Historic Stays Founder's Journey: Linen Bedding

Historic Stays Founder's Journey: Linen Bedding

Historic Stays is such a charming curation of absolutely beautiful historic properties throughout Australia, each with a unique story to tell. Can you tell us a little more about it?

Thank you! Historic Stays represents beautiful, independent historic accommodation, each carefully selected for their original period details and character. There’s a wide range of options, everything from tiny cottages to grand, heritage-listed estates. Historic Stays also focuses on architectural styles, and you can search for a property by its built date. So if you wanted to stay in a very early sandstone, convict-built property you can look for that, or if you prefer Victorian or Art Deco architecture, you can easily find something that most appeals to you.

Caption hereTerrara House, NSW.
What led you or inspired you to initially create your business? And how long ago was this?

During the successive lockdowns in Melbourne during the pandemic, I started Googling historic places to stay once lockdowns were over, and effectively came up with a ‘dream list’ for myself! It was pure escapism, especially during very bleak winter months when we couldn’t travel further than 5km from our homes. I then realised that there wasn’t any website where you could easily browse beautiful historic accommodation options all in the one place, and thought perhaps other people would appreciate a site like that too.

Open Season House, Vic. 1886 

Do you have a standout favourite property/s listed on your site? 

I couldn’t possibly choose! Every single Historic Stay is wonderfully unique, with its own interesting story to tell. I think that’s the magic of historic buildings and places; each has such a uniqueness that evokes an emotional response from us. I love hearing about each one’s story and the original owners. And our hosts do an outstanding job – not only in providing their guests with a memorable stay, but in their commitment to preserving these beautiful examples of our built heritage. Undertaking significant restoration work, followed by setting up and hosting your property, is no mean feat!

Old Cobbin Homestead, NSW, 1864. 

Where did you grow up originally? Can you pinpoint when your passion for historic architecture and interiors initially began?

I grew up in Sydney, but now live in Melbourne, and have spent almost half my life in each city. Where the passion started for historic architecture is a good question! It’s something that’s actually researched, too – why some of us have an emotional connection with old buildings, sometimes quite inexplicably. For me, I think it stems from living in England when I was very young, and then again as a teenager. I remember visiting lots of castles, historic sites and villages, so I’m quite sure it started there! Place attachment is a powerful feeling, and those of us who love heritage buildings feel a strong connection with old homes & towns, and in the same way, a feeling of loss when a historic building is demolished or redeveloped. Something that we see occurring too often these days.

Bridport Beach House, TAS. c.1910

Who else shares your home with you? How do you manage life balance while running a business and being a mum?

My husband and two teenage sons. Balancing a business while being a Mum (and daily chauffeur) for my kids is challenging – some weeks are incredibly productive, other weeks I feel like I’m struggling to get ahead. I use to-do lists, and weekly/monthly plans to stay on task. And try to do an hour or so of work before everyone else’s day starts, when it’s quiet. 

Can you share a little about your own home? And it’s interior or exterior style? 

We live in a grey & white weatherboard Californian Bungalow, that just celebrated its 100th birthday this year, called ‘Bethany’. It was named by the original lady of the house, Mrs Gardiner, because she liked the name. The Gardiner family owned our house for around 70 years, and raised six children in two bedrooms, with a sleep-out on the front verandah! It’s on the small side for us, but has a cosy, homely feel.

Over the years the weatherboards have been yellow with white trim, and currently they’re grey. Inside, all rooms were painted antique white, with vivid white trim. I once owned a French vintage store, so there’s a few pieces I managed to hold onto from my vintage hunting days through the house.

 Alison Vassallo California Bungalow in Melbourne Alison's Californian Bungalow, VIC, 1922. 

Have you made any changes or updates to your home since moving in?

Yes. When we bought our home, it was in livable condition, which was great for the first few years as we couldn’t afford to renovate. We had a stunning aqua laminate kitchen – but it was functional! Down the track, we renovated the interior, stripping it down to the studs but retaining internal fretwork, windows, doors and floors, replacing the old lath and plaster walls.

The renovation revealed more about the home, and its first owners. We found tiny black and white photos that had fallen behind a mantelpiece, showing the kids playing cricket in the front yard. We found four different women’s shoes – all size 5 and hand-stitched, I’d say from the 1920s when the house was built – concealed above the front door in the ceiling cavity. There’s an old superstition of hiding footwear within the structure of a building, as good luck charms. We put them back above the front door. 

There was also a strange occurrence when the walls & ceilings were removed. The tradesmen’s radio would suddenly turn itself on at full volume between 2-3am in the front bedroom – the same room where Mr Gardiner passed away. This happened more than once, and there was no way of setting an alarm on this radio. Going into the front of the house to switch it off with just a torch (we were replacing the electrical wiring, so it was completely dark) was slightly terrifying! Once the new walls were up however, nothing happened again, and we only have a good feeling in the home. Perhaps for a short while there, Mr Gardiner thought we were demolishing his house?

Rangeview Cottage, Qld, 1910. 

Are there any particular designers, brands or instagram pages that inspire your own style?

I’ve long admired Lynda Gardener’s style and design books, ever since spying Empire Vintage in Albert Park many years ago, when I first moved to Melbourne. 

What is your favourite type of bedding to sleep on?

I prefer linen bedding! But otherwise, soft cotton sheets are fine. 

How do you like to make your bed? Any styling tips?

To be honest, with two teenagers and working full-time, unfortunately I don’t really get to spend much time dressing our beds. It’s pretty simple – duvets, with European and standard pillows – I love European pillows because it’s a quick way to add a contrasting colour to your bed linen, and they’re great for back support when you’re reading in bed.

The big debate: Flat sheet or no flat sheet?

Flat sheets go on in the cooler months. I prefer no flat sheet in summer!

 Simpson Cottage, NSW, 1864. 

Can you share with us your vision for Historic Stays?

We’re branching out into New Zealand in December, which is very exciting, with our first property in beautiful Queenstown. So I’m looking forward to building a trans-tasman audience who share a love of historic architecture and places to stay. There’s a real community feel to our readers – they appreciate the unique story behind each property we select, and love all the little period features, just like I do. That’s really what it’s about, continuing to connect with like-minded readers and supporting our inspiring property hosts, who work so hard to create wonderful guest experiences. 


Thank you so much for sharing with us Alison, it has been fascinating to learn more about what inspires you. I especially enjoyed hearing your stories about your mysterious findings during your own renovation - and glad to hear Mr Gardiner is at peace once more!
I will certainly be heading to your Historic Stays website next time I am planning an Australian or New Zealand escape or just a lovely weekend away, and I'm sure our Salt community will too! Thanks again.