Australian Homes

Amelia Holliday, David Lakes and Family

by Amber Creswell Bell, Sydney Contributor
Wednesday 22nd April 2015

I guess when a talented architect and an experienced builder get together and create their dream house, it’s bound to be AWESOME.  Proof of this anecdotal theory is with us today, in the form of a beautiful new home in Sydney’s Paddington.

Amelia Holliday is co-director of Aileen Sage Architects, whilst her husband David Lakes is director of Lochbuild.  They live here with their daughter Aoife, and dogs Ciara and Audrey.  Their home just took out the single residential interior category in this year’s Dulux Colour Awards – nice one!


Testament to the owners of this Paddington home, it is both beautiful and clever in equal measures. If ever you needed an example of the creative problem solving that architects provide – this house would be it. Sitting on one of the teeniest little streets on the Darlinghurst side of Paddington (you know the ones, where it is almost impossible to park) it is surrounded by traditionally narrow inner city terraces. And yet what architect Amelia Holliday and her husband, builder David Lakes have achieved with this house is nothing short of miraculous.

Having bought the property in 2010, the original 1880’s two-story terrace was entirely derelict, with serious structural damage and rising damp rendering it unsalvageable. Despite its period ilk, all historically significant detailing and fixtures had been well and truly stripped by previous alterations. After a long settlement, a protracted approval process with council, as well as a stint overseas for Amelia finishing her Masters – Amelia and Dave finally undertook the hefty task of a complete knock down and rebuild in 2012.

Amelia designed the house in collaboration with her business partner, Isabelle Toland, who together are Aileen Sage Architects. ‘Being the house of an architect and a builder, we had to give our other projects priority – so it took us a little longer than usual for our own build!’ Amelia admits.

The home is slick and highly considered, yet it has a playful unexpectedness about it that makes you want to explore every detail. What is immediately arresting about this home, given the location, is the absolute spaciousness in all directions! Where many inner city dwellers sacrifice space for location – these guys have space and natural light in spades. The home is so generous in fact, that it comfortably fits a grand piano in the main living room.

‘The piano belonged to my great-great-grandmother, then my grandfather, then my mother, then me. As a child at my Grandma’s it was always covered in photo frames along with the Meissen porcelain figurine. It is a family rule that the figurine must remain with the piano,’ shares Amelia.

The rebuild traces the original structure of the previous building, yet makes clever contemporary design decisions, wrapping around an internal courtyard, maximising natural light and ensuring cross ventilation in all rooms. The house maintains some traces of the original terrace, via the use of sandstone and bagged recycled brick, used in conjunction with contemporary finishes such as  off-form concrete. While largely feeling open plan, the public and private zones of the home are subtly articulated by a series of levels.

Having only lived here for 12 months, Amelia names the centrality of location, and the privacy and peace inside her home as her favourite aspects of living here. Dave gives his vote to off street parking (!) and his ‘man cave’ – a gym, cellar and storage area under the house – I don’t blame him!

For more of Amelia’s beautiful resident projects, do check out the Aileen Sage website. She and business partner Isabelle Toland have just been appointed the Creative Directors for the Australian Exhibition at next years Venice Architecture Biennale, which is insanely impressive!

Living room looking through to kitchen. Wall mounted light from (Re)Source / Société United Rag (Paris), Soapstone man belonged to Amelia’s grandfather, black Eames lounge and ottoman from Living Edge, leather Alby ottoman from Jardan, Rug from I & B Perryman Oriental Carpets. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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