The Byron Hinterland home of gallerist Holly McCauley
Images by Amelia Rushforth
This week we visit Yeah, Nice Gallery co-owner & graphic designer Holly McCauley at her cottage in the Byron Hinterland. The creative jack-of-all-trades has lived in the airy timber abode with her partner Nich, and daughters Della & Posey for the past year. Tempted by the idea of more space & gumtrees galore, the family were drawn to the town of Rosebank, wedged between Byron & Lismore. This week we spoke to Holly about working in the arts & the magic of the Northern Rivers.
“Our home is a timber cottage, built sometime in the 1880s. We live in the town of Rosebank, which is in the Northern Rivers on Bundjalung Country, we are about halfway between Byron Bay and Lismore, surrounded by the Nightcap National Park. We have only lived here for about 12 months, before that, we lived in Bangalow, a small heritage town only about 20 minutes down the road.
"We found ourselves craving more space, the feeling of remoteness and often talked about moving deeper into the bush. I have lived in the Northern Rivers for almost 14 years, there is a pull to this place, there is something about the hum of mosquitoes, the thick and humid air, small pockets of community; shrouded in rainforest canopy and circled by oceans, valleys and hills. I landed here in my early 20s and had made no plan to stay for any significant period of time, safe to say I have found home after a long time of unknowingly looking for it.
"Moving to a more remote part of the region was something my partner and I both had been quietly planning for the past few years and the stars aligned at the end of last year when we were able to sell our old house, which we self renovated and then make a move on this place.”
“Owning an art gallery has it's perks! I have been collecting art for a long time, mostly small pieces from emerging artists and photographers. The Ed Templeton print is an old fave from my Uni days, the yellow gallery poster is from a trip to New York in 2013, many others are from our Yeah, Nice shows and I have a bunch waiting to be framed (shout out to Blue Boy Studio who frames for almost all our exhibiting artists and who kindly has a handful of our pieces in storage, sorry, Gareth!).
"The dining chairs are my mum's from the 80s, I have distinct memories of building cubby houses out of them as a child, and the dining table was made by a dear friend of ours as a (very generous!) wedding gift. I also work doing graphic design for the lovely people at Pampa so you will notice lots of soft furnishing from them, all handmade in Argentina. All the trinkets in the girls room are special to them, collected on their adventures: a jar of shells, so many crystals - I am usually having to sneak in and gently remove sticks, palm fronds, leaves and flowers from their room, which they have snuck in with their craft projects.”
Above my eldest daughter's bed is an Indian wedding garland I got at a market in New Delhi, alongside her own dried lei from our wedding, which she wore.
“My favourite thing about our bedroom is the high ceilings, I also love that you can see the original internal cladding (this is throughout the house). In our room, we only have a bed, it's important to have a space that's just for rest. We plan on busting a hole through the wall and adding a window, so we will be able to lay in bed and see the gumtrees through the window, I just imagine them at the moment!
"It's a joy climbing into bed at the end of each day, especially in this season of life, when the days are full and loud. We have no electronics in the room at all, it really is like a little haven for us, until around 3am, when our littlest climbs into bed with us, most mornings.
"Another thing that I love is how much of the outside we can hear from the bedroom. We wake up to birdsong every morning, and at night, the air is full of cicadas, night birds, possums, bandicoots and sometimes koalas. Our road is so quiet that only a handful of cars go past each day, and the night is pretty much void of any man-made sounds.
"Something I have had to get used to is the complete blackness of the night. If it's not a full moon, you can't see the end of your arm on most nights. It does allow for restful sleep.”
“I moved to the Northern Rivers in my early 20s, and Nich and I met a few years after that. When we were expecting our first baby, we were surrounded by old friends who were also on the same path. It has turned out to be the perfect place for us, I think we have landed in the right place. As a city kid, I am envious of this life my kids are living, a house in the bush, days at the beach, a small community preschool, they know the local butcher, the mechanic, their neighbours and their friends are all part of this wider extended community.
"What we have always loved, and what we try to continue to make a big part of our family life is exploring the never-ending places for adventure at our doorstep. The Northern Rivers is a collection of so many small towns, beaches, river systems, and national parks. Beyond the tourist brochure there is so much to explore.”
“I co-own the gallery with my friend and practicing artist, Jordana Henry. The idea came to us sitting on the couch, drinking a beer, with our small kids playing at our feet, wondering about why there wasn't an art gallery that ticked all the boxes we thought were important. We wanted a project, but we didn't want to make 'stuff', we thought we'd just give it a go, and here we are 5 years later!
We were able to take over a lease from the florists, Braer, in an old banana packing shed in Mullumbimby and we started with a group show, full of works by friends and friends of friends - and people actually came! We hit this sweet spot, turns out lots of people in our community were looking for a gathering place for art and fun and community.
We are lucky running a business in a small town, I think that gave us the confidence to just give it a crack. Everyone knows everyone, rent is usually cheaper and the community is generally supportive. We are coming close to our 50th show!"
We are lucky running a business in a small town, I think that gave us the confidence to just give it a crack.
“I grew up around 'arty' adults who lived pretty left-of-field lives, being exposed to art and creativity from a young age shaped me into someone who saw art as a non-negotiable. I didn't turn out to be an artist myself, but art and the arts has always informed my life and what I value. I suppose I am kind of a facilitator now. I have also recently started working for our local Northern Rivers not-for-profit arts body as their marketing manager. Safe to say that the creative arts is something I value highly."
Being exposed to art and creativity from a young age shaped me into someone who saw art as a non-negotiable.
“We exhibit art that we love, and artists who we admire. It also helps if the communication flows and they are lovely to work with. We try to have a mix of painters, ceramicists, photographers and the standard of work needs to be high. We love the contradiction of having a low-key gallery space (think tins of beers, kids running around with no shoes on, sweet goods from our local bakery) paired with beautiful, thought provoking and technically intelligent art.
"We don't do the hard sale pitch, we don't walk around with a clipboard, we don't invite snobby who's-who - we run the shows like you are visiting our homes.”
“Our next exhibition is a solo show is by Lismore-based painter, Sarah Darling. We have worked a lot with Sarah over the years and are so excited to close the year with her stunning, ethereal works."