CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

Australian House & Garden
After an epic renovation, this magical Sydney home is a haven of comfort and joy, writes Vanessa Walker.

This is a much-used outdoor space for Phil and Ann-Maree Kerry, pictured with children Jack and Isabelle, cavoodle Oscar, and Toby, aloveable goldenretriever with a keen interest in shiny baubles. Photography by maree homer.

This is a much-used outdoor space for Phil and Ann-Maree Kerry, pictured with children Jack and Isabelle, cavoodle Oscar, and Toby, aloveable goldenretriever with a keen interest in shiny baubles. Photography by maree homer.

The chance to be close to family – rather than the house itself – drew Ann-Maree and Phil Kerry to this property in 2006. Despite its blue-ribbon location in a harbourside suburb in Sydney’s east, back then the five-bedroom home was an ugly duckling of the 1960s variety: a warren of small, dark, unconnected rooms that wilfully turned its back on its superlative setting. 

But there was one compelling drawcard. The house was on a battleaxe block that afforded great privacy and the adjacent home was occupied by Phil’s brother and his family, which meant children Jack, now 16, and Isabelle, 13, could grow up alongside their cousins. And, with plenty of room to extend, there would be space to accommodate Phil’s two older children when they came to stay. 

The deal was sealed, yet, even after settlement, Ann-Maree had some misgivings. “There were peach walls, peach curtains and olive-green carpet. It was as ugly as ugly could be,” she says. “I remember sitting on the stairs and thinking, ‘What have we done?’”

‘I love anything with a patina – the more aged and rustic, the better. I adore items with a history.’ 

But she and Phil drew themselves up and faced the challenge head on. “We decided to renovate in four stages, with a little breather between each,” says Ann-Maree. The epic transformation was overseen by architect Tanya Hancock of T01 Architecture+Interiors and, during the later stages, by interior designer Denai Kulcsar. Over the course of seven years, a dilapidated carport was demolished in order to expand the ground and upper floors, the rear of the house was extended and extra space was excavated for the lower-ground level. Throughout, a main priority for Ann-Maree and Phil was to rearrange the layout so that the kitchen and living areas, garden and pool were all on the same level, in order to establish a seamless indoor-outdoor flow. 

Deep comfort and laidback ease characterise this bright north-facing space, as well as the rest of the home.

Deep comfort and laidback ease characterise this bright north-facing space, as well as the rest of the home.

Today, in the finished home, practicality and luxury go hand in hand. The lower ground floor holds a self-contained studio (now Jack’s bolthole), a wine cellar and a media room with tiered seating for family movie nights. At ground level, a formal living space looks out to a sculptural treescape and the pool, while the TV room faces the courtyard with an outdoor fireplace. The top floor contains four generous bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. 

“We wanted a tranquil and comfortable home where everyone could relax, where everything flowed but everyone had their own spaces as well,” says Ann-Maree. “We’re only three kilometres from the city but it’s like an oasis. We’re in our own private world.” 

T01 Architecture & Interiors, Surry Hills, NSW;  (02) 9698 0411 or www.t01.com.au. Denai Kulcsar Interiors, Double Bay, NSW; (02) 9344 6993 or www.dkinteriors.com.au.