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Amber Creswell Bell and Andy Bell


Today we share a particularly special Sydney home.  Special, because it belongs to someone we (and you!) know – the delightful Amber Creswell Bell, our Sydney contributor (and brilliant writer for many other publications, including one of our faves, The Planthunter!).  Amber lives here in Turramurra on Sydney’s North Shore, in her beautiful 1960’s suburban gem, in the leafiest street I’ve ever seen, with her husband Andy, and their two kids Lulu (5) and Jude (3).

26th November, 2014
Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 26th November 2014

This is the home of Amber Creswell Bell and family, in Turramurra on Sydney’s North Shore.

AMAZINGLY, Amber and co have been here less than one year.  CANNOT believe this!  They have done SO much already to beautify and ‘home-ify’ their gorgeous rambling pad.  Take note, people, it is possible to do a LOT in that first year, and in my own experience, it really is worth doing as much of the cosmetic stuff as you can in the first 12 months, because the most hideous things become kind of invisible after that, and urgency goes out the window… and before you know it you’re living with cork floor tiles and olive green curtains for like, 5 years.  Time flies.

Anyway, I am always in awe of those people who rip things out and get the painters in on the day after they get the keys to their new home, and Amber is certainly one of those people!

‘When we bought this house it was originally a celebration of beige, cream and olive’ explains Amber. The day after settlement, Amber and Andy had 15 (!) painters on site, and not one surface went unpainted. ‘We painted the entire exterior a dark charcoal (Dulux ‘Oolong’) with white trim, and absolutely everything inside was painted Natural White. And the front door was painted peony pink (Dulux ‘Lickedy Lick’) – with a view to changing the door colour annually!’ says Amber. ‘The paint scheme made an immediate and massive difference’.

The pair also built a completely new kitchen, and ripped out what was a pokey kitchen window, replacing it with a big set of French doors that now open up from the dining area to the back deck. ‘Game changer!’ says Amber of this nifty decision.

It was a big call for Amber and Andy to move out to Turramurra, 30 mins from central Sydney. ‘For all of my adult life I have been strictly ‘urban’ – Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, St Kilda in Melbourne, then more recently in Sydney’s Inner West’ says Amber, whilst Andy had moved to Australia from London. ‘NEVER did we think we would move to the North Shore – this was not part of the plan!’ explains Amber.

But, with kids growing up fast, the family needed to upsize.  After putting their Annandale house on the market last year, the pair assumed they would simply buy something bigger in the same area. ‘We were not prepared for how fiercely competitive the Inner West auction scene was!’ recalls Amber.  ‘The auctions were like mosh pits. We just kept missing out, so we decided to keep an open mind. We were so exhausted!’

In the end, Andy found this house online, and Amber headed out to check it out. ‘Sure – it was tired, and there was work to be done in every direction… but it was mid Spring, and there was something about all the green, the views, the smell of flowers on the breeze, the sound of birds, the big windows, the massive garden… the house got under my skin!’ Amber says. Luckily, it was to be theirs.

Indeed, one of the home’s greatest drawcards is its generous gardens, both front and back, which have reignited in Amber a passion for gardening, fuelled by nostalgia for her childhood days in the lush green ‘garden belt’ suburbs of Sydney.

‘The garden here mostly had beautiful bones, but was a bit dry and neglected’ says Amber. ‘While the painters were on site I had 3 tonnes of soil and manure delivered and I literally (and rather obsessively) repaired and replanted the whole garden with all the plants that I love most’.  At last count, she has planted over 50 David Austin roses! It truly is the prettiest collection of slightly random plantings – ‘I just wanted a garden where I could pick flowers and never run out!’ Amber says.

Looking ahead, Amber says ‘we absolutely needed to extend – but our first priority was to refurb the existing footprint, and then relax for a while!’  The family are now just getting a feel for how they want to live in this space, and what a renovation might mean.  All in good time.  Amber’s happy to leave that one on the back burner for a little while long – ‘To be honest, the thought of what the builders would do to my garden fills me with fear!’ she admits.

Amber and Andy are firmly convinced that moving here was the best thing they have ever done. ‘The kids are always outside, riding their bikes or building fairy houses, and I really underestimated how much joy and inner focus the garden would bring me’ Amber says, contentedly.

So, if you’re wishing and hoping for a new abode, and have suffered a few disappointments… maybe it’s time to look a little further afield!  They make excellent domestic coffee machine these days, people!

For more about the journey of finding this house, you can also check out this sweet short essay Amber penned a little while ago for The Planthunter.  It’s like a beautiful love letter to the suburbs.

‘I just wanted a garden where I could pick flowers and never run out!’ says Amber of her rambling, flower-filled back garden.  Mission accomplished!   Photo – Eve Wilson, 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