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A refreshed 1920s-era home filled with heritage charm

Offering a solid foundation and attractive heritage details, this century-old Sydney home represents a shifting phase of life for this family of art lovers.
Refreshed 1920s era homeSue Stubbs

To cross the threshold of this refreshed 1920s-era home is to understand keen art collectors live within. Dwell a little longer and it becomes abundantly clear that the owners, Jeanne and her husband Robert, are also well-versed in hosting guests and providing for their daughters, Saskia, eight, and Allegra, five. The thoughtfully updated brick abode in Sydney’s upper north shore embodies the family’s welcoming, inviting spirit.

The couple, pictured opposite with their daughters Saskia, eight, and Allegra, five, has sensitively reshaped the home’s interiors to provide an ideal backdrop for family life and treasured collections. “It’s been a very gratifying journey so far,” says Jeanne. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

Who lives here? Jeanne, freelance editor and writer, and Robert, director of his company, Actevate, with their two daughters, Saskia, eight, and Allegra, five.

Where do you shop for your home? Jeanne: “Rob and I love scouring markets and auction houses and browsing antique stores.”

Any decorating dilemmas? “Rob is trying to get me to agree to wallpaper in our bedroom, but I prefer to inject colour with artworks.”

Who is your favourite artist? “I’ve finally got my paws on a Clara Adolphs. I also love Queensland artist Dylan Jones.”

“We have such an eclectic art collection, and I quite like mixing things up,” Jeanne muses. “Nothing is static; you can always move things. That’s the beauty of art.” Forming an arresting vignette is Leisl Baker’s Break In The Clouds positioned above an antique Chinese warrior from Nomadic Rug Traders and a sculptural maple chair from the now-shuttered Tyrone Dearing store in Elizabeth Bay. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

“We are very social and always have people over,” says Jeanne, a freelance writer and editor who has lived here since 2019 with Robert, a company director, and their two girls. They resided in Sydney’s inner-city before moving to this leafy suburban enclave. “It was quite a pragmatic move, actually,” Jeanne explains. “One of our daughters is profoundly autistic and she needed to go to a special needs school in this area as suggested by the Royal North Shore Hospital.”

An antique French mirror matches the grandeur of the original marble fireplace. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

As luck would have it, the family were able to settle into a property that Jeanne’s Indonesian-based parents invested in 30 years ago.

“The house has beautiful bones, but it needed a lot of love, as it had been rented out for all of those years,” says Jeanne, who grew up in Jakarta. The original charm is evident, with each generously proportioned room defined by heritage leadlight windows, ornate skirting and delicate plasterwork.

Fresh paint and modern light fittings have revived the former glory of the bedrooms and formal living and dining spaces. The couple’s evolving curation of art and books add moments of colour and movement. “Robert and I are both magpies, and we love collecting. He is more of a maximalist, and I am a minimalist, but somehow, together, we make it work,” she says.

FORMAL LIVING A print by Aquabumps, a bright budgerigar painting by Jane Guthleben and the original leadlight windows add pops of colour to the room featuring a Minotti sofa, a marble coffee table by B&B Italia from Space Furniture, a Robyn Cosgrove rug, a Knoll Platner side table and a 1940s Italian lamp. The glimpse through to the formal dining room shows an untitled artwork by Dale Rhodes (top) and Drool Face by Dylan Jones. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

The most transformative updates have occurred in the kitchen and two bathrooms. Floor plan revisions and the addition of elegant yet durable materials in a neutral palette provide a calm backdrop for family life. “Everything was dark in the old kitchen, and we really wanted to take advantage of the wonderful natural light,” says Jeanne.

KITCHEN The brushed brass sink mixer, Thonet barstools and the Kauri pine flooring add warmth. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

“We basically live in the kitchen now!” Sparkling white surfaces replaced the drab finishes, and the new open layout includes a central island that welcomes gatherings and culinary experimentation. The son of Southern Italian restaurateurs hailing from a long line of providores, Robert can be counted on to craft heavenly meals for all occasions. “Rob is an amazing cook who is happy to bang out a pasta or pizza to a very obliging and appreciative crowd,” Jeanne says.

KITCHEN With the help of Dégabriele Kitchens and Interiors, Jeanne and Robert designed an airy kitchen. “Rob loves marble, and I wanted to offset it with something more homely, so we chose handmade subway tiles from Di Lorenzo.” (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

A glass vase from Freedom echoes the tones of the home’s leadlight windows. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

The airy kitchen flows out to a patio overlooking the pool, the girls’ separate playroom, and a young vegetable garden. “It’s lovely to see this house evolve and change to accommodate the needs of our family,” she shares. “We feel very privileged to be the custodians of this home for the next generation.”

FORMAL DINING Around an Eero Saarinen table from Knoll are B&B Italia ‘Melandra’ dining chairs and Art Deco chairs. The rug is from Shapiro and the pendant is by Flos. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

“I like things with patina, as does Rob, and I love breathing new life into old pieces,” says Jeanne. Above an antique sideboard in the formal dining room is a wall of artworks (below) by, clockwise from top left, Dani McKenzie (two artworks), Dale Rhodes, Pablo Tapia, Dylan Jones, Kristen Lethem and Julz Beresford.

A curation of antiques, midcentury design and art in the formal dining area. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

ALLEGRA’S BEDROOM A cheeky dog portrait from North Sydney Markets overlooks a Pottery Barn canopy bed that’s dressed in a Kmart quilt set and star cushions from Numero 74. All bedrooms boast heritage details modernised with coats of Grey Reflections Quarter by Dulux. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

Allegra’s bedroom has a palette of soft pink and grey and has layered details. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

The elegantly subdued colour palette continues into the main bathroom designed by the homeowners in collaboration with Sydney Circle Property Services and Just Bathroomware. Classic touches include brass tapware by Brodware, white subway wall tiles and Nero Marquina floor tiles, both from Tile Factory Outlet.

MAIN BATHROOM Vanity by Architectural Designer Products finished with a Carrara marble benchtop and Just Bathroomware sinks. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

Brass tapware by Brodware paired with elegant sinks from Just Bathroomware. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

WE LOVE… creative reuse

Reduce your spending, and the waste, during renovations by salvaging surfaces. In this home, the original kitchen was gutted, but the cabinet doors were reinvented with coats of Dulux Lexicon Quarter and incorporated into the layout. “We chose brass drawer pulls and knobs from Mother of Pearl in Waterloo,” says Jeanne.

MAIN BEDROOM Jeanne and Rob’s serene retreat is tastefully decorated with a Fanuli Furniture bed frame, ‘Tolomeo’ lamps from Artemide on the antique Biedermeier-era side tables and a duo of framed Italian antique sketches, a nod to Robert’s family heritage. The bedding is from Sheridan and Busatti. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

(Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)


Interior design: Dégabriele Kitchens and Interiors, (02) 9958 5668, degabrielekitchens.com.au.

Builder: Sydney Circle Property Services, sydneycircle.com.au.

BACKYARD “The pool was one of the biggest drawcards of moving to suburbia,” says Jeanne. The pool surrounds have been revamped with stone tiles from Amber Tiles, while the hedge of Viburnum and ‘Teddy Bear’ magnolia provides privacy and lushness. Plans are afoot for further updates in the backyard. “We are in the process of engaging a landscaper to give us advice on our garden and pool area,” Jeanne reveals. The outdoor dining set is a Philippe Starck design from Space Furniture. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

HOME EXTERIOR Framed by happy agapanthus, Jeanne and Robert’s home has sat on the streets of Sydney’s north shore since the 1920s. (Photography: Ess Creative / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

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