved it really started a life of its own, one that we really had to listen to, so that it would fit in with its natural surroundings.

Le Viti is also ultra-luxurious - fitted out with high-end linen, furniture and fixtures. How does comfort play into the space and why is this important?

Comfort is everything! We really have tried to put ourselves in our guests’ shoes and think about all the necessities and luxuries one would expect to find at a high-end hotel. Also, by working with Byron Beach Abodes (who manages Le Viti) there is obviously an expectation of high-end comfort.

Free standing bathrub with handwoven jute baskets.

How have you used The Dharma Door products in the space and why do you think they work so well in the mix?

I'm in love with Dharma Door products! They are so versatile, functional, ethical and beautiful. The natural products work well in any space and we particularly love them at Le Viti.

We have used them in the bathroom and master bedroom for clever storage solutions and since The Dharma Door photo shoot at Le Viti, I can now think of many more places I would like to add The Dharma Door collection to our property.

Why do you think natural, textural and woven elements work so well in our interiors generally?

People are starting to rethink the way we live and thinking twice about what products they purchase, where it comes from, fair trading, and wanting to leave a greener footprint so it’s an obvious choice to choose an ethical brand like The Dharma Door to introduce into your home. It really ticks all the boxes and works well with any palette within your home.

Close up shot of shelves with decorative items. A bedroom in neutral tones.

You are part of a community that has become known as a destination for shopping and food, surrounded by lush farms and spectacular hinterland sunsets. How do these elements play into the space?

We’re blessed to have nature, restaurants, local produce, shops and markets on our doorstep in our historic town. Newrybar village is a special little hamlet within the Byron Hinterland. It has a laid back vibe mixed with old country charm.

Le Viti is perched high on a two-acre hill, within walking distance to shops and restaurants. From the Barn’s western side, you can admire a 100-year-old fig tree while enjoying some of the best sunsets looking out over the local farms. Whether you’re sitting on the deck enjoying a platter of your choice from Harvest, lying in bed or relaxing in the bath with luxurious bath salts from Newrybar Merchants, the hinterland views are there for you to enjoy.

What is your favourite part of the property and why?

Geez, that’s a tough one, but I think for me my favourite part of Le Viti is the bathroom. At the time I questioned whether or not it would work, due to its angles, but I'm so happy with the outcome: the large scale of the space, soft textures, oversized 4 x 4 shower tiles and of course, those terracotta herringbone tiles that are a crowd favourite.

Another favourite of mine is the kitchen and fireplace. The kitchen was another last-minute change of mind, going from a timber and steel design to a crisp, bright white with a built-in chopping block. And the fireplace plinth was another redo - cue my husband screaming at me!

Ourdoor dining area at Le Viti. Close up of woven jute baskets on table used to hold glasses.

And finally, what is your key piece of style advice to create a sophisticated, yet relaxed haven?

Be true to yourself! I know that I'm not a stuffy, ‘uptown girl’. I like to keep things earthy in all aspects of my life, so I think that’s why I need to have natural elements around me that make me feel relaxed and grounded. That’s where The Dharma Door products help to create that feeling.

 

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