THE WHITE HOUSE: A CENTURY-OLD TIMBER STRUCTURE REVEALS ITS CHARMS
BERNADETTE AZZOPARDI AND husband, Roger, a builder, found the house of their dreams, a large timber homeon a big block in a sought-after riverside suburb. The only problem was, its old world charms were completely hidden under layers of brick and plasterboard cladding and their parents, experienced builders themselves, thought they’d made a terrible mistake.
“It was in pretty bad shape – in its 120 year life span it had seen a few changes but thanks to the cladding, many of the original features had been miraculously preserved,” Bernardette recalls. “It was in a dead-end street just minutes to cafes and the city centre and we could see it had potential.”
Roger, who has a construction business that usually builds high-rise towers, relished the opportunity to work on an entirely different scale to bring the old timber house back to life. He set about painstakingly repairing the “VJ” (vertical joint) boarded walls, timber fretwork and pressed metal ceilings, researching every detail as he went along.
The Azzopardis sought the advice of architect, Steven Mason to come up with a floor plan that kept the old feel and features of the house, including the generous wrap-around verandas, but opened up the main living space to create a more open plan area that flowed out to the back garden.
“We loved the look of the unpainted pressed metal on the ceilings so decided to keep them silver,” says Bernardette. “I loved the all white walls and touches of navy to contrast the more ornate silver metal ceilings – it is a bit like diamonds and denim!”
She called on interior experts LilyG to help her bring the many different elements of the interiors together with a hint of east coast American “Hamptons” style.
This set the tone for a more modern, industrial twist on the classic American Hamptons look. Interior designers Melinda Boundy and Natalee Bowen suggested a unified theme for the whole living space, which starts from a fireplace in the old part of the house and extends right through to the large, covered deck at the back.
“The all-white painted backdrop brings light into the space and creates a blank canvas for the natural textures of the furniture and accessories,” explains Melinda. “The theme continues to the all-white exterior so that there was an easy flow from inside to outside, which suits the way we live in such a warm climate.”
The touch of navy blue was picked up in the soft furnishings with Melinda covering the large sofa in plain navy and chaise in a blue paisley. “I think the reason this east coast aesthetic works so well is that the Hamptons homes are weekenders – nothing is too stuffy or too perfect,” adds Melinda. “Think overstuffed lounges with slip covers, a casual mix of vintage furniture with a worn patina and collections of things found on the beach.”
“Raw, natural texture is also part of what makes it more Australian,” adds Natalee. “Easy-care jute rugs and furniture that gets better the more it’s used is also part of the appeal.” Lots of coral, seashells and beach keepsakes have always been a must for a Hamptons feel and suits our beachside culture beautifully. The long oak dining table and wicker chairs upholstered in navy stripe are both practical and look smart.”
The all-white painted backdrop brings light into the space and creates a blank canvas for the natural textures of the furniture and accessories.
Melinda and Bernardette joined forces to choose some unusual accessories. “The mix of industrial, French and the Hamptons has helped to keep it looking eclectic and not too ‘showroom’,” explains Melinda. “The Deer head was a gift from Bernardette’s uncle and adds a dash of personality which really makes the room.”
Touches of industrial elements such as the chrome, office-style light fittings and metal French tallboy contrast but sit nicely with the natural textures, Melinda explains. “The chrome ties back with the pressed metal ceilings, stainless steel appliances and hardware in the kitchen area.”
The use of blue cotton fabrics in stripes, paisleys and plains continues from the front of the house to the back verandah and gives a consistent and fresh look to a room that might otherwise look stark and monochromatic. “Mixing up the texures of rattan, wood and metal throughout the four living zones makes them seem more coherent,” says Melinda.
We really love living here,” says Bernardette. “Roger and I wake up every morning and say,’If we had to move we would build the exact same house.”
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