A Modern Take on the General Store for Trentham

Written for Broadsheet Melbourne

Resting above the mantelpiece in Trentham General’s main dining room is an oil painting of “General Smith”, the store’s fictitious CEO. The portrait is one of many collectables co-owner and interior stylist Lynda Gardener has kept stored away for years, and now sells at her new cafe, homewares and furniture store in Trentham, just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne.

“[Trentham General] was inspired by that beautiful man over there, that we had sitting at home,” Gardener says, pointing to the portrait.

Through the entrance, amid the army-green walls (a paint colour Lynda developed with Bauwerk Colour), hangs a portrait of “Bob”.

“[He’s] the local potato farmer. It’s a bit strange, they’re not the best of buddies,” Gardener explains of the two portraits. “I conjure up these stories,” she says, laughing.

Gardener and her partner Mark Smith designed the fit-out of the former bank. The style is similar to the couple’s other properties (The Estate Trentham, The White House Daylesford, The Apartment St Kilda), though each has its own flare. Trentham General is rustic but refined, taking inspiration from a country farmhouse.

“We built this for locals first.” Gardener adds. “Because it is a local little town.”

“The idea is a 21st-century general store,” Smith adds.

Timber floorboards, fireplaces, hanging plants and wooden panelling adorn the space, which has two cosy dining rooms, a library full of design books that overlooks the back garden, a homewares store, a cafe, and a “communal room”; a quiet, tucked-away space where visitors can spend time away from the busier cafe area.

Much of the furniture and homewares on offer come from Gardener’s personal collection, which amassed while she owned Empire Vintage in Albert Park. She sold the store two years ago. Now she hires out some items for photo shoots and has begun selling the rest.

“I’m a mad collector, and having a shop for 24 years before this, I’ve got a lot of stock,” she says. “It’s a mix of old and new, and items from local designers, some from Melbourne and some from overseas.”

Beyond the portraits there are old landscape paintings, raw hessian chairs imported from France, and a beautiful three-tiered metal and dark wood table Gardener salvaged from a shoe factory.

There’s also repurposed canvas cushions by Perpetual One; skincare from Salus Body; crockery from Dutch label HK Living; and locally made utilitarian aprons, complete with pockets for egg collecting.

The couple’s property nearby has a kitchen garden where they hope to source produce for the cafe in warmer months. Herbs, pears, apples, berry plants and vegetables are all growing in preparation. Other supplies come from Inglenook Dairy, Meredith Dairy, Grounded Pleasures (drinking chocolate), Green Eggs, Dench Bakers and Coffee Supreme.

Food-wise, there’s house-made spiced labneh with avocado and herb salad on pumpkin sourdough; porridge with poached winter fruit; and a pastrami and goat’s cheese toasted sandwich with pickles.

“It’s a little bit off the beaten track,” Gardener says. “We wanted the locals to be proud, [but] the fact that people are doing the drive from Melbourne – especially for the day – I think is just outstanding.”

Trentham General
37A High Street, Trentham
0416 032 111

Thu to Mon 7am–4pm

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