Bringing an older property into the modern era takes masses of patience and a steadfast vision. For heritage-home lover Fleur, the intricacies of the renovation process are always worth the character-filled outcome. The home she shares with her husband Phil and their three children, Grace, 11, and six-year-old twins Max and Maddie, is her fourth renovation project.
The five bedroom Victorian home in Sydney’s Mosman has been given a fresh start, with a polished original exterior and a historically minded modern interior. “I used to call it ‘The Cream Shack’ because everything inside and outside was cream,” says Fleur.
When the couple first viewed the property in 2013, the potential shimmered through those beige layers and decades of unceremonious updates. “Phil liked the size and tall ceilings, and I liked the style and the history of it,” explains Fleur. “I could see the beauty in it, but the layout was horrible and it had been added to and butchered.”
Fleur realised that, with the right team, she could bring back the original 1890s charm, creating a family friendly home that was, in her words, “beautiful but not precious”
She and Phil engaged Helga ten Brummelaar of DTB Architects to strip the home to its authentic self and design a complementary layout that worked for family life.
Fleur and Helga delved deep into the local council archives to uncover the property’s story. “I think it’s important to do that before you do something detrimental to the house,” says Fleur.
If you change it too much, you ruin it and lose something you can never bring back.”
The DA was approved in 2016, just as the family made a temporary move to New Zealand for Phil’s work. Their Mosman charmer was rented out, but Fleur never stopped planning.
She started to design the interiors in 2018 before deciding it was too tricky to complete remotely and reached out to interior designers Louise Smith and Talia Levine of Smith + Levine. They conducted design presentations over Skype and FaceTime and posted samples for Fleur’s approval.
The duo designed the beautiful kitchen and three bathrooms, as well as the joinery and lighting plans, and formed a cohesive finishes palette that fell in line with Fleur’s brief of “sophisticated but pared back”.
Upon returning to Australia in 2019, Fleur, Phil, Grace and the twins lived in a nearby rental while BeareBuilt expertly turned the renovation around in a tight nine-month schedule.
The upper level was extended, the ground floor received a layout shake-up and loads of custom cabinetry, joinery and classic finishes were added.
The family happily moved back into their home in April 2020, and Fleur is just as happy to report that life in the updated Victorian has exceeded all expectations.
“The biggest fear when you first start the renovation process is that you will design spaces that don’t get used – but we use everything here!” she says. That’s the success of this home. All of it is functional as well as beautiful.”
“You design beautiful things because you want them to look lovely, but you actually have to use it all, too!” ~ Fleur
“This house could have become quite minimalist, but I wanted a clean design, with just a little bit of fuss!” ~ Fleur
When Jessica isn’t styling shoots for magazines or foraging in op shops, she is tucked up in her 1970s home surrounded by a national park, writing about interiors, gardens and people for popular print and digital titles. Her book “Individual: Inspiration for creating a home that is uniquely your own” was released internationally in 2019.
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