Living in this house is like a holiday. You feel like you’ve rented this great chateau or historical property in Europe. It’s a very unique experience,” says the owner of this period home. After a year-long renovation, the result is particularly rewarding bearing in mind both the stop-start of lockdowns and the challenge of procuring materials. Curiously, the property isn’t what you might expect of the owner, who is the CEO of Glenvill, a company geared towards new buildings and developments. Initially, plans for a modern extension were drawn up by an architect but eventually abandoned in favour of working with Glenvill in-house where the proposition was to renovate within the existing fabric.
“Renovations are not something Glenvill normally does, but I’m so proud of the result. People are surprised and absolutely blown away,” says the owner.
The statuesque 19th-century mansion was showing its age. All new plastering was required to combat cracks, some ceilings had to be rebuilt, windows needed replacing and damaged cornices replicated. While damaged, the house was deeply ornate and of-the-era so deciding what to retain was “obvious”, says the owner. “There were some incredibly magnificent details and we knew what we had to keep. Any alteration we made was done with a sense of timelessness in mind. The aim was to create something to endure long-term. The key was to keep the context of the home.”
While the foyer was retained, damage to the tessellated tiles meant seeking out artisans who could patch, polish and grind to get the grouting right. They scoured tile wholesalers all over the world for replacements to no avail, eventually compensating by creating a black timber band to line the border. Also deteriorating were the grand feature stairs which were falling over. Structural supports were constructed with beams cleverly disguised within a design detail that now frames a Damien Hirst artwork.
Off the imposing foyer to the east of the entry is an interconnected sitting room and study. To the west was a walled-off formal dining room that the owner was keen to open up with a new access point. As recreating a like-for-like period entryway was impossible, a steel-framed arch was devised to frame the new insertion. “It was an interesting risk architecturally, but it works brilliantly. It does today’s version of what yesterday’s arch was like. We widened it too, which completely opened it up.” Two more steel-framed arches were cut out at the rear of the room, leading across another hall to the living room. From here, another wide opening was cut to make a better connection to the kitchen and meals area.
In the communal spaces, monochromatic and minimalist furniture is juxtaposed with the highly ornate ceiling roses and intricate mouldings. Due to their vast proportions, some rooms felt cold and bare in parts, so artwork was used to temper the interiors. While the black sofa is heavy and imposing, it backs onto a vibrant work by German artist Franz Ackermann, “inviting warmth and making the space feel lived in”, says the owner. He adds that clothing the house in an impressive array of contemporary art, including prized works from Tracey Emin and Australian artist Michael Staniak, “made a huge difference in making the house feel modern. In a way, it’s like you have this beautiful, old classic suit on and you just put on one extra piece that’s very contemporary – it could be a tie or a shirt – and it changes the whole context of what you’re looking at.”
The day-to-day rear staircase leads to the first floor where four bedrooms – each with their own new bathrooms – have been oriented in a quad shape around the level-one foyer. The master bedroom was flipped from the front to the back with a walk-in robe and ensuite carved from an existing bedroom. Mirroring the surrounding foliage, the bathroom is lined in forest-coloured bevelled wall tiles and an ice-green quartzite vanity. “We decided to switch the positioning of the master wing because of this view out to the trees. There’s an incredible calmness about being surrounded by nature up here. It’s a view and feeling that we thought deserving of this space.”
Words by Carli Philips – Photography by Timothy Kaye – Styling by Karin Bochnik