Claremont does Christmas

'Claremont' is a must-see stop on Christmas lights tours.
'Claremont' is a must-see stop on Christmas lights tours.

The Brisbane-based Rutley family is living proof, if somewhat inadvertently, that you can 'work from home' from Tenterfield.

They're the recent purchasers of the historic Claremont property in Douglas Street opposite St Joseph's School, taking possession on March 12 to begin what's been a COVID renovation. Their painter could give them one week of his time so Andrea and Darren both took a week off work to dig in and strip wallpaper and keep ahead of him. During that week the directive came from their employers to shift to working from home.

"Yep, I can do that," Andrea reported back.

While they've since been back-and-forth to Brisbane as border restrictions allowed, their 18-year-old son Matt has become a more permanent fixture, now doing a real estate traineeship with Ray White Tenterfield. Andrea had promised Matt that the family would be together at Claremont for Christmas even if it meant quarantining on return to Brisbane, but fortunately border restrictions relaxed in the meantime.

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It does mean that Christmas-fanatic Andrea had the challenge of decorating two properties: their home in the Brisbane suburb of Sherwood where the neighbourhood embraces a communal Christmas celebration theme (particularly when it comes to large red bows), and Claremont where the architecture lends itself to a classy display.

It's a decorating challenge she's up for, even though it meant doubling up on decorations.

"I know that a lot of them come from China, so in early November I was buying up big in case stocks ran out," she said.

It's a labour of love and while she doesn't do it for the attention, it is rewarding to see passing cars slow down at night so that the scene can be admired.

'It's nice to know people appreciate it," Andrea said, "and it gets families out and about."

Andrea and Darren Rutley, pictured here with 'Snoop Dog' and 'Charlie Bear' on the front verandah of Claremont. The couple working remotely from Tenterfield during their stayovers.

Andrea and Darren Rutley, pictured here with 'Snoop Dog' and 'Charlie Bear' on the front verandah of Claremont. The couple working remotely from Tenterfield during their stayovers.

Although Andrea has no family connections here Tenterfield has always drawn her, just as it did her parents Beres and Bob Sorby. From when Andrea was around 10 years old the Sorbys were frequent visitors, especially loving the bushwalking opportunities.

Andrea said the family had a lot of driving holidays to various locations but Tenterfield always remained a favourite.

The tradition continued as Andrea grew, hooking up with future-husband Darren at university and often travelling with another uni friend to base themselves in Tenterfield to bushwalk in the Emmaville region.

"We eventually got frustrated that the motels were always booked out," Andrea said.

The family were looking for a more permanent weekend escape within a three-hour drive of Brisbane, but discounted the coast with its heavy traffic and crowds.

"This was the logical place," Andrea said, with the contrast in climate sealing the deal.

Matt Rutley is now a permanent fixtures, working at Ray White Tenterfield.

Matt Rutley is now a permanent fixtures, working at Ray White Tenterfield.

This was back when Matt was still a small child. The house they bought at the corner of Douglas and Logan Streets became his second home, and the place he learned to ride a bike.

After pretty-much gutting the 1909 property they replaced the verandah, extended out the back, relined, insulated and installed air-conditioned, always with an eye to the period style of the property.

The intention was to retain it as the family's country getaway and let it out at other times. Matt's increasing involvement with weekend sport in Brisbane, however, meant there came a time when the property was rarely used and the decision was made to sell, despite Matt's objections.

Now the process has started again with Claremont, although Andrea warns anyone hoping to let the place that it now comes with an 18-year-old boarder. Andrea said a more likely arrangement is for her and Darren to come down on a Thursday to join Matt and then perhaps return to Brisbane on a Monday, working remotely as necessary while they're here.

"It's a lot more flexible now," Andrea said.

'Claremont' lights up at night.

'Claremont' lights up at night.