It Takes Two
STORY BY RICHARD CORNISH
Synergy. If there is one word to describe the partnership between Tony De Marco and Theresa Albiloi it is synergy. Business and life partners, this dynamic couple met later in life, yet together they have already accomplished more than many would in a long lifetime. We meet them at The Oxford, a large former guest house they recently refurbished and added to their portfolio of luxury accommodation properties, The Houses Daylesford. The Oxford is massive and sleeps 24. The walls are lined with over 90 original charcoal drawings by artist Derek Erskine. The main room is dominated by an impressive non-sectional double-sided upholstered banquette. "It was made for a house in Caulfield," says Theresa. "It cost them tens of thousands of dollars." Tony jumps in, "we paid a lot less than that," he says with a laugh. "It took a lot of work to reassemble when it arrived."
When the idea that Theresa has the taste and Tony has the brawn, Theresa jumps in. "No, no, no," she says. "Tony knows exactly what to look for to fit out a room to make it look great," she says. She taps her hand on a beautifully worn chesterfield couch as an example. Deep and comfortable the couch looks like it had been there for generations. "And Theresa is pretty handy with a shovel," says Tony with a laugh. Theresa laughs too. They catch each other's eye. They seem very comfortable in each other's company.
Theresa grew up on an irrigated farm near Swan Hill where her father grew, bought and sold grapes and other fruit and veg. She moved to Melbourne and opened a successful store in Ivanhoe selling high-quality educational children's toys. Over the years she and her family spent time in Daylesford where they ended up buying a home and moving to town.
Tony was born on a grazing property at Serpentine north of Bendigo. He knew farming life and he knew people. He developed a way to help farmers plan, manage and invest their assets that launched his career in financial innovation. The role of MC at a mate's wedding in Daylesford years later saw him fall in love with the place. He was looking to buy a property.
By this time Theresa had moved on and was single again. The rest is history.
The first property they bought together was the Station House. Built-in 1853 it was the oldest guesthouse in Daylesford. "It had been on the market for 11 years and I think we were the only ones who saw the potential in the place," says Theresa. "It's a beautiful building and had been well looked after – it just needed overhauling to suit what the modern market requires" says Tony. "There were people in town who wanted to bulldoze it," adds Theresa with a note of chagrin. They worked on the Victorian era building using what has since become their solid core of tradespeople and experts. They kept the best of the original and replaced what needed to be replaced. The new Station House is a beautiful blend of the old with a clawfooted bath, bentwood chairs, wrought iron beds with a kitchen fitted with great cookware, glassware and a table seating ten. With five bedrooms this is one of the smallest of the ten houses that Tony and Theresa have transformed, and one of over 50 they manage for other people.
Back at The Oxford, previously home to renowned local artist David Bromley, Tony and Theresa reflect on their success. "We love preserving historic guest houses," says Theresa. "Daylesford is an amazing place and has always welcomed people," says Tony. "That is something we intend to continue."
The Houses Daylesford: 3 Howe St, Daylesford 03 5348 2008 thehousesdaylesford.com
*Tony and Theresa are the owners and publishers of LOST Magazine.