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French affair This cottage in the heart of Sydney’s east is a little bit country thanks to its owners’ passion for all things French STORY KATRINA O’BRIEN STYLING ADAM ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY NATALIE HUNFALVAY

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oat & navy throw, koskela

Anna and Wes fell in love with this 1890s cottage the second they saw it – even before they knew it was for sale! When they found out it was on the market, “We thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s meant to be’,” says Anna. After living in the one-and-a-half bedroom house for two years, the couple renovated to increase the amount of bedrooms, add a new deck and modernise the kitchen. With the block being just 170 square metres, space saving ideas were first and foremost. In the living area, Anna opted for built-in lounges; “I think you get a lot more out of a space by doing that rather than having couches.” She chose Gala Upholstery to create the seat cushions out of a beautiful Belgian linen. Florence Broadhurst scatter cushions from Signature Prints add a hit of pattern. >

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KITCHEN Taking centrestage in this lovely kitchen is a 3.5-metre American oak island bench. “I wanted the benchtops to be a feature, like another piece of furniture,” says Anna. “I like the galley-style layout and we can all sit up at the bench.” Mesh-fronted upper cupboards and polished concrete benchtops lend a provincial feel, with rendered concrete also used as a surround for the built-in cupboards. “I just loved the concrete. It’s functional, easy to clean and doesn’t have to be perfect.” A pair of treasured Mexican-made birds sits atop the bench, each filled with fresh herbs. For a similar industrial pendant, try the ‘Osteria’ light from Schots Home Emporium.

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KITCHEN {left} A double butler’s sink from Chippendale Restorations is paired with Perrin & Rowe tapware for a timeless feel. A cosy nook leading out to the back deck is a celebration of family sentiment and French style – of course! “Wes’s mum had this huge ladder that used to be used for painting, and we brought it down and chopped it in half, so half is down here and half is upstairs in our bedroom,” explains Anna, with daughter Ada {below}. The French sign is from Provincial Kitchens in Clovelly. >

For some couples, renovating is a story of budget ‘discussions’, style negotiations and lots of compromises. But for Anna and her husband Wes, decorating decisions, it would seem, are a breeze. Take a recent anniversary. “I just loved these ornamental birds we saw in Mexico and we spotted them in a shop down in Double Bay,” recalls Anna. Inspired, the interior designer sneakily bought two of the birds as an anniversary gift for her husband. And what did Wes buy his wife? “Two birds, so we’ve ended up with four!” says Anna. “We both said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’” Decorating simpatico is a little easier to achieve when one half of the couple has an eye for elegant and unique finishes and a knack for designing functional and chic interiors, and both halves are decorating perfectionists: “We’re sort of pedantic about details,” admits Anna. It also helps that Wes and Anna are both committed Francophiles. The couple spent their honeymoon travelling through the south of France, soaking up the wine, food and la bonne vie. “I just love its rusticity, the rawness of everything and the natural materials, as well as the relaxed feel to the place, the food, the markets and that sense of community,” enthuses Anna. So when the couple bought a heritage-listed worker’s cottage in Sydney’s east in 2008, they knew exactly where to look for inspiration. “We liked the French barn sort of style and loved the barn look at the front of the house,” says Anna. “We wanted to retain that at the front and do a black stain on the weatherboards at the back so there is a transition area between the old and the new.” The couple was also determined to respect the home’s 1890s origins. “We felt an obligation to do it up and do it well and keep everything the way it should be.”

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Flourishes of French influences abound throughout the dwelling Anna and Wes share with their daughters Ada, four, and baby Lillie. An elegant reconfigured side entrance, complete with a stable-style door framed by recycled timber sleepers and studs sourced from the US – and hand-painted by Anna – is chic in its simplicity, while a stunning new open-plan kitchen with Belgian lights, a double butler’s sink and a substantial American oak island bench hasn’t skimped on size or style. “I just wanted everything to have its place and include lots of storage,” says Anna. “I love cooking and so does Ada. She sits up on the bench and does all the mixing!” The interior style may take its cues straight from the Gallic countryside but it’s the home’s petite proportions – it sits on a 170 square metre block – that drove many of the couple’s design decisions when they undertook the renovation. Together they have transformed it from a one and a half bedroom original cottage with a lean-to out the back to a three-bedroom, two-bathroom family home. Clever space-saving ideas include a comfy integrated banquette in the living room – complete with Belgian linen covers – that doubles as storage for the family’s sound system, a wine fridge tucked under the staircase, and the addition of a luxurious parents’ retreat (complete with sunny balcony, walk-in robe and elegant ensuite). “Because our home is compact, everything we’ve got we use,” remarks Anna. “If it’s not practical, it’s got to go.” With everything now beautifully placed, Wes and Anna can happily kick back and enjoy their revitalised sanctuary. “We just love it,” says Anna. “Sometimes I lie in bed and I feel like I’m in a hotel and I think ‘Wow, this is our home’.”

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MASTER BEDROOM With its pitched ceiling, white panelled walls, luxurious Pottery Barn linen curtains and view-capturing balcony, the main bedroom is a beautiful and relaxing spot. “We lie in bed and just look out at the trees, which is great,” says Anna. “You feel like you’re on holiday.” A Morgan & Finch ‘Emblem’ bedspread from Bed Bath N’ Table is an elegant choice, with a linen cushion from Maison Et Jardin adding to the French feel.


‘Emery’ linen curtains Blue Dawn, from $122in /127cm x 312cm, Pottery Barn.

“Wes and I are pretty much on the same page. He loves everything I love” ~ Anna ADA’S BEDROOM {above left} A ‘Peacock’ bedhead from The Family Love Tree in Anna’s favourite colour – “I’m a bit obsessed with aqua,” she says – is a pretty inclusion in four-year-old Ada’s room, while Florence Broadhurst cushions and a lovely personalised one handmade by Ada’s Auntie Claire continue the colour quotient.

MASTER BEDROOM {above right} Rattan baskets from Maison Et Jardin are a chic nod to countryside living, while a moody Louise Tomlinson etching, ‘The Ship’s Cat’, adds to the serenity of the space. BATHROOM {left} The upstairs bathrooms continue the palette and profile of the downstairs living areas. In the family bathroom, a polished concrete-topped vanity with concrete surround and a butler’s sink echoes the kitchen benches. Anna opted for the more traditional look of curtains for undercounter screening here, which turns out to be the perfect choice for Molly, the cat. “That’s the cat’s litter and that’s the cat’s bed,” indicates Anna. Recessed cupboards are artfully hidden behind a customdesigned mirror framed with window architraves that have been given a 2-pac finish “to make it a little bit different”, says Anna. >

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we love

The rustic French vibe

The untreated timber deck and built-in bench have been left to age gracefully. “I love that weathered look,” says Anna. The home’s weatherboards were stained with Porter’s Paints Palm Beach Black, while a striped shadecloth from Colourful Canvas protects the family from the elements. Textured pots from The Urban Balcony continue the weathered look.


‘Palm Beach Black’ timber stain, $49.90/1L, Porter’s Paints.

courtyard & side passage Anna and Wes took as much care with the outside of their charming home as the inside, continuing the French country feel throughout. An outdoor shower {top left} was on Wes’s must-have list and has quickly become a hit with the family – “Ada stands under there for ages,” comments Anna. A pre-rusted trough sourced through Entanglements in Melbourne provides a landing spot for eye-height greenery that can be seen through the kitchen window. Instead of retaining the front entrance to the home, the couple had the side passage landscaped and switched the main entrance to here, so guests can enter the home via the kitchen, through a stable-style door framed by rustic recycled timber sleepers {above right}. Zinc bolts, sourced overseas and handpainted by Anna, add to the rustic look. “It’s the little things,” she says. “I love all the little bits and pieces.” > Use the

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Anna Van Der Gardner, 0413 530 630, annavandergardner

EXTERIOR A white picket fence is the perfect match for this cute heritage

cottage, with its facade painted in Resene Stonehenge in one-eighth strength. Anna landscaped the garden herself, bordering the space with recycled sleepers.


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Who lives here?

Anna, an interior designer; Wes, a general manager for development for a property group; their daughters Ada, four, and Lillie, three months; plus Hank the dog and Molly the cat.

What attracted you to a heritage house?

Anna: “I love the history of it. When they were doing the demolition, we dug up all these treasures. The man who was cleaning the chimneys found a pipe from Galway, and I found a horse shoe... I just love thinking of who lived here.”

Any surprises from the renovation?

“Not really, because I thought about it so much I knew exactly how everything would look! I did a 3D image so Wes knew how things were going to look.”

Were there any challenges?

“The stable doors were difficult to do. It was hard to find the locking systems. But they were worth it – we open them all the time and they let a nice breeze through – and they don’t let the cat out.”

The couple bought the round vintage dining table from Mitchell Road Emporium and stripped it back to raw timber; it’s paired with rattan chairs.

Will you be here for a while?

“Yes, definitely. Some people say, ‘Oh, you’ll probably have to move soon’ and I’m like, ‘Why? We love it’. It’s small but what else do you need? People have these huge houses and they don’t use the rooms. And you’ve still got to clean them!”

“We knew pretty much what we wanted because we lived here for two years before we renovated” ~ Anna The ensuite has been des igned to mirror the main bathro om.



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Profile for Natalie Hunfalvay Photography

Heritage Charm Home Beautiful Magazine  

June 2014

Heritage Charm Home Beautiful Magazine  

June 2014