The redesign of a multilayered Victorian home heralds a new Age where it’s hip not to be square
“We wanted an extension that honored and responded to the property’s history, including its quirks.”
The front of the home — with different but connected formal and informal living rooms around the ground floor, and two bedrooms, a study and family bathroom on the first
Flooring — was trendy and filled with character. But an ad-hoc lean-to at the back, accommodating the kitchen and laundry, fully disconnected the living spaces from the big north-facing backyard. “Additionally, it blocked a great deal of light from entering the core of the house,” says Fiona.
Her solution was to demolish the existing lean-to and replace it with a single-storey timber and glass extension, which contains the kitchen/dining place, a laundry and another bathroom, with a private terrace on the roof. “The design was motivated by Victorian women’s style,” says Fiona. “Seen in the road — the original structure and extension for a whole — that the house evokes a formal dress with a bustle at the back” A ribbon-like picket fence, winding its way along the boundary line, adds to the couture effect.
The materials are considerably more robust than the satin and lace used in Victorian dressmaking, nevertheless. The kitchen’s island seat, for instance, consists of concrete and faced with terracotta tiles. There is also a built-in wood shelf for cookbooks, artwork and pottery. Equally sturdy is the dining table, a late 19th-century piece that — coincidentally — was formerly a dressmaker’s, used for cutting fabric and laying out patterns.
The garden, designed by Jo Ferguson, features curvaceous, ruffle-inspired walls by Elizabeth’s brother, stonemason Andrew Wilmott. It is lushly planted with a thoughtful combination of water-wise plants, plus pencil pines (Syzygium australe’Pinnacle’) along the boundary, which will gradually screen out the neighbouring property. The centrepiece is a lovely old apricot tree, which can be heavy with fruit from November.
From the 1930s, the then-owners modernised the house by installing a toilet on the first floor — with an on-trend all-green colour scheme, right down to the base bowl and embossed mirror with whimsical sailboat motif. “You can just imagine how excited that the family would have been when their new bathroom was finished,” says Elizabeth. Nowadays, it’s Fiona’s renovation which evokes that feeling of excitement in its owners. “The house always had good bones,” says Elizabeth. “And it’s also beautifully dressed”