Home Tours

A Federation restoration awash with colour and pattern

One couple have created a light and bright home rooted in traditional Federation style.
Colourful renovation Federation home with harbour viewsDave Wheeler

Having grown up surrounded by art, homeowner Emily was instilled with a love of colour from a young age. So when she found her forever home – a traditional Federation house in Sydney with views of the harbour and headland – it was only natural that she would fill its rooms with uplifting hues and classic prints.

On Sydney’s Lower North Shore, homeowners Emily and Ben have created a light and bright home while honouring the traditional heart of the home. The family room is the perfect example of this, with its clean, white walls and a sofa upholstered in Anna Spiro Textiles ‘Grandma’s Quilt’ fabric atop hardy sisal rugs. Cushions covered in Anna Spiro Textiles ‘Marigold Solid’ (yellow) and Jab Anstoetz ‘Chennai’ (floral) fabrics and Coote & Co ‘Pineapple’ lamps with Vanderhurd ‘Flower Cut Out’ shades bring additional colour and personality. “The colours are very uplifting, and I love anything pretty,” says Emily of the space, which enjoys access to an outdoor lounge and entertaining area courtesy of large French doors.

“My husband Ben and I both love colour and comfort, and have been collecting art for a long time,” she tells. “Pinks, yellows, greens and blues are a common theme in most rooms, helping the house feel light and bright.” The home’s high ceilings and original plasterwork lent themselves to the painterly palette, but Emily and Ben were keen to modernise the layout and make the most of those sparkling harbour views. “The kitchens, bathrooms and terrace were all past their use by date and the multi-terraced backyard was completely impractical for a young, growing family,” recalls Emily, who is mum to three teenagers, Essie, 18, Harvey, 16, and Archie, 13.

FAMILY ROOM Above the sofa in Brunschwig & Fils ‘Chancellor II Strie’ fabric in the family room is a wall of artworks, many of which have a personal connection. “My mum and grandmother are/were hobby artists and I am lucky to have quite a lot of their work on display,” says Emily. Artworks top row, from left: a David Bromley print; flowers in vase by Sue Rowsell; painting by Stewart MacFarlane. Middle row, from left: painting by Emily’s grandmother, Judy Sadler; a self-portrait by Archie (black frame) next to one by Essie; print by Ken Done; self-portrait by Archie. Bottom row, from left: Three Studies of a Dancer by Edgar Degas; a linocut by Kit Hiller; blue stretched canvas painting by Judy Sadler; another linocut by Kit Hiller; painting by Esther Eckley.

Who lives here? Emily and Ben, with their three children Essie, 18, Harvey, 16, and Archie, 13, and Perry and Pickles the mini schnauzers.

Best reno decision? Emily: “Levelling the backyard was expensive but worth it. Also adding the roof insulation – it was very cold the first winter that we lived in the house!”

Greatest indulgence? “All of our bathrooms have Royal Albert baths, which is a treat and very much enjoyed.”

Best place to source art? “A lot of art discoveries have been made on Instagram; there are so many talented artists out there.”

Top styling tip? “Be brave and just go for it. If you find something you love, you’ll make it work.”

BREAKFAST BAR Opposite the kitchen island is a breakfast bar with barstools upholstered in China Seas ‘Malay Batik’.

KITCHEN Emily and Ben chose marble for the benchtops and the island bench is in Porter’s Paints Jodhphur Blue. “It’s the one room we are often all in at the same time,” shares Emily. The dining room flows from this space with a table from Tim Noone, custom chairs by Anna Spiro in Link Outdoor ‘Eight Stripe’ fabric and a cheery Anna Charlesworth pendant overhead.

And so a two-year renovation began, with many of the period features retained or restored and modern improvements added. The bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and living spaces were revamped, and the backyard levelled to create a recreational space. Interior designer Anna Spiro was a natural choice to curate the decor and finishes, bringing her expert eye and colour prowess to the project. “Anna’s interiors are beautiful, happy and perfectly suited to a relaxed family home,” says Emily. “We knew from the start that we wanted to work with her, and we loved everything she suggested.”

LIBRARY A library nook flows from the sitting room and “evokes a wonderful feeling walking from such a large open space into a small room wrapped in books”, says Anna. The blinds are in Anna Spiro Textiles ‘Kahuna Multi’ fabric in a custom colourway.

Anna and her team layered sisal rugs and woollen carpets with patterned upholstery, ornate furniture and quality finishes for a classic look. “Emily loved the freshness and brightness of white walls, so we incorporated colour in the soft and hard finishes,” Anna shares.

Clever choices of painted joinery, tiles of various hues and joyful lampshades elevate each room and are a reflection of Emily and her family’s laid-back approach to life.

SITTING ROOM In a cosy corner of the sitting room, a sofa features Marvic Textiles ‘Renishaw’ upholstery in Mimosa, Anna Spiro Design ‘Curlewis’ armchairs in GP & J Baker Fabrics ‘Bamboo Bird’ and an ottoman that’s been decked with Anna Spiro Textiles ‘Paniola Multi’ fabric. “Buying beautiful custom-made furniture through Anna has been one of the best things we’ve done,” says Emily.

With its new layout, the home offers the perfect mix of places to gather and retreat. Teenagers Essie, Harvey and Archie can seek out some parent-free time in the basement living room, gym, outdoor trampolining area or sports court. “The kids are better entertainers than us and have friends over all the time,” Emily admits.

SITTING ROOM Another view of the sitting room with a sofa in Colefax and Fowler ‘Eaton Check’ upholstery, an ottoman in Elliott Clarke Textiles ‘Queensbury Stripe’, a Thomas O’Brien ‘Vendome’ chandelier from Visual Comfort and lamps from Orient House (left) and Bloomingdale’s (right). Emily and Ben’s artworks also shine here – two by Emily’s grandmother Judy Sadler above the dresser, a large work by Papunya artist Adam Butler and a smaller one by Jo White.

An Anna Spiro Textiles patterned lampshade on a soft blue Bragg & Co base tie in with Curtains in Anna Spiro Textiles ‘Kahuna Multi’ fabric.

WE LOVE … bold carpet

Layers of colour and pattern abound in Emily and Ben’s home, and designer Anna Spiro took it one step further in the formal sitting room with a custom Axminster carpet. It adds a point of contrast against the bright yellow, blue and green upholstered furniture while paying homage to the home’s history. Try Brintons for something similar.

A collection of art and interior design books on display in the music room.

Meanwhile, she and Ben find themselves moving between the cosy sitting room with its custom furniture and library nook, and the sunny family room that opens to the covered terrace and views. “It’s a great home for finding your own space or coming together as a family; it’s hard to think of anything we’d change,” shares Emily. “We were incredibly lucky to have it finished pre-Covid – it was the very best place to isolate.”

POWDER ROOM “Each bathroom has a different personality with different coloured tiles or paint,” says Emily. Seen here are Belleza Verde wall tiles from Old World Tiles and a Perrin & Rowe basin from The English Tapware Company.

The colour continues in the stairwell and landing with a Hartley & Tissier stair runner sourced by Anna through Ascraft, and a red Persian runner that’s been in Emily’s family for years.

UPSTAIRS LANDING A pink chair from Pigott’s Store sits beside an antique table, with an artwork by Sophie Gralton above. Artworks by Cath Beynon, Ali Wood and Vanessa Encarnacao (top to bottom) decorate the stairwell.

Books, vases and a Pigott’s Store knot sculpture sit atop an antique table, with a framed Sophie Gralton artwork above.

MAIN BATHROOM A custom vanity by Madders Bespoke Furniture is painted Dulux Primal and has a marble benchtop for contrast. Blinds in Studio One Thirty ‘Poppy’ fabric.

“The painted joinery paired with the tiles adds beautiful layers of pattern and colour,” says Anna.

Moroccan pink glazed tiles from Tiles of Ezra adorn the main bathroom.

Anna Spiro Textiles ‘Oahu’ fabric covers a bedhead in one guest room.

The couple added built-ins to all the bedrooms, including this guest room.

Custom cabinetry solved storage in a snap in the mudroom, which was modelled on a locker room. “Ben was determined that everyone in the house have their own locker, even the adults,” says Emily. Madders Bespoke Furniture made all the storage including the seat upholstered in Peter Dunham Textiles ‘Fez’ outdoor fabric by Steal the Limelight.

LAUNDRY & MUDROOM Pickles the Mini Schnauzer stays cool on the Winckelmans tessellated floor tiles from Olde English Tiles in the mudroom.


Interior design: Anna Spiro Design, (07) 3254 3000, annaspirodesign.com.au.

Architect: Giles Tribe Architects, (02) 9264 5005, gilestribe.com.au.

Builder: Home Construct Bespoke Residential, 0421 347 267, homeconstruct.com.au.

Landscaping: Inspired Exteriors, (02) 8057 3175, inspiredexteriors.com.au.

Joinery: Madders Bespoke Furniture, (07) 3889, 9344, madders.com.au.

The slate roofline, period verandah tiling and columns were reinstated.

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