FABRIC AND FOUND OBJECTS: THE TIMELESS ART OF REVIVAL
WHILE MANY PEOPLE dream of escaping the city for the country life, a few years ago, Justin van den Berg and Michael Arends found themselves desperately trying to work out the best way back in to an urban existence.
“In 2004 we bought 23 hectares at a quaint little place in the country,” says Justin. “We were about to start work converting an old woolshed in our home when I was diagnosed with dystonia, a debilitating movement disorder. To receive the medical attention I needed, we had to go back to Sydney.” Having living in the inner city for nearly 20 years, it seemed the best option.
“I initially dismissed this terrace when I saw it for auction,” says Justin. “It had been renovated in the most awful way and had very little natural light.” But, upon stepping across the threshold for the first time, the couple was wowed by the the home’s spectacular proportions. The location was a drawcard as it is secluded yet just a stone’s throw away from the bustling shopping and dining strip.
“The first thing we did was install a skylight over the stairwell so we didn’t fall and break our necks in the semi-darkness.”
Built in 1865, the home had many period features that the couple loved. However, it needed a lot of work to transform the existing decor — “heavy faux-Victorian style with salmon pink walls and lots of dar timber,” says Justin — in the character-filled nest it is today.
“I really wasn’t excite by the prospect of renovating. We had done it all before — three times — and all traditional terraces,” says Justin. “But we just couldn’t hold back once we’d started.
The first thing we did was install a skylight over the stairwell so we didn’t fall and break our necks in the semi-darkness.”
One room at a time, the industrious couple worked their magic. In the front rooms, the jappaned floorboards were stripped and repainted a chalky hue, instantly lifting the mood. In the kitchen, a wall was removed to open up the space and connect it to the dining area. The kithcen design was also rejigged to enable internal access to the laundry. Tongue-and-groove panelling was installed throughout the new open-plan kitchen/dining area to create a rustic feel.
“Justin and I both have Dutch heritage and really like the way traditional houses there have big, open rooms where everyone can see and share in what everyone else is doing,” says Michael. “That’s what we have tried to recreate here.”
Introduced to furniture auctions by a friend, Justin admits to becoming addicted, amassing a vast collection of furniture that he has gradually restored. “So many of the pieces in this house were bought for less than $200, but they give me more pleasure than expensive antiques we used to collect,” he says. One of his favourite finds is the row of old theatre seats found dumped in the back lane that he had re-upholstered and reinvented as bench-style seating to the dining table.
This abode is true to the design ethos that a home should reflect the lives of its occupants, not just resemble a catalogue. Reclaimed, restored and reinvented pieces are teamed with antiques and handmade items to create a look that is charming and ultra comfortable.
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