Lifted and shifted from its original position, this renovated heritage home now has a level of sophistication the owners adore
Meet & greet: Haesley Cush (real estate agent) and his wife Aleesha, their daughter Vivienne, 10, and sons Louie, eight, and Teddy, six.
The property: A 1920s five-bedroom property that’s been extensively remodelled.
After the arrival of their third child, the inner-city cottage that was home to Haesley and Aleesha Cush was bursting at the seams. So, they started looking around for a larger house that would better accommodate their growing brood. Having renovated that first home, they had one stipulation: not to do it again. “We were looking for something that was already ‘done’ because neither of us was interested in renovating again. It just wasn’t our jam,” says Aleesha.
They started house hunting but, even with Haesley working in real estate, couldn’t find anywhere that ticked all their boxes. “While we saw some lovely houses, there was always something that we’d want to change about them,” Aleesha explains. But when they spotted a four-bedroom heritage property in a desirable riverside suburb, they knew they’d found what they were looking for. “It just had a really beautiful feeling, a lovely home with original features that we could move into and not have to do anything to it,” she says. “As soon as I walked in, I said, ‘Let’s take this one.’”
However, their aversion to renovating wasn’t such that they didn’t realise the house had the potential to be made even better (and to maximise their investment in a highly sought-after suburb). They just needed to assemble a dream team to help – and psyche themselves up to tackle another renovation. Having sold a few of his projects in the area, Haesley commissioned an architect to reconfigure the house with a new floor plan and building design that included lots of joinery. “The living areas were upstairs, so we wanted to build out underneath and relocate them downstairs, which would make it easier for the kids to access the backyard,” says Aleesha. “But it was also really important for us to keep the character of the original house.”
In this new space on the ground floor, the high ceiling is exposed concrete. The curved sofa is a design that works beautifully for the Cush family. “We spent a lot of time on the shape, making sure the seat back was the right height and that it curved in the right places for the space,” says the project’s interior designer, Carlene Duffy. It’s paired with a vintage armchair and handcrafted artisan rug made in India.
The project involved a ‘lift and shift’ (running steel beams under the main structure and raising it up with hydraulic jacks) to create more usable space downstairs. “At some point, a rumpus room and an extra bathroom had been put in down there, but it was quite a poky space with a low ceiling,” says the project architect. Now the lower floor includes a spacious living, kitchen and dining area (plus play/TV room, powder room and laundry), which opens to an outdoor living area, lawn and swimming pool. Upstairs, there are five bedrooms, three bathrooms and a second living area.
The renovated heritage home is flooded with colour, thanks to another of Aleesha and Haesley’s secret weapons: interior designer Carlene Duffy. Carlene also happens to be Aleesha’s sister, and was given full rein of the interior, which was painted a stark white. “We didn’t want it to look like everyone else’s house,” says Aleesha. “I love Carlene’s style, and this place now has character, colour and texture. And while it has all the design elements, it’s not stuffy. With three kids, we wanted a house that wasn’t precious, one we could relax in.”
Carlene added a vibrant mural in the form of a textile wallcovering called Les Mystères de Madagascar by Arte. A solid Bruno Ball wooden coffee table was added and the children’s vegan leather beanbag loungers are by Henlee. The Tretford rug was made in Mongolia.
Carlene, who was a contestant on 2014’s The Block: Glasshouse along with husband Michael, says the home offers a colour journey that unfolds as you make your way through. “I always take my [colour] cues from the quality of light in a space and other items, such as the timber veneer, which had been specified by the architect,” she says. “The main living area is actually a low light space, so I wanted to use colours like the pinks, ochres and browns to create warmth as well as complement the timber.”
Upstairs, the palette is cooler, with different shades of green and blue to take advantage of more light. In Vivienne’s room, Carlene has used a deeper version of the wall colour on the ceiling to emphasise the original pressed-metal ceiling. “Painting ceilings white can be really jarring, so using the same or similar tone on the walls gives the feeling of being enveloped in colour rather than making the ceiling the focus,” she explains.
The bedhead is a design by Carlene. “The Duomo Piccolo lights were already in place so we needed something quite low,” says Carlene. The feature wall, is painted Taubmans Sage Craft and quilt cover from Kip & Co.
Build over and Aleesha is pleased that she and Haesley finally found the appetite to renovate for a second time. “I’m never moving again,” she affirms. “Mainly because I couldn’t imagine having another house that we would love as much.”
As for Carlene, she’s looking forward to spending time in her sister’s renovated heritage home as a guest rather than a designer. “It’s only just been finished really, so it’ll be nice to relax here with Aleesha and Haesley over the summer without thinking of all the bits and pieces I still need to sort out.”
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Photographer: Mini Cooke