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An elegant French provincial dream home in Sydney’s Lower North Shore

This stately home was given a makeover and extended to meet the needs of a family of seven.
A formal living room with blue bird wallpaper and French furniture.Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton

As parents to five growing daughters, Kim and Sean Gleason needed a home that would be large enough for them to all live comfortably together while also providing enough breakout spaces for much-needed solitary time. They discovered this grand sandstone abode on Sydney’s Lower North Shore in 2011 and immediately recognised its dream-home potential.

A two-storey sandstone house and jacaranda trees.
“I have always loved sandstone homes,” says homeowner Kim of the characterful detail that sold her on this beautiful Sydney stunner, built in 1901, from the very second she saw it. As such, she left the original facade untouched, which nicely feeds into the French decor she introduced inside. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

“The house used to be three apartments and was converted back to a home in the late 1970s,” says Kim. “The floor plan was very good, but it was in desperate need of a cosmetic update. There was also a lot of spare land, which we could use for an extension.”

A balcony view through trees to the river.
A balcony off the main bedroom looks onto flowering jacaranda trees and Sydney Harbour. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

Who lives here?

Kim and Sean, their five daughters Olivia, 19, Isabella, 17, Gabrielle, 15, Annalise, 14, and Evelyn, eight, plus two Ragdoll cats, Mittens and Slurpee, and Daisy the Toy Cavoodle.
Where? Sydney’s Lower North Shore, NSW.
Time frame? The renovation was completed in four stages over the course of eight years.
The dream? To design a beautiful home with a French feel for the large family.
Approach: An extension was added to include extra bedrooms and living spaces, followed by cosmetic updates for the existing rooms.
Must haves: Engineered timber floors to replace the granite, ornate mouldings in the entry and main bedroom, a new kitchen featuring two dishwashers and a wall of refrigeration for the large family, plus new bathrooms.
Wishlist: A layered, lived-in, French-inspired interior filled with beautiful pieces.
Why is this your dream home? “There is something to see in every corner and most pieces have a story to tell. Coming home to this makes me feel very proud,” says Kim.

With a background in interior design, Kim took charge of the renovations alongside a team of trusted trades. The updates were completed in stages over the course of eight years, so the family could live in the home the entire time.

A decorative vintage birdcage beside a hallway.
Kim loves collecting decorative vintage bird cages from antique shops and auctions to feature around her home. “You have to be lucky with your timing; they just turn up every now and then,” she says. Resene Cougar graces the interior walls, with trims in Dulux Natural White. A vintage wallpaper found on eBay is framed with plaster panels. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

The first stage of this renovation was the extension, which included an extra three bedrooms, a little kitchen, two bathrooms and a living area. “Our three teenagers share this space now, but it was where we all lived while we finished the other renovations,” says Kim. From there, the works shifted to the ground floor of the original home, where they repainted, installed ornate wall mouldings in the entry foyer and replaced the granite flooring (because, Kim explains, “everything would smash on it”) with engineered timber.

A foyer and staircase with a vintage style chandelier.
Parisian-style wall mouldings and ornate cornices were added in the entry and stairwell to create Kim’s desired French style, complementing the pre-existing chandelier. A Turkish rug and wicker planters add a cosy, lived-in feel to the landing. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

A storage area under the stairs became a powder room, and the “not very functional” kitchen was reconfigured to include additional appliances and a small butler’s pantry.

A vintage wall sconce surrounded by decorative wall mouldings.
Kim also had the French candle sconce from Wayfair in the US rewired. It makes an eye-catching statement against the wall painted with a Porter’s Paints French Wash finish in Popcorn. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

Moving upstairs, all the bedrooms and bathrooms have been given a fresh, French-inspired facelift, while the final stage of the home’s grand transformation – the backyard, gardens and pool area – was completed last year, just in time for summer.

A window seat with cushions and striped curtains.
Design Curtains fashioned the window seat and blinds, and the plush cushions are from Adairs. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

Formal living room

“You won’t find minimalist in my home!” says Kim of the layered interiors. The formal living is punctuated by a colourful wallpaper from James Dunlop Textiles and furniture pieces sourced at auction, such as the Italian vintage Florentine cabinet.

A formal living room with blue bird wallpaper and French furniture.
With such a wide array of impactful pieces making strong style statements, Kim introduced an understated vintage area rug from Unique Rug Store to pull the space together. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

“The French antique sofa came from a friend’s home,” shares Kim. “She has a house full of beautiful antiques and I had always admired it.”

A formal living room with a chandelier, French provincial furniture and blue wallpaper.
Kim has nailed the art of mixing fabrics, from brocade and florals to gingham and animal prints. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

“With the beautiful old sandstone exterior and additions of French antiques, wallpapers and rustic finishes, my French-style dream home was created.”

– Kim
A coffee table with a decorative tray, book and planter.
While the European influence is strong, Kim has introduced points of contrast with wooden beaded necklaces, purchased while on holiday in Bali, displayed on a tray. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)
A vintage cane chair beside a wall of decorative peacock wallpaper.
Decorative flourishes are found in every corner of the home. This antique chair is used as a statement piece to display objects. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

Kitchen and dining

Open shelves in the butler’s pantry hold Kim’s collection of cabbageware and ceramic drink barrels, picked up over the years, while the corner nook provides the perfect spot for little Evelyn to sneak a pretzel. The patisserie sign is from Etsy, adding another French touch to the space, and an antique Dayton weighing scale hangs from the ceiling.

The kitchen area with shaker cabinets, a black stove top and skylight.
An Ilve ‘Majestic’ cooker pairs beautifully with the custom rangehood and gets plenty of use from the family of seven. “I love to cook and bake. The kitchen layout, with its small butler’s pantry, is perfect for all of my needs,” says Kim. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

When you need to accommodate for a large family, more really is more – especially when it comes to appliances. As a keen cook and mum of five, Kim needed the kitchen to be extremely efficient and was convinced by a friend, who also has a big family, to forgo some drawer and cupboard space to fit in additional appliances. “I’ve got a whole wall of fridges, as well as two dishwashers, and it’s just the best thing for a large family,” she says. “I use one fridge for fresh fruit and veg, another for meats and pre-made meals and there’s one for dairy, plus a big freezer and another half-freezer for things like bread.”

The extra space to store food turned out to be a godsend. Plus, concealed within the solid oak cabinetry, Kim shares, “It’s quite nice to look at, and if you have the space, it’s a really important thing to think about when designing a kitchen for a family”. The hustle and bustle of the room is hidden behind cabinetry finished in Dulux Natural White, while the butler’s pantry features shelving to display Kim’s collection of ornate drink dispensers.

Kitchen design tip
A kitchen dining area with a French provincial style dining table.
The round dining table is from Coco Republic and above the old fireplace is one of Kim’s favourite finds – a large framed work of individual pressed flowers, which was originally imported from France and found at The Country Trader (now closed). (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

The new and improved kitchen has an opulent appeal, thanks to the Arabescato marble benchtops and two ornate pendants from Florabelle Living. “I handpainted the island using Annie Sloan chalk paint. I wanted it to look like an old piece of French furniture,” explains Kim, who also used the chalk paint to revive the reupholstered dining chairs.

“All the girls have their own space, and then there’s the family room and kitchen that can be utilised together.”

– Kim

Main bedroom

“The main bedroom was created to replicate a room right out of France with the stunning wall mouldings,” says Kim. A bed from Provincial Home Living sits atop a rug sourced in Turkey.

A French provincial style main bedroom with decorative wall mouldings.
The ornate furniture, decor pieces and bedside lamps are all antique store finds. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

“We’re very fortunate to have all of this space. It was a godsend during Covid.”

– Kim
A window seat below a chandelier with decorative ceiling mouldings.
In the main bedroom, a chandelier from Pottery Barn in the US was converted to meet Australian standards. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

“The best thing we did was live in the house for a few years before we started renovating,” says Kim. “It gave us time to really think about each space so we could create something that met all of our needs.” She lists the kitchen as the perfect example: “If I’d done the kitchen as soon as we moved in, I would’ve rushed it. But delaying it gave me time to really think about what I needed from that space and I knew exactly where to put things.”

Lessons learnt
A window seat, open shelving and a rustic chandelier.
The main bedroom is vast and had lots of wasted space, so Kim designed a bookcase and window seat to make it more useable. “I love spending lazy Sundays on the window seat,” she shares. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

Kim created a sitting area in a corner of the main bedroom with a marble table found at auction, French antique chairs and a mirror from Vavoom.

A French provincial style sitting area in the main bedroom.
“The chairs are originals from France with beautiful tapestry. I sit in this space all the time!” she says. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)


In the ensuite, Kim stripped back the plaster to make a feature of the brickwork and sandstone beneath. She then added marble daisy floor tiles and white subway wall tiles from Kalafrana Ceramics and topped it off with a Victoria + Albert freestanding bathtub.

A rustic style ensuite with a freestanding bath and double shower.
Astra Walker tapware and shower fixtures in a brass finish lend a sense of character and history to the newly renovated space. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

Evelyn’s bedroom

Kim and Sean’s youngest daughter Evelyn is tickled pink with her bedroom, which features a bed from Domayne, Pottery Barn Kids bedlinen, and a vintage side table finished by Devine Elegance using paints from the company’s range.

A children's bedroom with tree wallpaper and French style furniture.
The Etsy wallpaper is the star; its free-flowing design of rose vines and birds creates a magical feel within the much-loved space. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

Another pearl of wisdom from the renovation is the importance of choosing good trades. “Our builder came via a recommendation from our painter, which was a particularly important decision, this being an older house,” says Kim. “Everything needed to be done properly; there are no shortcuts. All the electricals needed rewiring, and it was often a case of stripping things back and starting from scratch. Our builder was great at troubleshooting as things came up, which was lucky because I’ve had some doozies in the past.” Taking time to find and listen to professionals also saved time as nothing had to be redone to a higher standard.

Lessons learnt
A vintage chair sitting in the corner of a children's bedroom.
For similar, try the ‘Chinoiserie Chic’ wallpaper from Rebel Walls. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

The couple’s three eldest daughters share a bathroom with pink daisy floor tiles from Kalafrana Ceramics, mirrors from Florabelle Living and two vanities from Early Settler that were handpainted by Devine Elegance.

A French vintage style family bathroom with a double shower and sandstone wall.
The pink daisy floor tiles from Kalafrana Ceramics. (Photography: Caz Machin / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

Interior design: Kim Gleason, Heritage Home Hunters Hill, @heritagehome_huntershill.

Architect: LRY Architects, lry.com.au.

Builder: Whitehaven, wbcprojects.com.

Joinery: Woodstone Kitchens Showroom, woodstonekitchens.com.au.

Painter: Volantes Decorating Service, volantesdecoratingservice.com.au.

Plasterer: Bietola Interiors, bietolainteriors.com.au.


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