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Hamptons & Provincial France

November 08, 2013
Hamptons & Provincial France

Once Aggie and Murray’s two boys moved out, the couple down-scaled into an inner-city apartment, content with the idea that low-maintenance living was their new ‘forever home’. But it didn’t pan out that way.

Aggie realised that grandchildren wouldn’t be far off the horizon, and so the couple started once more looking for a house. It took almost four years before the classic love-at-first-sight occurred for them both.
However, this love was a little rough around the edges, to put it mildly.

In a beautiful tree-lined inner-city suburb sat a rather stately two-storey home that was aging less than gracefully. Window frames were rotten, the laundry and other ‘work space’ rooms were terrible, the garden had been allowed to take over, and there was a general feeling of home fatigue coupled with what could only be described as a gaudy make-over. But underneath the neglect lay a house with immeasurable potential – the ultimate canvas.

A no-nonsense couple, Aggie and Murray agreed that if they were going to do something, they’d do it properly. Murray took to internet research like a duck to water, whilst Aggie started delving through inspirational websites for design ideas. As Murray become intimately familiar with, for example, the nuances of tailor-made French oak patterned flooring, Aggie established a work book that categorised the build into its various rooms (as well as exterior), detailing mandatory features as well as aspirational looks.

The two established themselves very quickly as informed renovators, which had a very positive influence on their interactions with all tradies – thankfully, given at its peak the eight-month work site saw 12 full-time crew. Aggie’s masterstroke was to involve an Interior Designer early on. This proved invaluable for not only determining key features such as the interior and exterior palette, or the textures of soft furnishings, but structural considerations such as the tilt of the garage rooftop (so as to maximise the view from the dining room area above).

The result is a home that on first impressions appears flawlessly put together, but upon closer inspection is in fact an incredibly well-loved and well lived-in space. Aggie has somehow managed to blend into the one house the casual class reminiscent of the Hamptons with the cosy charm of provincial France and drama of a bygone era.

Aggie and Murray’s household is as functional as it is fabulous, and it’s a pleasure discovering the many stories that hide at each turn. Aggie has done a sublime job of incorporating family memories and heirlooms alongside brand-new furnishings. Take for instance her grandmother-in-law’s vintage children’s books, which are within reach of tiny tot hands in the nursery room. Or the family photos that adorn every room. Or the handcrafted Moroccan chess pieces she found whilst holidaying – every space is given soul with these deeply personal mementos.

Here is a home that pulls off crocodile leather wallpaper with chandeliers in every room; original sewing tables (complete with original machine oil and chalk in its draws) with the most wonderfully dramatic mirrors; handcrafted original timber furniture alongside decadent colour-bursts of upholstery… There is so much happening under this roof, but it’s working together beautifully.

So where did Aggie and Murray turn a lot of their attention? The site, which was effectively a quasi re-build, included:

A fresh lick of paint

Aggie was thrilled with the final suite of colours selected from Porter’s Paint. The application was more of a brush-on rather than an actual paint, with the effect – and the product itself – designed to actually enhance over time. In Aggie’s words, ‘the longer it’s on, the better it looks’.

French Nursery


Murray’s research led the couple to French oak, which was imported and hand-laid by the builder into a classical Versaille pattern effect on the ground floor, and more of a traditional lined pattern on the first floor. The kitchen in contrast features a black and white marble diamond cut effect. Before flooring was laid however, both the stereo and air condition systems were installed along the ground (air conditioning for the first floor is located in the ceiling, thus enabling both storeys to be cooled independently).

French Kitchen

Frames and Plastering

The window frames – a stand-out feature particularly in the louvered window family room (originally comprising two sets of French doors, one of which Aggie had turned into a window) – required complete replacement, as did most of the skirting boards and ceiling finishes. The plastering is a class act – perfectly sculpted designs hint at a time gone by, yet come across as fresh, clean and somehow ultra-modern.

French Chandelier

From Pine to Perfection

In its original guise, the kitchen had a rather unhealthy obsession with pine. Aggie was quick to do away with the timber overload, although she did keep the stately island bench (in fact its design features were adopted by new cabinetry such as the television cabinet and nearby wall shelving systems). A new range hood was installed and the dishwasher hidden behind a kitchen cupboard. The most marvellous industrial ceramic basin was installed, and made even more of a feature thanks to the faux-vintage taps (imported from Italy).

Butler Pantry

Finding the wonderful in wet

It has to be said – Aggie and Murray know how to create bathrooms with impact. There is no place for a ho-hum en suite in this household. On the contrary the bathrooms are so decadent and fabulous that one wonders just how easy it is to get to work of a morning – how do you tear yourself away from such luxe? Be it the two-tone striped provincial style walls, the elaborate mirrors, the leadlight windows, the chandeliers, the stand-alone claw tooth bath or everything in-between, these bathrooms and powder rooms put the beauty into bathrooms.


A green thumb

It was not just the interior that got a working over in this household. Attention soon turned to the exterior and Aggie was adamant the front garden was to feature a water fountain, much to the chagrin of her garden manicurist. But a fountain was found (in Castlemaine, one of Aggie’s most successful antique and restoration hunting grounds), and hedges and gardenia beds laid. Behind the home is a beautiful black and white tiled pool and spa, to which the couple did justice by laying fabulous timber decking and an outdoor shower area – the perfect spot in which to unwind with the family.

French Garden

Aggie’s renovation advice:

  • The internet is your Renovating Wingman – you can do so much quality research and get so much inspiration from online

  • The working book is king – order and control are maintained when you keep everything in the one work book. This also gives you credibility amongst the tradies as they appreciate you are managing things well and you know what you’re doing

  • Get tradies you can trust. This is really paramount and can have an incredible impact on not only the outcome, but the journey and your level of enjoyment in both

  • Go to tradey meetings prepared. Do your homework, know precisely what you are talking about, and keep constant contact

  • Consider professionals – I just wouldn’t have scratched the surface without our Interior Designer and Landscape Architect. Don’t assume that these are out-of-reach expenses – deals can be done and money can be saved in the long term from what you reap through their expertise and networks

French Pool House

French Pool

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