Set In Stone
A Gothic Revival home in Sydney sent forward in time as a contemporary family abode.
This Gothic-revival home in Sydney had been beautifully renovated, but the couple who bought it were divided on the decor.
Aserendipitous discovery on Sydney’s north shore led Lisa and Glenn Duncan to their forever home. While on the way to look at another house, they came upon Allowah – a Gothic-revival home built in 1881 – which also happened to be open for inspection. Initially venturing inside to kill some time, the pair were quickly won over by the sandstone property’s harbourside location and old-world charm.
“This home was one of the first built in the area but converted to flats in the 1950s, when it started to deteriorate,” says Lisa. “The previous owners had spent two years turning it back into a home and it was beautiful.” After living there for a few months, however, Lisa and Glenn decided to make changes to the layout and largely grey interior to better accommodate them and their three twenty-something daughters: Antonia, Kristina and Montana.
“We’re practical people and there were some basics we needed to add, such as storage, a pantry and a bigger laundry,” says Lisa. The kitchen also needed updating, and a decision was made to install a lift in the two-storey structure. “This is our forever home, and we needed to take into consideration that we’re not getting any younger. We thought going up and down a lot of stairs might be a problem later on in life.”
Challenges during the construction period include being hit by two major storms, which left the Duncans with a waterfall running down the sandstone walls in the formal living area, and lots of other structural repairs to future proof the property, such as repointing the four chimneys. The previous owners had already enclosed the verandah with glass, making it a lovely space to use in all weather conditions. The main house is spread over two levels, with a foyer opening to a courtyard on the ground floor. The foyer’s original tessellated tiles and even some of its original stained glass has survived. A formal living room, office, kitchen, butler’s pantry, powder room and laundry occupy the rest of this level, along with the verandah’s living and dining spaces. Upstairs is the main bedroom with ensuite, a bedroom for each of their three daughters and a large family bathroom. Off to the side of the house, via a library, is a wing that acts as a standalone flat, complete with a bedroom, small kitchen and bathroom.
The Duncans hired interior designer Lisa Burdus to furnish and decorate the home in a way that was practical, textured, colourful – and incorporated their conflicting tastes: traditional (Lisa) and contemporary (Glenn). Lisa B, an expert in mixing old and new, dressed the kitchen, dining and living room in understated tones of blue and natural wood, with subtle metallic touches throughout (“I don’t like things that are too shiny,” says Lisa). Meanwhile, the colour palette in the formal living area is a clever combination of green, teal, mustard and cranberry red. Its soft-green wallpaper is a eucalyptus-leaf print. “It sounds busy, but is actually a very calming room,” she adds.
Lisa says looking at the sandstone walls of her home is like “watching history unfold” and is proud to be looking after this gem. “We still have that love-at-first-sight feeling when we walk in. Thanks to the work Lisa B put into our home, it now feels 100 per cent ours. It’s incredibly warm, welcoming and filled with wonderfully eclectic pieces that complement the essence of the house, and express the personality of my family.”