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House tour: a Sydney waterside home with interiors as unique as the view

The Property Addict / Distinct Dwellings

Feb 12 2016

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Entwined with the angophoras that fringe the shores of Sydney's Pittwater, Gaelforce is a consummate blend of mindful restoration and artful design In the undulating hills of Palm Beach, an hour's drive north of Sydney's CBD, a 1940s Spanish-mission-inspired house sits discreetly behind a brush fence, tucked into the hillside overlooking the magnificent panorama of Pittwater. From the idyllic estuary, it resembles a ship's foredeck. HouseTour1 Gael Boglione and her husband, Francesco, owners of Petersham Nurseries in Thames-side Richmond, close to London, have extended their creative talents to restore and reinvent this glorious home. "I've always loved Palm Beach," says Australian-born Gael. "It has everything to do with relaxing and family. My friend Judy told me of a house for sale near hers. It took my breath away "â? such a magical setting." HouseTour2 Her first impression was of the gnarled angophora trees clinging precariously to the cliff "â? the "Ë?force of nature' that inspired their home's name. Initially, Gael barely looked at the house "â? the photos she sent of the property to Francesco in Italy were of only the outdoor areas. "It was an act of faith in my judgement when he agreed to buy the house unseen," she recalls. "He still says to this day that I made him buy a view, a jetty and a deck," HouseTour3 The couple enjoyed using the house with family and friends for several years before starting on the renovations. "We'd seen some builders and talked to two or three architects, but we weren't sure they were right for the job," Gael explains. "Then, by chance, on a heli-skiing week in Greenland, Francesco met John Fielding. On the last night of the holiday, Francesco asked him what he did for a living. John told him about his company, Bellevarde Constructions, and that was it "â? we'd finally found our builder. We never looked back." HouseTour4 They began the project with a fresh view. "We felt that too many old houses with charm get demolished, so we decided to respect the fact that it had been well built during the 1940s and still had good bones," says Gael. "Francesco jokingly said, "Ë?I imagine the French Riviera in the 1930s with palm trees in the garden and Picasso and Matisse walking around with tanned, skinny legs and khaki shorts.'"â?°" HOuseTour5 The team was completed with architect Grant Cheyne, whom they met while having dinner with Neil Perry at his Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney. They admired Cheyne's sympathetic interpretation of that building's 1930s heritage, so they soon hired him for their project. The general strategy was to retain and restore, then do something very different. Digging into the sandstone cliff gave them more bedrooms, another bathroom and an extra four metres for the kitchen. HouseTour6 Cheyne's approach was to integrate everything seamlessly, especially when it came to the elegant, timber-covered boathouse studio, with its wall of glass bi-folding doors opening onto the water. Not only does it house Francesco's classic Riva Aquarama boat, but also a bedroom, bathroom and bar-kitchen. The sandstone cliff-face has been hewn out around and behind the bed, creating a cosy nook, with the glamorous boat "â? ready to launch on its slips "â? at the end of the bed. HouseTour7 Another part of the house, however, is Gael's most treasured room. "The "Ë?tree house' is our magical spot," she says. "All my friends want to stay there, listening to the water lapping and the possums scuttling under the angophora. It grows from the bottom of the garden through the tree house's wooden deck, giving the impression it's part of the building. It offers leafy shade in summer, and frames the view." HouseTour8 The main material used in the restoration was Australian hardwood. "We spent a lot of time going to different timber yards until we finally found reclaimed wood from a Queensland bridge at a demolition site," says Cheyne. Richard Haigh, of Parterre in Sydney, worked with Gael in placing his beautiful pieces of furniture through the house, while interior designer Philippa Barbat helped her with the fabrics and sofas. HouseTour9 "I'm completely in love with the house, especially my bedroom," says Gael. "The bed was made by an Istanbul artist and looks like coral emerging from the sea." The floral painting in the sitting room by Rome-based Alessandro Twombly, son of Cy, is her favourite piece. HouseTour91 "The art is from London and we had several things in storage in Italy, where my daughter Lara and I picked up antiques and shipped them to Sydney," adds Francesco. "I feel that the art, architecture and furniture complement each other very well." HouseTour92 In the dining space, flowers in a 1960s pink Murano vase mimic those of the still-life painting behind, Night by Patrick Hockey. It hangs above a zinc-covered wooden dining table from The Country Trader and 1940s walnut and leather dining chairs from London-based antiques dealer Christopher Hodsoll. HouseTour93 A bakelite cinema sconce gives the bathroom a retro feel. The 1930s painting is by Russian artist Boris Pastukhov. HouseTour94 Cheyne designed a black-steel and wooden staircase and had it installed at one end of the kitchen. It is complemented by a French chest from Parterre and French industrial shelving, displaying Astier de Villatte china from the owners' Petersham Nurseries in London. vogueliving

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