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A four-story terrace house, built a century ago, receives a contemporary makeover

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When renovating an historic home there is always an inherent tension between preservation and modernization. Many original architectural details can be overwhelmed by contemporary innovations, such as bold use of color and open-plan spaces.

For the renovation of this four-story 1905 terrace house, interior designer Darryl Gordon emphasized textural appeal. This was achieved through the use of subtle color to enhance features such as the original fireplace and arched internal doorways in the formal living areas. In keeping with Edwardian fashion, these rooms address the street, rather than the harbor views.

"As the formal living areas face neither the sun nor the view, they are used primarily in the late afternoon and evening. Therefore, I chose a nocturnal palette of soft green, deep brown and burnt orange, to create a warm, inviting ambience."

This rich, yet muted color scheme provides a backdrop to the owners' collection of Asian art and antique furniture. During the renovation, Gordon deliberately created spaces for large pieces, such as the 18th century Chinese imperial screen that is placed beside the Regency dining table and chairs.

On the second floor, directly above the main living area, the master bedroom reflects the feeling of being enclosed, secure and comfortable. The bedroom's stone colored wallcovering is made from natural grass paper.

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"Halogen lights highlight the statue of the Buddha perched on a small recess. The heavy presence of the Georgian chest of drawers and the wood floors is counterbalanced by the light weave in the rattan chair. This composition could be described as Asian fusion," says Gordon.

A wood staircase leads from this floor to the top story, having replaced the original roof. A balcony overlooking the harbor was added later, however it required major reconstruction. During the renovation, this entire floor was redesigned as an informal living area.

Decorated with mainly African artifacts, it has the distinctive look and feel of an attic interior. This is most apparent in the small pentagonal-shaped kitchenette.

"This room was painted entirely white, to give the impression of being clean lined and minimal, and to disguise the fact it is filled with every appliance deemed necessary in a contemporary kitchen."

Aluminum sliding doors open to a floating terrace above the harbor, bordered by a glass balustrade.

Modern materials are part of an intentional break with the more traditional interior on the lower levels. The balcony itself is a way to enjoy a stunning view of the Sydney Opera House, which didn't exist until after this house was built.

An echo of the home's Edwardian roots – the dado wall panelling – provides subtle continuity with the floors below.

First published date: 30 September 2005

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Credit List

Interior designer Darryl Gordon, Darryl Gordon Design
Internal architecture James Roberts, Roberts Cullis-Hill Architecture
Main contractor Jeff Rowley, Jarrac Builders
Kitchen manufacturer Kirrawee Kitchens
Paint Dulux and Aalto Color
New furniture Custom made
Recovery of existing furniture John Puddick Furnishings
Curtains Beilby Workroom
Bathroom tiles Bisanna Tiles