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.