Learning from the past

Choosing to restore a Victorian-era home to be in keeping with its heritage doesn't mean you have to forgo modern-day comforts
A view of this living area featuring red bookcase, floor, flooring, furniture, home, interior design, library, living room, shelf, shelving, black, gray
A view of this living area featuring red arm chairs, rug, timber flooring, bookcase

For many who undertake the renovation of a period home, it is the thrill of restoring something to its former glory that drives them on. For the owners of the property featured on these pages, the opportunity to re-establish this former boarding house as a single family residence was too good to pass up.

The owners committed themselves to a massive undertaking and, like many renovation projects, the true extent of the job was only revealed after work had begun, says architect Michael Menn, principal of Design Construction Concepts (DCC).

"The house is around 110 years old give or take and while the interior has undergone some updating over the years, the plumbing and wiring were original, and needed to be completely replaced. New heating and air conditioning, as well as underfloor heating, were also installed."

Part of a much larger, whole-house renovation, the second floor portion of the project took around five months, says Menn.

"Structurally, the upstairs wasn't in too bad a shape, and other than raising a portion of the roof that had been a dormer, there wasn't anything we really needed to do."

Originally the upstairs consisted of five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a storage corridor and closet laundry. Three bedrooms were left untouched structurally, while the other spaces were reconfigured into a master suite and second bathroom.

A view of this living area featuring red bookcase, floor, flooring, furniture, home, interior design, library, living room, shelf, shelving, black, gray
A view of this living area featuring red arm chairs, rug, timber flooring, bookcase

The master suite comprises a bedroom, sitting room with built-in floor-to-ceiling cabinetry and ensuite bathroom.

Working closely with interior designer Marshall Erb, the property was converted back to a single-family residence, with an aesthetic more in keeping with the era in which it was built.

"As with the rest of the property, the client wanted to come up with a reinterpretation of a Victorian mansion. The result is a master suite that incorporates every modern convenience within an historically referenced facade," says Erb.

One of the predominant decorative materials of the Victorian era was marble, and Erb chose to use it extensively throughout the master bathroom from the distinctly patterned tile floor through to the vanity top.

"The herringbone pattern has the effect of visually expanding the room also there are 17 corners within the bathroom, and the herringbone design allows you to turn corners without breaking the pattern."

Erb says the idea was to keep the bathroom as steamlined as possible, minimising visual clutter.

A view of this bathroom designed by Marshall bathroom, ceiling, estate, floor, flooring, home, interior design, room, tile, brown, orange
A view of this bathroom designed by Marshall erb featuring tiled flooring, mahogany vanity, freestanding bathtub, stainless steel faucets

"We wanted to maintain clean lines regardless of where you look, so a lot of the storage was integrated. The mirrored pilasters that flank the vanity have been used to house the usual bathroom accroutements, while the towel closet has been built into the toilet compartment."

As the second bathroom was going to be used exclusively by the children, it was decided to add a touch of whimsy to the design. This time the historical context was entirely personal.

"The homeowner grew up going on fly-fishing vacations with her family, and wanted to re-create a slice of that for her own children. Again, tile proved the most appropriate medium."

Hand-made tiles featuring frogs, dragonflies, butterflies and trout add a novelty element, but Erb was careful to ensure the same level of quality found in the master bathroom was carried over.

"Close inspection reveals the whimsical element, but when viewing the bathroom as a whole, the level of finish and quality of the materials used onyx tub deck and antique-look fittings is evident, and in keeping with what one would have expected in the Victorian era."

Dec 03, 2007

Credit list

Interior designer
Dual bath with pedestal base from Sunrise Specialty
Caxton by Kohler
Shower fittings
Blue Celeste marble from Urban Archaeology; Plantation border by Appomattox from The Tile Gallery
Wall tiles
Cream crackle ceramic by Dirk Elliot from The Tile Gallery; Pond theme tile by Pratt & Larson from The Tile Gallery
Murano sconces from Victor Lighting; Urban Archaeology
Yale Club towel bar from Urban Archaeology; towel warmer by Myson
Main contractor
Custom book-matched crotch mahogany from Nutrend Cabinetry
Polished nickel from Perrin & Rowe; Sunrise Specialty
Shower stall
Glass enclosure from Glassworks
Farrow & Ball
Revival by Kohler
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