Australian Homes

Juliana Foong of High Tea with Mrs Woo

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 2nd May 2012

The stunning Newcastle apartment of Juliana Foong and Benjamin Paul Gallagher. Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Product – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The Original Kauri floorboards were a welcome surprise when Julse and Ben ripped up the carpet here – ‘The cracks and wonkiness were a pleasant reminder of my childhood, spent at my grandparents’ home in Malaysia’. says Julse. Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

‘How many dark, heavy depression era cupboards can you fit in a 20m2 room?’ jokes Juliana! ‘We’ve managed five, along with a miner’s couch, a hardwood coffee table, wine rack, bookshelf, speakers and an assortment of old boxes and suitcases. It seems the more we bring in the larger the room appears. We can’t explain it but needless to say our whole life is stored within these confines.’ Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Product – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

‘Merchandising’ by Juliana! Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Product – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Juliana Foong of High Tea with Mrs Woo, and partner Benjamin Paul Gallagher (aka Mr. Book!)  Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

When Sean and I stepped foot inside the unique home of Newcastle based designer Juliana Foong and her partner Benjamin Paul Gallagher, we instantly knew we’d hit the jackpot. As I recall, there was an audible sigh.  There is something so truly enchanting about this space – stepping across the threshold feels a little like entering another era!

The measured, calm confidence of this space really reflects it’s owners to a T – it has an umistakeably zen-like quality, with it’s rustic finishes, dramatic contrasts of light and dark, and monochromatic details. However, delve a little beneath the surface and you’ll see that whilst the palette is muted, there is nothing minimal about this home – every nook is filled with handcrafted details and vintage trinkets, styled to perfection by Juliana – who confessed during our visit that her favourite past time at home is ‘merchandising’!

Juliana (better known as ‘Julse’!) and Ben have been in this one bedroom apartment just shy of sixteen months.  ‘Six of those months were spent without a kitchen and fifteen without a sink’ says Julse – ‘I can confidently recommend several toastie combinations’.  Needless to say there’s been a LOT of work done here over the last year!

On the very first day Julse and Ben first got the keys to their home, they celebrated with a carpet pulling up party!  ‘It was simply exhilarating, especially when we uncovered original 120 year old kauri timber floorboards in the bedroom and parts of the lounge!’ says Julse. These old boards required special attention – to maintain their character, Ben insisted on restoring them by hand – ‘We used an orbital sander, hand sanded with fine grades of sand paper, and several coats of tung oil to bring them back to life’.

The kitchen was another big challenge – it was completely gutted, formica cupboards and vinyl flooring removed, brick work exposed, tiles and skirting boards removed.  The goal was to bring an openness and airiness to this tightly confined space – and it worked.  ‘Our kitchen breathed a sigh of relief’ says Julse.

I guess you could describe both Ben and Julse as design purists.  Their treatment of this home has been to work back to original finishes, and to use reclaimed and recycled materials were used wherever possible in restoring and furnishing the house. ‘Reinterpreting old things has always been a favourite past time for the both of us. I find great comfort being surrounded by old world charm and nostalgia. There is so much history and beauty ingrained in the wrinkles of time’ says Julse.

Of course the tightly edited interior of this home is no surprise, given both Julse’ and Ben’s creative credentials.   Julse is one of three owner/designer/makers behind the womenswear label High Tea with Mrs Woo – she’s been in the business with her two sisters for over a decade.  Ben is a talented maker/designer of furniture and objects under the persona ‘Mr Book‘ – he creates furniture by hand utilising painstaking traditional techniques.  He also works as a roof restorer with his father by day – now there’s a set of super handy complementary skills!

When asked what they each love about their unique haven, Ben and Juliana brim with enthusiasm. ‘When the day is done, I retreat to my enclave of dark and dusty cupboards, and the comfort of what they contain’ says Ben.  ‘I feel completely comfortable here’ says Julse, ‘Sat upon my Belucci rug, Caretaker upon the record player, Everdure blazing, glass in hand, I smile on a daily basis’.

Of course today’s post wouldn’t be complete without a lasting comment not just about this treasured home, but about the special spot where it is located!  Julse has such beautiful things to say about her much loved home town, I thought we should end with her sweet words -

‘I have lived in Newcastle ever since we migrated here in 1988′ says Julse. ‘I declared my love for her very early on in our relationship. We may have wavered along the way, but ultimately she knows I’m committed. The thing I love most about living in Newy is that I can survive here comfortably and quietly being a creative. She leaves me in my shell when I require it. And allows me to reappear when I’m feeling that bit social. It is easy to travel away from her and so reassuring on returning that, I am home. She is a great base. Anything is possible here’.

Massive thanks to Julse and Ben for sharing their beautiful apartment with us today.   If you love their home, do check out Juliana’s label, High Tea with Mrs Woo!  At their Sydney store this month the clever Foong sisters are staging a series of inspired ‘Pop-In’ creative collaborations with brands including Vixen and Wendy Voon Knits. Do check the website for details!


Sweet details in the loungeroom – yes, Juliana covers these books in brown paper and stamps their titles on to the spines! I do not make this stuff up, people. Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Product – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Hallway looking to kitchen.  Check out Juliana’s OCD wine bottle top colour co-ordination!  Picture perfect. Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Product – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

OMIGOSH how stunningly  beautiful is this photo!?  I can’t believe I didn’t put it up top.  Such a beautiful combination of rustic finishes.  Stunning custom welded sink fixture made by Ben – just finished in the nick of time before our shoot (FYI, it’s wasn’t plumbed in yet!). Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Product – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

‘To maintain a sense of airiness in this small space, all kitchen work zones had to be freestanding and absolutely essential’ says Julse. ‘We were lucky to have a few old pieces that magically fitted, and the rest we designed and made from iron and reclaimed oregon’.   Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen details – love the muted tones.  Ben cooked us up savoury mushroom pastries for breakfast, washed down with strong coffee  – YUM thankyou Ben! Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Product – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedoom – incredible bed made by Ben!  Those timber bed posts are in fact the only fixings holding this bed together – They each unscrew to reveal an oversized timber thread. Amazing! Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Product – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The light-filled annex adjoining bedroom at the front of the house serves as a mini study / workspace full of sweet vintage finds.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, Styling / Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

‘Less than a week before TDF were arriving to shoot our home, I decided that the bedroom was far too dark for photographs’ says Julse. ‘I insisted we pull down the wall that separated it from the hallway. Privacy was not a concern, so the plaster board was off!  It revealed a wonderful hardwood stud frame, and with a few hours of hand work and a tin of tung oil, we brought it to life’.  Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Julse’ loves the overhead train compartment in the entry hallway – one of her favourite vintage finds, and perfect for this awkward space.  ‘Its current use is not too dissimilar from its original purpose’ says Julse… ‘It contains all our personals – hats, bags, keys, mail, coats, umbrella… shoes aligned, just so along the bottom’. Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

String bag and antique boots.  Photo by Sean Fennessy, Styling / Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 2nd May 2012

45 comments

  • Siobhan C 3 years ago

    I want to move in and have Ben make me strong coffee in the morning and Julse to put on some tunes and pour me a wine when I return home from a day’s stressful work in the evening. Bliss. I am happy to sleep on the couch and I will replenish wine bottles as per colour coding requirements.

  • Cathg1g2 3 years ago

    Unique and great sense of style
    Love that the wall came down in the bedroom!

  • Courtney 3 years ago

    So elegant and earthy! I love all of the wooden pieces, especially that bed. Really, really gorgeous.

  • Jax 3 years ago

    The sense of space in this one bedder is amazing!! What a lovely space….really enjoying your visit to Newcastle this week.

  • Julse 3 years ago

    You are my ultimate apprentice Siobhan ;) Thank you so much for bringing Lucy to my place! Many thanks for the lovely comments so far everyone! I’m enjoying reading about TDF’s visit to Newcastle this week too Jax! There’s so much I’m still not aware of! Siobhan, you’ve done such a brilliant job hosting TDF in Newy! Thank you x

  • Emma 3 years ago

    who knew such beautiful textural spaces existed in Newy!! these pictures that home! amazing!

  • Linda Drummond 3 years ago

    That SINK – oh the simplicity and beauty in this home just makes me sigh. What an exquisite home, and I just adore all the details.

  • Barbara Fisher 3 years ago

    What a gorgeous home, I love all the timber and the muted colour palette. So enticing, I can imagine how calming it is to come home at the end of the day. And how many people can just rip down a wall on a whim and have it look so fabulous??

    Beautiful!

  • Lucy 3 years ago

    THANKYOU Julse for your sweet comment and all the brilliant details about your home! SIOBHAN thankyou thankyou thankyou again for another STELLAR Newy find… we are so thrilled to have had the opportunity to share this gorgeous home on TDF!

    You guyyyssss… xxx

  • mariana 3 years ago

    absolutely love it.. ALL.
    a beautiful aesthetic..
    rustic and industrial yet elegant, simple and super stylish.
    one of the best homes here.
    thank you for sharing!
    ~m

  • Lynda 3 years ago

    What a gorgeous cosy home, just love all the collectables and the ambience of the home, this has to be one of my favourites!!

  • line x shape x colour 3 years ago

    wow! this is beautiful! thank you for sharing x

  • beci 3 years ago

    the details! so very beautiful!

  • kat chadwick 3 years ago

    totally gorgeous. what an amazing sense of style!

  • Georgina 3 years ago

    sigh-worthy alright. just stunning.

  • Penny 3 years ago

    Ohmygoodness! Julse and Ben, your home is amazingly beautiful, and so incredibly unique! Amazing.

  • Clementine 3 years ago

    Wow, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen.

  • Jacqueline 3 years ago

    I thought Juliana & her sisters’ shop was already magical – now I know that Juliana’s home is even more magical and gorgeous!!!

  • Kathryn Cumming 3 years ago

    it looks so light, calm, simple, beautiful and full of gorgeous, well thought out details (the book covers…that sink!).

  • margie 3 years ago

    goodness golly gee whizz… this home is a photographer’s delight! And that sink is – well – I’m not sure I have the superlative for it. Is “trend-inspiring” too much?

  • Amanda Falson 3 years ago

    Oh my lord! I’m in love! That BED!!! Does Ben make them to sell? !! Pulling down the wall to show the beams inside in the bedroom! Genius! Its so tranquil and serene….truly beautiful.

  • Amy 3 years ago

    I just felt like I HAD to comment to exclaim over this beautiful home! I studied in Newy and saved up my meager undergrad pennies for High Tea With Mrs Woo beauties, all of which I still treasure. I went into their Darby Street store at least once a week just to soak up the beauty. This house is the true sister of the beautiful stores and achingly lovely. It’s nice to think of true artists like these two creating such a beautiful space – it makes the world a better place. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jordan 3 years ago

    What a beautiful house! Just astounding!

  • Julse 3 years ago

    Stop it ladies, you’re seriously making me blush ;)! Thank you so much for all your amazingly warm, wonderful and generous comments! I’m completely chuffed with all that I’m reading. We may get a smile out of Ben yet!

  • samwise 3 years ago

    I love this place so very much. Especially all those thoughtful details.
    I am particularly interested in Ben’s designwork. Where can I see more of his work. Does he sell any of it?

  • Marcus 3 years ago

    Jules and Ben, i hope you don’t mind but I’ve pretty much decided I’m staying at your place on all future trips to Newcastle … Hope that’s ok?

  • Julse 3 years ago

    You know we’d move out for you MARCUS ;)

  • Julse 3 years ago

    AMY, I just read your comment out to my sisters. We are all so very touched by your story. It’s the most wonderous thing you could have shared with us x

  • Emz 3 years ago

    Hand sanded floor boards!!! You put all the ‘so-called’ renovation shows to shame. Such love and dedication to materials and aesthetics is inspiring. The results amazing. And the people involved, humble and beautiful. What a great story… next chapter please.

  • Julse 3 years ago

    Don’t you just love the poloraid pictures in the loungeroom of the family at their best mate’s wedding, EMZ ;)? I don’t keep many photos but this is one of my favourite things.

  • Em Collins 3 years ago

    I think this has to be my fav home this year!
    I love all the details and the collectables. So beautiful.

  • Benjamin Book 3 years ago

    Hello Amanda,
    Thankyou for your kind words. Sorry to inform you but I don’t at this stage sell my furniture pieces.
    They are all prototypes being tested upon ourselves. One day soon. As for now, I focus on small scale pieces, tableware and jewellery to be found in Melbourne at an atelier called Eastern Market. If you are in the neighbourhood, feel free to drop by http://www.easternmarket.com.au

  • Skye 3 years ago

    Ben and Julse your home looks stunning. I especially love the sink and that amazing bed! Your passion for design and dedication to use reclaimed timber is inspirational. I am lucky enough to have visited your home and it is indeed every bit as beautiful as the photos show. In fact it is even better in real life beause you can smell the delicious aromas coming from the kitchen! Love you both and so proud of you.

  • jess 3 years ago

    oooohhhh exquisite, earthy, elegant…. so nice to see the photos… i love that you knocked out that wall in the bedroom. Ben and Julse you amazing artists you! Cuppa tea any time… i’ll bring empanadas!

  • margie 3 years ago

    and by the way… would you like to tell us all where those exquisite pendant lights come from?

  • Nicholas 3 years ago

    Ben, So wonderful to see the house finished! Margie the pendants are from Dunlin Home, http://www.dunlinhome.com/collections/all-lighting/products/well-glass-pendant-light

  • Benjamin Book 3 years ago

    Thanks Nicholas, but we still have a long way to go before we can put the tool belt down. The bathroom and basement are next. We live in a demolition site outside of the picture perfect photos and are currently uncovering the hidden window behind the loungeroom wall.
    Margie, I hope the link helps. I first came across them in The World of Interiors. You’ll find a trove of exquisite things at Dunlin Home.

  • Nicholas 3 years ago

    Thanks Ben, renovating never end’s does it, can’t wait to see the home when it is complete, you have a wonderful eye Mr Book! Nicholas

  • Phuong 2 years ago

    Back in the early days in the 00s while still in highschool, i was intrigued by Mrs Woo on Darby street everytime i walk pass and still remembered the re-appropriated asymmetrical blazer they made, i think it was part police/Telecom bit and pieces sewn together, one side is traditional and the other was deconstructed with exposed detailing, it would still look awesome. Now i get to see their sensibility rooted at home as well.

  • Catherine 2 years ago

    SPEECHLESS.
    This is the only home that has left my jaw dropping at each photo. I absolutely ADORE that clever exposed beam interior of the bedroom. I love how you were just so ‘blaze e’ in taking it out for more light. LOVE that headspace.
    I love it so much, I can imagine the simple background music that would suit this space. Rich in meaning, yet simplistic and clear.
    WOW.

  • MAURO GOMEZ 2 years ago

    What an exquisite home, and I just adore all the details. Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!

  • Kerry 2 years ago

    Jules and Ben, your home is my favourite !!!! You have given me so much inspiration for the renovation of my little weatherboard cottage. Thank you so much!!!! And lucy your blog is sublime!!! Thank you!!!

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