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A glimpse inside a timeless Sydney home decorated with vintage finds

This striking Sydney cottage embraces the old in a quintessentially modern manner.
Border Collie lying in front of French doors at a renovated home in Sydney's Balmain.Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila

On first impression, Leanne and her husband Trent are polar opposites. She’s outgoing, spontaneous, a chatterbox. He’s reserved and a little more risk-adverse. But, like the monochrome theme that runs throughout their vintage style Sydney home, these two are a perfect match. “A French woman we know says that Trent and I are like peas and carrots: different but they work well together,” says Leanne, who, with Trent, owns Quintessential Duckeggblue, a found antiques and decorative objects store (and a HB favourite) in Sydney’s Balmain, and its sibling fashion boutique, Duckeggblue.

That complementary style works at home, too. The couple’s compact sandstone workman’s cottage in Sydney’s inner west showcases some of the grand pieces that Leanne gathers on her biannual treasure hunts through English, French and Belgian markets, farms, homes and factories. Thanks to her consummate curating, the large objects work seamlessly in the little space. “I’m sure some people think, ‘One bedroom – oh no!’ ” she says with a laugh. “But it’s just Trent and me, and what percentage of their houses do most people live in? A third, then they never use the rest.” This attitude extends to their decor and possessions. “I tend towards less is more,” she says. “There are pieces that furnish a home, and then there are those that define it. We collect and curate pieces that do the latter.”

Border Collie lying at the opening of French doors which lead into a restored courtyard.
Pre-renovation, this sun-dappled courtyard, where Woody enjoys the breeze, was the side entrance. Now revamped, it’s one of Leanne’s favourite spots. “We decorated with a French bistro table and chairs, and a mixture of white flowering plants. I only have white and shades of blue and purple throughout the courtyards.” (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)

Who lives here?

Leanne and her husband Trent, owners of antique and industrial furniture store Quintessential Duckeggblue, and clothing boutique Duckeggblue in Sydney’s Balmain.

What do you love about your home? Trent: “The aesthetic. The patinas, and the way it’s come together so well. I love the colour, graininess and craftsmanship of our pieces. You just don’t get that anymore.”

What are have you found you use for post-renovation? Leanne: “The side courtyard. Before, it had no practical use and was prime for renovation. We added a raised deck to make it level with the kitchen and dining area, and put in custom-made sash kitchen windows and French doors.”

Man and woman stand on the stairs of a Sydney home decorated with vintage and antique finds.
When the couple renovated the compact, 1880 workman’s cottage in Sydney’s inner west three years ago, their architect, Josephine Hurley, added a little Hamptons style by lining the stairs and adjoining dining-room walls and ceiling with boards. “I have a soft spot for the Hamptons look,” says Leanne. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)

Every one of Leanne’s finds has a tale that delights the clever decorator, who attributes her passion for rich craftsmanship to her upbringing. Originally from Stockton-on-Tees in north-east England, she spent much of her childhood in her house full of honest and practical furniture. “Everything was tactile and handmade,” she recounts. “I think that’s why I’m drawn to pieces with age and character.”

So it is with Leanne and Trent’s late 19th-century home, which still retains many of its original features, including the fireplace and floorboards. The couple happened across the former renovators’ delight in 2002. “I walked in and thought, ‘It’s got so much potential,’ and Trent walked in and thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m going from a renovated house to this place!’ ” Leanne recalls.

The pair tackled the two main rooms downstairs first, ripping up the old carpet, stripping back the floorboards and repainting, but as they were firmly in the throes of setting up their businesses, lived in it as it was for 10 years before tackling the rest of the home in 2012.

White hallway with arched details in a Sydney's workers cottage in Balmain
Framed portraits line the walls of the hallway, including one of Winston Churchill. “I’ve also got a thing about Winston Churchill. It’s my old British-stiff-upper-lip, we-will-not-be-defeated thing!” says Leanne. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)

The second time around, the bedroom upstairs metamorphosed into Leanne’s office, the bathroom and kitchen were completely overhauled, the front garden became a driveway, the back courtyard was transformed and the whole place repainted.

Now, when Leanne and Trent crave down time, they retreat to their own private sanctuary filled with beautiful objects and their four dogs, Ralphy, Woody, Millhouse and Muffin who, like everything in the home, have their very own spot.

“Ralphy is normally attached to one end of the couch and Leanne’s at the other end,” Trent says. “I lounge on the club chair, Muffin sits in front of the fireplace, Millhouse will be in the hallway and Woody loves lying on cold surfaces because he’s really old.” And, like all of the couple’s other possessions, much loved.

Reading nook in a living room featuring graphic wall art and library wallpaper.
Deborah Browness ‘Bookshelves’ wallpaper and a Night Market 11 artwork by Guy Matthews decorate the living room. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)
Vintage decor on top of a timber coffee table at a Sydney home.
Heart and soul emanate from every sumptuously decorated space in the Sydney home of Leanne and Trent (opposite), who spend their workdays surrounded by equally gorgeous wares at their treasure trove of a store, Quintessential Duckeggblue. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)


A vintage zinc Brillié clock is a stand-out piece in the couple’s kitchen, which also includes an enamel British Transport sign from the 1930s. “It’s a perfect find in my eyes,” Leanne says, “and it adds an interesting layer to the subway tiling.” Leanne and Trent rarely cook, but still designed the kitchen around the handsome Belling ‘Richmond’ range oven that reminds Leanne of her childhood. “It is inspired by my nanna’s Aga,” she says. “She cooked on that all her life.

My nanna was a really great cook, but I don’t seem to have inherited her talents!” Displayed around the room are collections of vintage kitchenware, including copper pots, stoneware for mustard and jams and white Shelley jelly moulds. “The shapes and patterns are beautiful,” Leanne says. “I’ve never used them for making jelly, just for decorative or practical purposes, like displaying herbs.”

Black and white kitchen with Belling oven and cooker and vintage wall clock.
Leanne’s kitchen is decorated with vintage cookware and art. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)
“The timber road sign fits my love of black, white and typography,” says Leanne. “I have no connection at all to the actual destination!” (Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)

Dining room

A collection of old chairs surround the French walnut table that Leanne found in Provence and lovingly restored. The buffet dates to the late 1700s and was refurbished by Trent. “He was careful not to over-restore it,” Leanne says. “We love natural flaws and the warmth and history of the patina.”

“I love beautiful old shop fittings: the type that would have been in family-owned stores where a bell rang when you walked in.”

– Leanne, homeowner
Dining room styled with eclectic vintage finds at a home in Sydney's Balmain.
The dining room is painted in Dulux Antique White USA half-strength. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)


The main courtyard, where Leanne and Trent often relax with their four dogs, plays host to an antique table and chairs and an industrial window, all found in the south of France. “I reclaim old windows, restore them to their former glory and add mirrored glass to them,” Leanne explains. “It’s not an easy job.”

Pre-renovation, this sun-dappled courtyard where Woody enjoys the breeze, was the side entrance. Now revamped, it’s one of Leanne’s favourite spots. “We decorated with a French bistro table and chairs, and a mixture of white flowering plants. I only have white and shades of blue and purple throughout the courtyards.”

French doors leading from a kitchen into a courtyard decorated with ecclectic vintage plant pots.
The courtyard is decorated with white and blue flowering plants. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)
Kitchen butler's sink with classic kitchen tapware.
A classic butlers sink overlooks the courtyard, and is paired with a Perrin & Rowe ‘Ionian’ mixer from The English Tapware Company. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)

Home office

One of Leanne and Trent’s favourite pieces is the 1920s mahogany tall boy in the upper-level attic.

“It was originally in a gentleman’s clothing and tailor store,” says Leanne, who designed the built-in shelving around the piece. “It’s full of handbags, sunglasses and my sketchbooks and portfolios. It’s great storage.”

Quintessential Duckeggblue's Leanne Carter-Taylor working from Sydney home office.
The striking ‘Well Glass’ pendants are by English firm Davey Lighting, available here through Dunlin. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)


An old trolley from a Sydney hospital doubles as a bedside table and houses a working Bakelite radio in the home’s one and only bedroom. Neutral-toned Sheridan linen dresses the bed, and Leanne discovered the industrial pendant light in France.

“I found just this single but even if I’d found another one, I wouldn’t have hung it on the opposite side of the bed: I don’t really go in for matching pairs,” Leanne says. The school hooks are a practical solution: “I’m really bad at putting my clothes away!”

Main bedroom decorated with statement vintage horse wallpaper and large wooden wall hooks.
An industrial pendant light sourced in France hangs above the bedside in the home’s only bedroom. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)
Close up of bedside table and bedroom with vintage style horse wallpaper.
In the bedroom, vintage-look ‘Gilpin Horses’ paper by UK maker Lewis & Wood adds a distinct pastoral charm. “It’s quintessentially British and reminds me of my grandparent’s farm, where I spent much of my childhood,” Leanne says. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)


A cast-iron freestanding bath , from The Cast Iron Bath Company in the UK, is one of the home’s few new pieces and weighs a cool 135 kilograms.

“I wanted just a shower but Trent said, ‘There’s only one thing I’m asking for in this house and it’s a claw-foot bath,’ ” Leanne recalls. “So that bath got put in – I had to get God knows how many people in to carry it because it’s so heavy. We’ve had it for more than two years now and it’s been used five times!”

White subway tiled bathroom with vintage style and pedestal sink.
The Perrin & Rowe ‘Victorian’ handbasin and pedestal is from the English Tapware Company. A heated towel rail is a luxurious contemporary addition to the otherwise traditionally styled room. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)
Black and white bathroom with black clawfoot bath tub and subway wall tiles.
Subway tiles continue the heritage vibe in the bathroom, as does a vintage timber ladder. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes | Styling: John Mangila)

Interior design: Leanne Carter-Taylor, Quintessential Duckeggblue

Architect: Josephine Hurley Architecture

Builder: Kevin Mahoney, 2M Projects

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