Set In Stone

Australian House & Garden - - CONTENTS - STORY Laura Barry | STYLING Kate Nixon | PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Maree Homer

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.”

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