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Leah Fraser and David Shrimpton


20th February, 2013
Lucy Feagins
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.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email