Leah Fraser and David Shrimpton

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 20th February 2013

The incredible Sydney home of artist Leah Fraser and her partner David Shrimpton.  Above mantle – painted photograph of David’s great grandfather c. 1900.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Dining room / front room.  Irish gentleman’s chair from the turn of the century, antique leather topped wine table, Afghan rug, antique washing bowl (on dining table), clock top left – a NSW standard issue railway clock.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Living room.  Painting on mantle – ‘Moths and mosquitoes beat your ears’ by Leah Fraser.  Ceramic vases on side table by Leah also.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Leah Fraser in her home studio, surrounded by works for her upcoming show at Arthouse Gallery in Sydney.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

OK Today’s post is what I call a seriously tight turnaround – we photographed this incredible home in Sydney’s Surry Hills last week, and it’s already up today!  (Thanks Sean!).  That’s because this amazing space is home to artist Leah Fraser and her partner David Shrimpton, and I wanted to share it with you just in time to mention Leah’s first solo show, which opens next week in Sydney at Arthouse Gallery!

But first.  The house.  What a treasure!

Being in this home is truly like stepping back in time.  It’s mesmerising.  Each room is overwhelmingly dark and moody, and full of beautiful soft lamp lighting and an incredible collection of art, artefacts and antique furniture.  Oh, and a seriously impressive audio system – we had quite an amazing playlist accompanying this shoot, care of David’s former life as a record label owner / manager (this guy knows a thing or two about music!).

But what’s really amazing about this space is that it’s really the opposite of what most Sydneysiders do with a terrace house!  Most people lucky enough to get their hands on a Victorian house in Surry Hills spare not much thought before lopping off the back, opening the space up to a pretty little courtyard, and adding a shiny white extension, complete with bi-fold glass doors and a stainless steel kitchen.  No problems there, I love me a stainless steel kitchen.  But what’s interesting about this beautiful home, is that David and Leah have done precisely the opposite.

This home basically reverses the trend of transforming terraces into small white modernist boxes. When David first took possession of the property 5 years ago, it had already received the obligatory modern renovation treatment. ‘He basically gutted it and restored it in a Victorian style’ says Leah. ‘The inspiration was a traditional Sydney Victorian terrace – taking ideas from Sir John Soane and Victor Horta‘ Leah explains.  David was intent on recreating the grandeur of Victorian times – re-instating cornices and ceiling roses using original Victorian moulds, and salvaging antique doors and windows to complete the look.  Floorboards were replaced with salvaged tallow wood. Layer upon layer of detail was added – from Victorian era paint colours to vintage lace curtains, giving this home an incredible sense of history, otherwise seen only on a film set!

When Leah moved in 3 years ago, another layer of decoration found its way creeping into this unique home.  ‘I am quite a collector of interesting objects and trinkets from all around the world – everything has a story, and I love making little installations around the place with vases, shells, crystals, flowers and the like’ says Leah.  Aside from a few feminine flourishes (!), Leah also brought with her an incredible collection of art – her own amazing paintings and sculptures, as well as the work of her mentor, Del Kathryn Barton, who Leah assisted before embarking fulltime on her own practice. These contemporary paintings somehow fit so perfectly with the nostalgic styling of the home. Don’t ask me how it works – it just does!  ‘We are both really into beautiful old things, and the natural world’ offers Leah by way of explanation.

Leah is such a thoughtful, gentle soul.  When asked what she loves most about living here, she offers such a sweet, slightly romantic response – ‘I love the little world that we have created here, it feels like a country retreat in the middle of the city. We spend a lot of time at home and put a lot of energy into it.  There is a really interesting point of connect in our tastes, although David’s is more grand and mine is definitely more folk/hippie. It’s like a period piece drama set in a combi van!’

So there you have it, Sydney’s most eclectic, interesting, and nostalgic renovated terrace house – period drama meets combi van!

And now a note about the lovely Ms Leah Fraser.  I am firmly convinced this lass is going to be BIG.  You heard it here first!  We had the great privilege of previewing a number of works for her upcoming show whilst photographing her home, and I must say, Sydney –  you are in for a treat!

Leah is a graduate of COFA.  Her paintings and ceramics are so exquisite… there’s something dark and haunting about the mystical characters she creates, and their environments, rendered as layered backgrounds dense with detailed flora and fauna, are just breathtakingly beautiful.  DO check out Leah’s first solo exhibition next week in Sydney, entitled Valley of the Silver Moon, or download the full exhibition catalogue here.

BIG massive thanks to Leah and David for sharing their home with us today, and to Arthouse Gallery for allowing us to preview and share Leah’s stunning artworks prior to her show next week.

Valley of the Silver Moon – new paintings and sculptures by Leah Fraser
Arthouse Gallery
27th February to 15th March  2013

The rear kitchen doors are antique finds from Argentina, c.1880’s!   Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The kitchen is softened and given an authentic Victoriana spin with the addition of lush indoor plants and ferns.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Amazing kitchen details, including a fossil, a handpainted ceramic dish made by Leah, shells and other treasures! (Sean and I found ourselves quite mesmerised by this little microcosm of objects!)  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Owl and antique table from an Antwerp antique store.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Original Australian cedar staircase, little paintings and old photographs from antique market in argentina, Turkish footstool.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bespoke cabinetry containing David’s impressive vinyl collection!  Leah fraser ceramic objects on side table, Victorian recast plaster mouldings on wall, Afghani wall rug.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bedroom mantlepiece.  ‘Trance’ painting by Leah Fraser for her upcoming show, Valley of the Silver Moon at Arthouse Gallery.  Ceramic objects either side of mantle are totems by Leah Fraser.  Original Victorian fireplace and reclaimed stone tile.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom.  French 14 day clock c.1880, bespoke cupboards, Orson and Blake leather armchair.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom.  19th Century French antique bedframe (Leah’s favourite piece!).  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bedroom.  French lace and velvet curtains, Orson and Blake leather armchair.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom.  Gainsbrough painting above fireplace –  ‘portrait of a young man’ authorised third copy by A. Thomas.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bathroom with unique domed ceiling (I wish you could see up!).   Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A few works waiting to be collected for Leah’s exhibition!  left – ‘I will take you through the sweet valley’, acrylic on canvas by Leah Fraser.  Right –  ‘Shelter’  acrylic on canvas by Leah Fraser, both for her upcoming show.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 20th February 2013


  • Stunning – my dream home!

  • Kate 4 years ago

    I am pretty much in love with everything in this house. Thank you for sharing Leah and Lucy.

  • Gaz 4 years ago

    One of the most inspiring homes yet! Beautiful artworks, can see the connection with Mexico and Del Kathryn Barton influences, exquisite! More artists and their homes please!!!!!

  • Catherine 4 years ago

    This is beautiful.. I love modern, but more so love the detailing brought back into this modern space and the haven they have created. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lisa 4 years ago


  • Melissa 4 years ago

    Oh my – gorgeousness x infinity! And that bed!!!

  • Paula 4 years ago

    Absolute favourite ever! Strangely enough I was training to work this morning thinking about a style change for our house involving a more dark wood, dark floor pattern and palm aesthetic….somehow incorporating our strange collection of artworks and BOOM! this is it. Love it.

  • Vera 4 years ago

    Oh my, a Victorian after my own heart!

  • jo 4 years ago

    far out. this house is so amazing. i wish i could see more!

  • Kath Wilson 4 years ago

    You’ve done it again. Thanks, Lucy & team, for coming up with such delectable goodness Wednesday after Wednesday.

    (Very much love the lightness of touch here with Victoriana: at once minimal and extravagant — a tricky double-act pulled off with finesse.)

  • Lucie 4 years ago

    So good to see something different. I love all the modern but great to see someone take a gamble and bring life and light to Victorian.

  • Fiona 4 years ago

    Heaven, heaven, HEAVEN!!! I am so inspired thank you….

  • Annie 4 years ago

    Beautiful – love it. I will be popping along to the showing for sure. !

  • Stephen 4 years ago

    Finally, someone with the courage to reverse the damage that modernism has wrecked on our inner city heritage. And it brought tears to this antique dealers eyes!

  • The Smutskys 4 years ago

    Not my cuppa tea but you’ve got to give credit where credit is most certainly due. Great find Lucy!

  • Holly 4 years ago

    Beautiful house! I’m so happy to see someone restore and preserve the beauty of historical buildings rather than modernising them. And so lovely to see floorboards in a bathroom – my dream! Do you know if they had to treat the timber in some way? Also, I am totally in love with the little tear-shaped vessels on the mantel in the first pic – are these some of Leah’s creations?

  • Jen 4 years ago

    Absolutely incredible. Like wow. I remember seeing Leah around Sydney and she always wore the most sublime outfits. It all makes sense when you see her home. Jaw dropping. Beautiful palace Leah and David, thank you for letting us have a glimpse. Great find once again Lucy!

  • Josephine 4 years ago

    I love it! So wonderful to see an old Lady kept in her elegant state rather than this modern trend of what I call ‘putting the G-string on Grandma’. I’m not a fan of keeping the facade of the old terraces and gutting them. It makes me happy to see this terrace being so well nurtured for.

  • kate jacoby 4 years ago

    So beautiful, love the lush plants. Leah’s paintings are stunning!

  • Jane 4 years ago

    Exquisite, the way a Sydney terrace interior was/is meant to look. Love it!

  • Jasmine Smith 4 years ago

    I love and I like the interior, paintings, furniture’s and the colors. A mixture of modern and classy way home living. Love it! :)

  • Samantha 4 years ago

    What a stunning find & an inspiring and romantic home to live & work in. I’d love to know the wall and ceiling paint colors if you would be kind enough to share …

  • Jen 4 years ago

    When I saw this post I knew this was a couple after my own heart. Subsequently I checked out Leah’s new exhibition catalougue and ended up buying 2 of her pieces!!

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  • alexandra keller 4 years ago

    i love that this home stayed to many of its traditional elements and yet, is modern.
    i always think it such a shame when traditional architectural features are ripped out & a home is made too modern for its bones.

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  • Doreen 3 years ago

    Your home is beautiful. I found you via Elysa Hill’s article in California Home + Design’s blog.

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