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.
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!’