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THIS Is How You Renovate An Architect-Designed, Mid-Century Home

Homes

It’s a tale as old as time (or at least the past 30 years). An architect-designed, mid-century home goes up for sale, the property is sold… then demolished in favour of a new McMansion. 

That was the likely fate of this 1969 house in Sydney’s Lindfield, but luckily, interior designer Amelia Hesketh, founder of Frank Designs, swooped in to save the day!

Since purchasing the property seven years ago, Amelia has completed a thoroughly sympathetic renovation. By sticking to her guns, and employing skilled craftspeople along the way, she’s created a home that captures the best of 1960s design, while supporting her young family’s lifestyle.

30th September, 2020

Original George Nelson saucer. Poolside Gossip print by Slim Aarons. Mirror and table from West Elm. Oak Bok chairs from Ethnicraft. Original parker sideboard from Tangerine and Teal. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Poolside Gossip print by Slim Aarons. Wood burning fireplace by Abbey Fireplaces. Original George Nelson saucer. Rug from West Elm. Ceiling fan from Big Ass Fan. Sofa from King Furniture. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Happy Days painting by Elizabeth Sullivan. Original MCM chairs restored by Tangerine and Teal. Rug from West Elm. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Amelia Hesketh at home. Poolside Gossip print by Slim Aarons. Mirror and table from West Elm. Oak Bok chair from Ethnicraft. Original parker sideboard by Tangerine and Teal. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Mirror and table from West Elm. Oak Bok chair from Ethnicraft. Original parker sideboard by Tangerine and Teal. Original George Nelson saucer. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Wood fire from Abbey Fireplaces. Poolside Gossip print by Slim Aarons. Cedar wood panelling. Macrame plant hanger made be Amelia. Original MCM chairs restored by Tangerine and Teal. ‘Puzzle’ tiles from Mutina. Engineered wood flooring in Invisible Oil from Woodcut. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Original George Nelson saucer. Table from West Elm. Oak Bok chair from Ethnicraft. Poolside Gossip print by Slim Aarons. Engineered wood flooring in Invisible oil from Woodcut. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Cedar panelling clads the interiors. A fiddle leaf fig and philodendron xanadu in the corner. A drum bought in Egypt. A restored original balustrade restored by Amelia and Oliver. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Beams painted in Dulux Mission Brown. Poster hanging on the left is the original plans of the house. Painting on the right is Happy Days by Elizabeth Sullivan. Sofa from King Furniture. Chair restored by Tangerine and Teal. Coffee table from Noguchi. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Looking from the kitchen into the courtyard. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Frandsen Hitchcock chandelier from Design Stuff. Stacked gloss, rustic green splashback tiles from DiLorenzo. Wood veneer is Rift cut American Oak. Bar stools from KMart. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Stacked gloss, rustic green splashback tiles from DiLorenzo. Wood veneer is Rift cut American Oak. Bar stools from Kmart. Walls painted with Dulux Lexicon Quarter. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Bed from Life Interiors. Original Parker side table and Beresford dresser from Tangerine and Teal. ‘Mantis’ bedside sconce from Lights Lights Lights. ‘Tempt’ carpet from Supertuft. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Elara Pendant light from Urban Lighting. ‘Jazz Arch’ mirror cabinets from Timberline.  Mier tapware. Custom made vanity. Teal Mosaic tiles from Academy Tiles. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Parlour Sphere Pendant from LightCo. ‘Pavlova’ terrazzo floor tile from Fibonacci Stone. White square mosaic wall tile from Academy Tiles. Custom-made vanity. Timberline cabinet. Meir tapware. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Scion Priya Blush Wall paper from Natty and Polly. Desenio print. Sideboard from RJ Living. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Left: Parlour Sphere Pendant from LightCo. White square mosaic wall tile from Academy Tiles. Custom-made vanity. Timberline cabinet. Meir tapware. Right: ‘Skate or Die’ wallpaper from Milton and King. Print from Desenio. Ikea bedlinen. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Front door panelled with cedar. Puzzle tile from Mutina. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 30th September 2020

‘All the original MCM joinery was reused. We did not throw one piece out, which I am very proud of.’ – Amelia Hesketh

Interior designer Amelia Hesketh, founder of Frank Designs, recalls inspecting this mid-century house for sale in Lindfield (on Sydney’s Upper North Shore) seven years ago. ‘It was obvious that most people saw it as a knockdown and rebuild (as happens far too often with these houses), but we could only see potential,’ she says. 

Thankfully, the interior designer and her husband Oliver Hesketh were able to buy the property, becoming only the second owners in its history. They share the home with their three children, Will (11), Ruby (9), and Poppy (7).

The house was built in 1969 and designed by architect Bill Baker, (the same architect as Tim Ross’ house!) ‘Bill flew in the air force during WWII and was influenced by the American architecture. When he returned he enrolled in architecture school, then worked as an architect and a Qantas pilot,’ says Amelia. 

The house was in near original state at the time of purchasing, complete with the architectural plans found in the back of a desk drawer! While the couple loved its mid-century features, the property was run down and was soon in need of an update. ‘All the original cedar wall panelling was falling off… Bathroom tiles were coming away, and the floor joists in the girl’s bedroom were rotten from the roof leaking into the wall cavity,’ says Amelia. ‘They used to jump on the floor and use it like a trampoline! 

Energy efficiency was also an issue that needed addressing. ‘The house didn’t have an ounce of insulation, and all the windows were pane glass, with the frames having been eaten away by termites,’ Amelia says. ‘One night, while lying in bed, our master bedroom window fell out onto the neighbour’s property!’

Structurally, only one internal wall between the kitchen and living space was removed in the eventual renovation, but numerous other updates were made. ‘All other internal wall paneling was taken down, the framing checked for termite damage, then all put back together as we found it – but with insulation,’ Amelia says. ‘We replaced all the cedar wall panelling, and actually added more as I love it so much, it brings so much warmth to the house.’ 

All the original joinery was reused and refurbished, as required, throughout this process. ‘We did not throw one piece out, which I am very proud of,’ Amelia says. They built it to last back then, and it is all so functional.’ Amelia also notes the huge contribution of her ‘absolutely brilliant builder’, Jacob Vorias from Vorcon Constructions

In terms of colour, Amelia was careful not to whitewash the home, instead introducing shades similar to the original scheme. ‘I couldn’t tell you how many people tried to talk me into painting over the mission brown!’ she says. ‘There was no way I was going to get rid of the mission brown – it’s part of the era. As a designer I had to make it work and I think I was successful in doing this. Everyone now loves them.’

Amelia’s carpet and tile selections also share this mid-century flavour, encompassing terrazzo and geometric patterns, blue mosaics, green kit kats and green carpet in the main bedroom. ‘It was always going to be green carpet, and there are no regrets,’ Amelia says.  

Tying everything together is Dulux Lexicon Quarter used throughout the house, and the original brown, touched up with – you guessed it – Dulux Mission Brown!

Not only does the architecture of this property feel like a step back in time, so does the neighbourhood. The couple were initially hesitant to move to the North Shore after years in Sydney’s inner-west, but quickly grew to love the lifestyle this has afforded their children. ‘The house is in a cul-de-sac, so our kids have a real 1980s childhood… Out on the street on their bikes, and running from house to house visiting friends,’ Amelia says. ‘We now love leafy Lindfield. All our friends south of the bridge said they’d never visit us. They all do!’

Special thanks to our new Sydney team, photographer Jacqui Turk and stylist Jono Fleming, for capturing this very special mid-century gem!

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