Continuing Tradition – Vaucluse Drawing Room
Australian Colonial Regency revival estate, including house, interiors, outbuildings and garden.
Our client had acquired over many years a collection of Regency furniture and had long planned to build an estate that would provide an appropriate setting for same.
Subsequently they requested an estate that might have been built in NSW by landed gentry between 1832 and 1842 when John Verge was most active in Sydney and surrounds. The house was designed with direct influence in the planning and detail drawn from MacQuarie Fields house, Rose Bay Cottage, Fernhill at Mulgoa and Elizabeth Bay House. John Verge inspired architraves, pateras and cornices, doors and windows designed and detailed in Australian Red cedar and made by Woodhill Joinery with iron and brass hardware were perhaps the main component around which the building was framed. Working fireplaces with slate and scagliola surrounds were made by Arek Werstak.
The roof is galvanised iron and external walls are cement rendered with ironed joints. The timber floor is out of messmate cleared from the site. Country Road Constructions were careful to follow traditional detailing at all points. The client was very particular in requiring a rounded bay, this being a feature of 1830’s English Regency and uncommon until the 1840’s in Australia, the oval breakfast room at Elizabeth Bay House and the round bay at Fernhill were specific reference points.
The large entrance hall, featuring a traditional floor of cream marble in diamond patterned squares, with black inserts, together with the scagliola columns supporting a large plaster arch, a large, panelled entrance door and a finely rendered sunrise fanlight, give an authentic ambience as you enter the house. The half-waisted side lights consist of three equally spaced lights separated by very fine astragals, common to all the fenestration. The ellipse shaped fanlight is a correctly proportioned masterful piece of joinery, supplemented by the detailed panelled reveals which extend all the way from the floor around the ellipse and down again to the floor. The large entry door is of eight panels, fielded on the external face.
The symmetry of the building provides the two main rooms, with four metre ceilings, to lead off from the main entrance hall. In keeping with tradition, it provides the opportunity to give expression to the sophisticated elegance of the Verge-inspired joinery, with margin glazed French doors and fanlights, asymmetrical architraves, panelled reveals and sloping soffits joined by hand carved fan pieces. The rooms are painted in traditional colours with gold edging to the cornices and hanging argand lamps.
The kitchen is also rendered in traditional style, with large exposed wooden beams on the ceiling, clay floor tiles and the range set into a large brick open fireplace with heavy timber mantle. The walls are of exposed brick, painted white. The joinery is in Baltic pine, including a reproduction Georgian dresser and a kitchen table in Tasmanian blackwood circa 1800.
The garden features a small lake backed by a large rustic stone stacked wall, overhung by large exotic trees – cherry, dogwood, nyssa and willow to encourage wildlife habitation such as wild duck. Michael Bligh landscape architect, was very firm in the requirement for a garden view from the house entry towards the east and distant coastal aspect that could not be interrupted leading to the circular rose garden at the entry.
There is no grid electricity or town water supply to the site so all electricity is generated with a solar installation and water is collected and stored in a tank for reuse, all of which is cunningly concealed from view.
Research included visiting Glenfield at Casula, Elizabeth Bay House, Elizabeth Farm House, Rose Bay Cottage, Lyndhurst in Glebe, Rouse Hill House and Segenhoe in Scone.
The following books were the main literary reference:
- Rachel Roxburgh: Early Colonial Houses of NSW, 1974.
- Broadbent, Evans and Lucas: The Golden Decade of Australian Architecture, The Work of John Verge, 1978.
- Murray and Croker: Traditional Joinery Sydney Houses 1810-1915, 2005.
- Mitchell Library Sydney
This project is the result of a very passionate and knowledgeable client and all involved enjoyed and continue to enjoy the experience immeasurably.
Worked on the project:
Michael Bell Architects, Country Road Constructions, Woodhill Joinery, Arek Werstak and Michael Bligh and Associtaes.
What the Judges said:
“A house built around a collection – this house is a ‘new’ and carefully detailed building which allows traditional techniques and details to be enjoyed.”