Interiorssneak peeks

100 Year Old House Becomes a Family Home in Australia

by Amy Azzarito

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This house is the seventeenth home that Kim and James Pearson have renovated together. They used to live a few streets away and loved this little neighborhood, which is elevated above the ocean and sits between the river and the sea next to a little park in this beachside suburb of Perth, in Western Australia. This 1909 Federation style house had been on the market for eighteen months but Kim had put it out of her mind because it didn’t seem likely that they could afford it, but James couldn’t resist checking out an open house and he told Kim that they had to try to make it work and dragged her over to see it. It only took her ten minutes to fall in equally in love with the house – with its nearly 12 foot ceilings, original fireplaces, lead glass windows and beautiful wide jarrah (a wood native to Western Australia) floorboards hiding under the sad old carpets. There was room for everyone to come together around the dining table or in the living room but there was also plenty of room for their two kids to have their own space to escape. So once they bought the house, they rolled up their sleeves and set about making this 1909 home work for their 2014 lives, while also keeping the soul of the old house. Most of the furniture was theirs already – pieces that had been collected, handed down or even found on the road. When she’s not at work on a  renovation project, Kim works as an interior designer and visual stylist, so when working on her own home, she knew exactly what details she wanted to add and what she wanted to preserve. Nothing in house was untouched, but Kim tried to work with the lightest hand possible so as to preserve the history and integrity of home. She made minor changes like bleaching the floor boards to a warm golden color, restoring and refitting the fireplaces, add small contemporary touches to the bathroom and kitchen but otherwise keeping things intact. With each project, their own family history became part of the history of the house. And there’s many more memories yet to come.  –Amy

Photography by Red Images Fine Photography
Styling by Sophie Thé and Kim Pearson

Image above: “This used to be two separate rooms but we knocked down a wall and created one big reception room. There’s no TV in here but masses of super comfy feather filled sofas and chairs around the fire or under the window to catch the winter sun. The sofa was the first piece of furniture we bought when we first met in London (James is English, I’m Australian), this is the fourth time it’s been recovered. The floor lamp is IKEA.”

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Image above: “The cabinet is from James’ family home in England. It’s a very old piece and dates to around 1690. Incredible to think it’s here in Australia now. In one piece! The glass bubble lamp on it makes me happy. James wanted to replace the lead glass doors to the kids’ bedrooms. We still argue over them! The chair is a Ghost by Philippe Starck. Ubiquitous now but I still love them.”

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See more of this Australian home after the jump!

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Image above: “The sofa is one of two from England. It is without a doubt, the most comfortable sofa that I’ve ever sat on. We found it while on holiday in London after a long day shopping on top of appalling jet lag. I found the entire family asleep on these sofas in Liberty’s. There can be no better advertisement. The sculptures are both by Western Australian sculptors whom I adore – Peter Zappa (Cheval) and Ken Sealey (The Priest – yellow); the painting is Australian and I LOVE it by Melissa Egan. It makes me think of my Australian convict ancestors. See the Kookaburra in the bottom right hand corner? These colours are the colours of my country.”

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Image above: “This painting is from James’ family home in the north of England on the Scottish borders. It’s of the Lake District. It used to hang above the library fireplace and was covered in nearly two centuries of soot. We had it restored and cleaned and to our amazement found entire groups of people, a stream and a sweet border collie we never knew were there. The stool is by Philippe Starck. The roosters on the table were a lucky find. An antique shop was closing and I spied them and asked the price. Bargain. I paid and bolted before they could change their minds.”

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Image above: “The fireplace surround was actually not very pretty – it was a rather nasty dark red brick. So we plastered and painted it white and built a new nero black marble hearth with offcuts we found in the supplier’s yard. White paint covers a multitude of sins in this house.The mirror was from the old family home in England. It’s been restored and re-gilded as we’d lugged it around the globe several times. The gum is our native eucalyptus. I love it. The paintings on the left and reflected in the mirror are Aboriginal paintings from Western Australia – two different regions and communities. The painting on the right is by Daisy Andrews of her country after the rain with the wildflowers in bloom and the waterholes full. I love it.”

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Image above: “The table, chairs and sideboard are all handed down. The rug I bought from ABC Carpets in NYC. It has faded in the sun but that doesn’t worry me. I think it makes it even more beautiful. I love patina and character showing in things. Soulful and real. The light above the table is one of my favourite things in the whole house by my favourite Australian lighting designer, Volker Haug. Volker designed the piece and I specified the colours. It took 6 of us to hang it. The electricians had never seen anything like it. You should have seen the size of the crate it came in. The painting of the birds is by another favourite painter Becky Blair.

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Image above: “This is our home study/office. It’s sunny and happy and sits just off the main sitting room. It’s a thoroughfare through to the kitchen. I found the pretty French antique sofa in an old shop in England covered in ratty old corduroy and covered in pigeon poop. It lived like that in our garage for 3 years until I literally woke up one morning and just knew the right fabric to upholster it in (this glorious linen floral). This happens a lot with my furniture and fabrics. I wait until I just ‘know’.”

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Detail of behind my desk – I LOVE this painting by wonderful Darwin based artist Rob Brown titled “People I think of the most when (crossed out) whilst milking the cow” with ‘portraits’ including Marianne Faithful, Bruce Lee, Girl With a Pearl Earring, Wonder Woman and Queen Celeste (Babar’s mother!). And books. I LOVE LOVE LOVE books. Everywhere. Can’t imagine living without them.

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Image above: “This old ladder I literally found in the roof of the old garage we converted into a cottage. I did nothing to it other than clean it with some soap and water. The perfect pink and cream lay beneath the dirt. Cliched probably but it makes me happy and is a great place for books and bowls with those bits & pieces that you have no idea what they are or where they belong but know that if you chuck them out, you’ll live to regret it. The kitchen we painted gunsmoke grey with new stone benchtops and polished nickel taps and handles.”

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Image above: “Lots of different linens on the bed – I’ve been collecting linens since my early 20s. The wildly decadent tangerine cashmere blanket I bought in Delhi earlier this year along with the cream handwoven pashmina blanket when we were trekking in the Himalayas in north west India. Woven by a women’s cooperative in Almora set up years ago by the actor and entertainer Danny Kaye and now run by his daughter apparently. Women from local villages come together to weave the most exceptional blankets, throws, and textiles all by hand on looms dating back hundreds of years.”

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Image above: “The original fireplace in all its glory and beauty with tiles of Diana the Huntress. It was a very dark and sombre heavily stained timber but I actually love painting decorative white sometimes – often you see and appreciate far more detail and intricacy of the carvings and overall design once painted. And it’s lighter which I wanted for the bedroom. The clocks are both from grandparents and great grandparents. The little leather bound traveling clock is actually a campaign clock – my husband’s great grandfather fought at Gallipoli in WWI as a British Lieutenant-Colonel. Gallipoli is the battle which, although we ‘lost’ (the mighty Turks held their ground) and lost many of our men, it became our defining moment of nationhood as a new country fighting on the world stage for the first time and represents a kind of ‘loss of innocence’.   We celebrate Anzac Day on April 25th and it is to us as significant and important as your 4th July and Thanksgiving – a day of national pride, remembrance and reflection; of ourselves, our country and our place in the world.  So for me, to have this clock carried into Australia’s most defining and symbolic battle by my English husband’s Great Grandfather and for it to now sit here in Australia is an incredibly powerful and deeply moving thing for me as an Australian.” 

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Image above: “The bathroom is pretty much how we found it. I did make some minor but significant cosmetic changes to refresh and upgrade including new lustrous glass mosaic borders, new stone bench top, new marble sink (found on sale), new taps, new shower screen, lights, painting white, white, white – walls, cupboards, ceilings and the old bath. Shower curtain by Urban Outfitters.”

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Image above: “Our daughter made the garlands. The camellias in the boot vase are from the garden. The birds’ nest James found after a big storm this autumn in the park over the road. We found a similar one last year too. Bed linen by John Robshaw and Anthropologie with a few vintage and antique coverlets I’ve collected on the bed for added warmth. The blinds are made from beautiful French loosely woven linen and get softer by the year.”

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Image above: “This is additional desk space in the family and TV room. It’s where I tend to spend time tearing pages out of magazines. (As you can see.) The sofa is a late ’50s divan covered in a beautiful watercolour floral cotton. We found it in the garage of an old early ’60s house we bought to renovate a few years’ ago. I fell madly in love with it and insisted we have it restored. But of course it too sat in the garage for 2 years before I found just the right fabric. The desk is IKEA. The sculpture on the LHS is “Jellyfish” by Peter Zappa. The painting is Aboriginal from Western Australia and is by Rosie Taco King.”

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Image above: “We converted this old garage (with mezzanine storage above) into a cottage for the children and their friends. The curtains are Shibori hand dyed cotton. We replaced the old rusty roller door with french doors from the local hardware shop. The tree in the foreground is a nearly 100 year old Magnolia towering above the house and is one of the biggest in the state for its age and size. When it flowers the air is filled with sweet lemony heady fragrance and the blooms are bigger than satellite dishes.”

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Image above: “Inside the cottage: We covered the old concrete floor with vinyl ‘timber’ planks – great for spills from red cups … The sofa is an old sofa bed for sleepovers. The two timber ‘Grandpa’ and ‘Grandma’ chairs are from my parents – I covered them in Shibori died remnants from the curtains. The ottoman is great additional seating (occasionally sleeping!!!) in a fabulous kilim which hides spills. The floor lamp was made by a dear friend and wood worker who specialises in recycling and upcycling timber found in ‘Bring Out Your Deads’ (see above “Decorating Goals” section) and acts as a great clothes horse too. The green pendant light was original to the old garage and work shed alongside as is the copper piping. (James tried to paint over them and you could have heard my yells from a mile away). The Mexican hat was left over from a Mexicana night party (!) and the prayer flags are from the Himalayas in Nepal.”

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Image above: “I love IKEA. This kitchen is the perfect example why. Teensy but functional and forgiving. We kept it black laminate and stainless steel with a just a touch of red. The spiral staircase James found at the local salvage yard. It was perfect for the tight space to access the mezzanine storage above. James installed it himself. He’s a dab hand with a drill and loves a challenge. The treads are jarrah, one of the strongest and most beautiful of Australian hardwoods and local to Western Australia. The old mercury pendant I found in a vintage shop down the road.”

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Image above: “A paved side garden leads to the old twin brick garages which I painted dark gunsmoke with gloss tuxedo coloured doors and powdery white doors and windows completely transforming rather unattractive buildings into something strong yet beautiful and a great foil to the silvery grey outside of the house itself. Green planting looks good against it too. It’s a colour used often in the US of course for outdoors but not so often here, maybe because of our strong, harsh sun. But I find it cooling and love turning the corner and seeing it on my way to hang out the washing. The planters and the iron bench under the window were all found here in the garden when we bought the house, or in previous old homes we bought. I’m always amazed by what people choose to leave behind.”

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  • The glass in the French doors was the 1st thing that took my breath away-so beautiful.
    This may be my favorite makeover. Your souls shine here.

  • Does anyone know the maker of that insane blue and white fabric on the sofa in the first picture??!

  • this house is amazing – i would be happy living in the children’s garage. the design is simple and stunning at the same time.

  • Can you divulge your source for that luscious, amazing blue and white cut velvet fabric on your sofa?

  • I love all the textiles and surprising but beautiful upholstery in this gorgeous home. The way the upholstery on the couch in the first photo echos the glass door behind it is really striking! My two year old would want me to make the following tiny correction: Queen Celeste is Babar’s wife, not his mom. :)

  • Very personal space, which makes it absolutely beautiful. Those kids are pretty lucky, that space is amazing. My son would forego college if he could have that out back to live/entertain his friends. ha. The cabinet in the reception room is just perfect.

  • Does anyone know where I can find that fabric that the couch was reupholstered in from the first image? It’s gorgeous.

  • I love your use of fabric throughout the home. The linens on the bed look so comfy and inviting, and the 2 sofas are just perfect.

  • One of the most visually appealing home tours I’ve seen in a long time. Lovely! And so clean.

  • Hi Sara, Sarah, Kristen and Emily – The saphhire sofa fabric is a velvet and linen by Neisha Crosland (UK). Her fabrics are to-die-for gorgeous, rich with texture and pattern yet madly practical and incredibly versatile. Emily has posted the link xxx

    Mera@RedHouseWest – I’m totally mortified by my Queen Celeste hiccup – poor woman – I must have aged her by 25 years at least. She certainly doesn’t deserve that! xxx

  • What a beautiful and well put together home. I have to agree with Erica- simply amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  • Love your house. Get the spare room ready I’m on my way
    Most attractive is the use of old stuff handed down both families
    Your kids, and your grandchildren, will take the new stuff you’ve bought and do the same
    We buy odds and sods at auction- it gives us objects which are scuffed, patched and faded. As we have no kids I do wonder who will take our stuff?
    It will probably end up at auction and the whole cycle will start again!
    The teacup and saucer in your photo are the same as mine, thousands of miles away
    I eat my toast from a square plate in the smae pattern

  • love the house, it looks terrific.
    My only reservation was in a lack of knowledge being spread around the world….. we don’t “celebrate” ANZAC DAY we commemorate it, for me it is the saddest day of the year.

  • Funny to see my home ‘hood (only one suburb in Perth that’s described as being between river and sea…) on this blog when I’m halfway round the world. That house seems pretty unusual for the area – fancier details and bigger than many in the area (I lived in a far plainer workers’ cottage). I’m crazy for that blue and white couch that everyone else seems to love too!

    Delicate note, prompted by the ‘celebrating ANZAC Day’ quibble: ANZAC Day is equivalent to Memorial Day. It is not at all like Independence Day or Thanksgiving.

  • Golly Louise, I’ve obviously offended you and in no way did I mean to do so. These were my words to convey what Anzac Day is and means to me as an Australian. “Celebrate” doesn’t have to mean a party and I stress again that was never my intention. It can also mean “commemorate” and this was indeed my intention as per the alternate definition, “honour or praise publicly”. Having a relative who fought there as my little clock story illustrates should hopefully negate any misunderstandings by any other readers.
    Sincerely, Kim.

  • Beautiful home full of colour, pretty objects and amazing artworks. Love, love, love ‘The Priest’ and super comfy liberty sofas. Well done mum xx

  • What a beautiful home! Kim, does that glass bubble lamp come from Syria, by any chance? It looks just like the handblown lamps that used to be made until just recently in a family-owned factory near Damascus. (I think one vendor in England used to sell them.)

  • What a great mix-use of styles and still has so much flow and natural light. A very beautiful and yet comfortable looking home.

  • Where exactly is the beautiful grey sofa you mentioned from? As far as I know, Liberty of London doesn’t actually sell furniture, so did you mean a different store by the name of “Liberty”?

  • Its great to see the bold contempary sculptures by Peter Zappa and Ken Sealey sitting so comfortably in this domestic interior. Well done for choosing original art that doesn’t just hang on the wall (not that there is anything wrong with that!) – just that bigger sculpture is often overlooked as an art choice

  • Normally I think floral prints are often overwhelming and don’t look great in a lot of design spaces. However, I really like the grey sofa with the floral print and provides awesome patterns in an already “busy” room. A monochrome sofa or love seat wouldn’t work well with the rest of the room’s design.

  • what a special house, I thoroughly enjoyed the anecdotes and tales of each room.

  • Hi Kim my wife Lolita is a big fan of Design Sponge and she let me know that you had featured one of my sculptures in this post (Ken Sealey – The Priest). Thanks for that. Your home is so vibrant and filled with light it is like hearing a choir sing.

  • Love your beautiful home Kim. You have a fantastic eye for colour and detail.

  • I love this – Can you tell me the paint colour used throughout? Is it a brilliant white or another shade?

  • Hi Kim. Absolutely love your way of putting so much colour and patten together. Very cool too that a Perth property is featured. Don’t know if I am supposed to ask here but am desperate and don’t have your knowledge to source items Kim. Where in Perth would I find recycled, vintage or antique Internal door knobs or even just designs that are not like all the others? (Not cabinetry) I have tried eBay, Gumtree etc. Hope you can help.