From Issue 2- Sleeping Beauty

Articles / Design / Life

An architectural classic in the Perth Hills is revived for a family seeking a second home, among the gum trees.

Where for decades WA has abided an idle disregard for the legacy of some of its finest architects – with defining projects routinely razed – it seems that only now the provenance of our design history is being valued and preserved.

This was the case when interior designer Kim Pearson turned her hand to this captivating late-1970s residence by Perth architect and academic Ralph Drexel. Kim and a carefully assembled team set about sensitively reworking the home, which has evolved from its original farm homestead but remains an homage to one of the State’s most renowned architects.

The Perth owners, a young family of four, sought a getaway from the hustle and bustle. “They wanted the house to be a respite from their busy city lives; to be totally unfussy, incredibly hard wearing and easy care,” Kim says.

The country-born-and-raised couple sought a similar experience for their primary school-aged children. “They spend their weekends here surrounded by vast areas to run, play, and be active,” says Kim. “They build dens, pick fruit from the orchard, vegetables from the garden; they fish for yabbies, collect eggs from the chicken house, toast marshmallows in front of roaring fires and have wonderful adventures.”

A destination in itself, the sweeping five-bedroom, two-bathroom home encapsulates a living zone with a kitchen/dining/snug, sitting room and cavernous attic. Beyond verandahs that edge all four sides of the home, are a dam, orchard, extensive landscaped gardens, tennis court and pool. The raw majesty of the arresting landscape includes valleys and hills, wild bush, and expansive paddocks. Kim was at once enchanted. “It was generous, beautifully grounded and exciting – I saw it as a sleeping beauty,” Kim says. “It represented a chance to throw some serious 21st Century love and respect at a late-70s, quintessentially Western Australian classic.”

The home is all angles and pitches, corners to discover and nestling nooks, with a materiality that speaks of decades past and spaces that invite memory making. Inevitably, such a highly crafted building required a highly crafted approach. “It was the old onion parable,” says Kim. “We would peel back one layer to find another underneath and, as a result, everything was done as it should be – with extraordinary care, attention to detail and most of the time painstakingly by hand.”

Kim assembled a team of expert craftsmen, builders, trades and restorers alongside her regular team of joiners, cabinetmakers, and furniture and soft furnishings makers. She engaged architect David Weir as consultant architect, and they set about addressing the structural elements and workshopping solutions for the many challenges that inevitably arose.

“Our approach was to gently but thoroughly and respectfully restore, renovate and redecorate the home while keeping the intrinsic raw materiality of the architecture and the interiors at the forefront,” Kim explains. “We wanted it to look almost untouched – for nothing to look new.”

The existing home was extremely dark and, even on the sunniest of days, the return verandahs, red brick internal walls, dark timber beams, slate floors and yellowed pine lining exacerbated the dim interior. David set about tweaking the architecture to draw in more light, while Kim devised a layered lighting plan to provide additional relief. A commissioned set of fixtures embody the aesthetic spirit of the 70s – from a pair of fiery red and yellow sculptural pendants in the sitting room to artisan crafted sconces in bronze and handblown glass, and table lamps of steel and glass. Solid copper and brass fittings stud the exterior, while fire-safe uplighting threads a visual path through towering gums at night.

The timeworn and yellowed pine-lined walls and ceilings were sanded back and re-painted in a lime-based white. Jarrah beams and lining boards remained untouched while the original slate floors were lovingly restored.

“It was having the confidence to know what to touch and what not to in terms of re-design and decorating,” Kim says. “Everything had to be restored, but it was knowing what to restore to the original, what to change or update, and all while achieving huge change without it looking hugely changed.”

Kim sought finishes that would patina and age beautifully, selecting raw and natural Western Australian or Australian designed materials and products where possible. Each choice was rigorously assessed for its ability to endure farm life, kids, dogs, mud, dust, and all the stuff of the bush. Notably, a Moroccan Tadelakt (natural lime plaster applied by hand) was selected for its natural hue and capacity to create and retain light. Its warm, textural finish was achieved via several passes of soaking, sculpting and ramming, and – after lengthy drying with industrial heaters – was hand-finished with locally sourced beeswax, applied and rubbed back for a gentle lustre.

A large central storeroom was absorbed as a new library and study nook, and a pantry and prep area in the new kitchen. The kitchen features aged bronze hardware, a combination of solid timber and deep emerald granite bench tops, and handmade and fired glazedtile splashbacks. Multiple ovens, a large double farmhouse sink and capacious storage provide the modern amenity a young family requires. “The owner is a phenomenal cook, using bountiful produce from the orchard, vegetable garden and beehives on the property,” Kim says. “A new kitchen window over the sink means the owners can now see the children in the garden or pool with ease, and indeed all the way down the paddock to the orchard in the valley.”

Kim’s signature finesse is evident in meticulously chosen blinds, artwork, bespoke cushions, fine linens, carpets and outdoor furniture. A conscious layering of textural wools, linens and rugs gently complement a backdrop of soft paint finishes, such as fresh white chalky lime juxtaposed with dark jarrah beams. Custom-made furniture includes solid walnut coffee and bedside tables, and divans with trundles to cater for overflow guests. Dormer window beds create glorious alcoves, a favourite hidey spot for kids looking to curl up with a book.

“The home is now light and warm, youthful and strong, safe and embracing,” Kim says.

The grateful owners agree, and on completion invited everyone who had a hand in the project to the farm for a home-cooked, long-table Sunday lunch.

Indeed, this is a home to be shared, and one that elicits unmistakable fondness from all who encounter it. “It was most definitely a labour of love for all involved, but then everyone became incredibly attached to the property and passionate about the work we were doing,” Kim says. “I don’t think we lost any of the original sentiment of the house, and the magic that the owners fell in love with is still there – it has simply been enhanced and the opportunities embraced to allow even more magic to occur.”

Visit – Kim Pearson

@kimpearsoninteriordesigner – http://kimpearson.com.au