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Madelin Tomelty

When renovating a house steeped in history, it pays to hold onto its elegant heritage, as this Manly homeowner discovered

In an era of countless home renovation shows, it’s not unusual for house hunters to buy run-down dwellings with romantic visions of making them shiny and new once again. But the owner of this beautiful abode on Sydney’s sandy North Shore was trailblazing the ‘reno rescue’ mentality long before it was in vogue.

Fifteen years ago this airy, vibrant house looked a little different. “It was a dump and a bit of a hotchpotch house but it had graceful bones!” Jacquie Wharton says. “The previous owners had done an erratic and unique initial renovation; there was no kitchen or kitchen sink but there were heated tiles – none of which matched – in the bathroom.”

But the mismatched interior wasn’t the only thing unusual about the house when she purchased it – it also came with an interesting piece of Sydney’s history. “It was originally three apartments built in the 1880s, and rumour has it that our house – The Gables – was built to house the priests while the seminary on the hill, now the international hospitality school, was being built,” she reveals.

While Jacquie knew she wanted to overhaul the house, she also felt it was important to do so in a way that acknowledged the heritage of the property, and allowed its history to remain intact. “We were aware that the history of the house meant that it was much bigger than us and we tried to respect and show compassion for that history when planning our renovation.”

The “huge renovation” was executed in four separate stages over three years, but today, there is no doubt in Jacquie’s mind that it was worth it. The house is modern, bright and airy, but also traditional with a country feel. Jacquie herself connects with the German word, “gemütlich” when describing her house, meaning ‘snug’ and ‘warm’, but she is just as quick to appreciate the home’s sense of joy and lightheartedness. “It’s fun, sentimental and quirky!” she says, explaining that the interior style was inspired by a desire to make inhabitants and guests feel welcome, free and relaxed.

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