New life for old schoolhouse
NOEL Frankham bought his Dulcot home in 2005 but his family connection to the Federation schoolhouse goes back generations.
The George St property was originally the Dulcot School, built in 1899. However, it operated as a school only between 1900 and 1910, and Noel’s family has occupied it ever since – spanning four generations.
Noel, who is the UTAS Professor of Art and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Arts, bought the house from a cousin who had inherited it from her father.
He renovated the property in 2010 with noted builder Denis Pybus.
“I spent a lot of time here as a child when my great uncle and aunt lived here. I remember they were fantastic cooks,” Noel said.
“I was born here and lived in the next house over when we were kids, moved to Launceston but came back to the farm.
“We all feel a strong connection to this district … almost all of the family has gravitated back here [ at Dulcot].”
Always a split- level property, the home’s oldest parts are two steps higher than the new.
The classroom windows in what is now the sitting room were originally set very high, ensuring students would not be distracted by anything outside.
Lowering those windows was one of the first things the Frankhams did when they moved into the schoolhouse. They also added a ceiling and divided the classroom into two rooms.
The sturdy house was originally orientated to the street, with practically no windows at the back.
Noel returned the space to one room and knocked the back wall out to create a living area with views over nearby Pittwater and a master bedroom where the “sun climbs into bed with me in the morning”.
When designing the renovation, Noel took great care to keep the property’s proportions the same and to carefully blend old and new.
He didn’t want a historic house at the front jarring with a contemporary, contrasting addition at the rear.
“Even though from the outside it still has the look of the school, it now functions much more as a house than it ever did,” he said.
In the kitchen, instead of a typical splashback, Noel installed a long window that soaks up the western afternoon sun.
One of his favourite features is the weatherboard, which can be found inside the home in the hallway that joins the living and sleeping spaces.
“[ Builder] Denis Pybus was terrific,” Noel said. “He understood what I wanted to get out of the house.
“We wanted to reflect what had already been done to it, use similar- quality materials, but to incorporate contemporary features such as big windows, bi- fold doors and a kitchen at the centre of the house instead of tucked away as an afterthought.
“We restored some elements that had been lost, such as the fireplace and the classroom itself.
“There is a sense of the original structure in places like the hall that we chose not to plaster over.”
An expansive deck completed the renovation – a project for which Noel set a strict deadline.
“My mother turned 80 in 2010 and we had the goal to have her 80th birthday in the house she was born in,” Noel said.
Noel would love to hear from anyone else in Tasmania living in Federation schoolhouses. Phone Noel on 6226 1820.
Anyone interested in putting their own amazing home up for consideration for house of the week can email jessica. howard@ news. com. au