Orchard Keepers is a superb 10-acre property nestled among the vineyards and orchards of Red Hill on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. There are three cottages that have been standing since the 1890s and 1950s, which have been restored and rejuvenated to create the ideal holiday accommodation with a touch of luxury.
When I phone Poss Sampieri early one Monday morning to arrange a time for this interview, she is busily changing linen bedding after a full weekend of guests. Since opening Orchard Keepers in 2013, her hands-on approach has well and truly paid off.
Warm and vivacious, Poss is the first to admit that maintaining Orchard Keepers requires a huge amount of work. However, she does it with passion, which makes the effort possible, and ultimately, deeply rewarding. “Unless you are actually prepared to do it yourself, get your hands dirty and feel it, it’s not going to work,” she says.
A 24-year background in sales and marketing with Ansett and Air New Zealand has given Poss a wealth of knowledge to apply to running Orchard Keepers, some of which is purely innate. Every detail of the business is carefully considered, from the slick website to the fresh flowers in each room, which are lovingly sourced from local gardens.
Indeed, Orchard Keepers is attracting guests from as far as Singapore, England and America due to her business savvy and dedication to creating a “chic country” escape. Sweeping sea views, an established garden and children’s playground are just a few of the details that make Orchard Keepers stand out. Antique furniture, original artworks, Grown Alchemist and Hale Mercantile Co. bedlinen ensure guests feel suitably indulged.
“The biggest thing for me is that people appreciate the space and feel at home,” she says. “I don’t want Orchard Keepers to be a design success and for people to go there and think it’s awful. I always say it’s not about how it looks, it’s about how it feels.”
After deciding to open a holiday retreat, it took Poss three years to find the right location. Initially she was interested in the neighbouring property but when Orchard Keepers came up for sale, she bought it immediately (it had only been on the market for two days). The charm of the old cottages, beautiful garden and surrounding scenery completely won her over.
Running the business hasn’t been without challenges, but Poss always manages to find clever and positive solutions. You can’t foresee issues that may arise before beginning a business, but these are the things that strengthen your approach and grow your wisdom. “It’s a fine line between picking up on things and becoming too cynical,” she says. “You have to just allow things to happen and you have to let them go.”
Poss says that Orchard Keepers wouldn’t be what it is without the people she works with and is quick to sing their praises. Every few months, she takes her small team out for a meal to touch base and express her gratitude. This open-hearted nature is characteristic of everything she does.
“All the people I work with are not picked randomly, they are who they are because I need them and I know I can’t run the business without them,” she says. “It was basically getting the best people, putting them all together and making it happen.”
Never in her wildest dreams did Poss imagine Orchard Keepers would be such a hit. The picturesque property is already booked out until November 2016, and the future is bright. She has bonded with the Red Hill community, and works closely with local wineries, restaurants, builders and gardeners. Poss is keen to open another holiday retreat in the area, one that offers the same unique features of Orchard Keepers, but with a different design aesthetic.
It seems that part of Orchard Keepers’ success stems from the energy Poss injects into the business and her generous philosophy. With editorials in Elle Decor Ukraine and Condé Nast, Germany, Canada and more, obviously she is doing something pretty special.
“In the last six years of my corporate life I commuted to Sydney every week, so on a Monday morning I’d get on a plane to Sydney and stay for two or three days and I’ve got three kids. I was sometimes in Perth, Brisbane, New Zealand and the States,” she says. “Now when I go to work, I drive down the peninsula, I drive up the driveway with a beautiful hedge and I see the workers’ cottage, which is 150 years old. It’s just such a nice place to be.”