The 12-month project to restore Everglades House is now complete, with freshly painted interiors and meticulously restored artworks transforming the house back to its former Art Deco glory.
A house with history
Built in the 1930s by Belgian-born businessman Henri Van de Velde, Everglades House is a famous example of inter-war architecture in the Blue Mountains, Dharug and Gundungurra Country.
Everglades has long been known for its unique gardens, but significant investment was required to conserve, and in some cases reinstate, the original features of the house.
Thanks to the help of more than $200,000 in public donations, the National Trust (NSW) began carrying out vital repairs and maintenance work in late 2022.
Conservation in action
The project involved extensive research to understand the original materials and design from the 1930s. The work was also conducted to heritage conservation standards, drawing on the skills of many heritage experts in the areas of furniture, sculpture, textiles and artworks.
“Our aim was to restore and highlight the original interior design and architectural elements of the house,” said National Trust Senior Curator Craig McPherson. “It was a team effort. Patrons, donors, and heritage experts all came together to save this special house, and the results are spectacular.”
Everglades House contained some rare pieces of furniture, including a 1930s sideboard, settee and cocktail cabinet – all expertly made by Beale and Co, Australia’s largest piano manufacturer in the 1930s.
Photographs taken by celebrated Australian photographer Harold Cazneaux recorded many of the interiors of the original house. With each piece of furniture individually created for the house, sourcing replicas to furnish the property was of course impossible. Instead, the National Trust archives were used to help guide many aspects of the restoration, including the design and creation of new bespoke furniture to match the originals.
A new settee in the entrance foyer was reconstructed, as well as a complete bedroom suite for one of the upstairs guest bedrooms, creating a finished and authentic interior for the first time since the National Trust has owned the property.
Fresh colours and carpets
Everglades House is known for its butter-yellow walls, but the team soon discovered the house’s original colour schemes were hidden behind architraves and furnishings.
This helped inform the final colour schemes for the house, which have now returned to a lighter yellow that is closer to its original design.
Soft furnishings were also a big part of the interior transformation, with new upholstered bench seats and bed spreads added to rooms, as well as new curtains made by volunteers from the National Trust soft furnishing group.
Fabrics were sourced to closely match original archival photographs and align with authentic fabrics of the Art Deco period. Rugs from the National Trust collection were also selected based on those seen in the original images in the house, and have now been restored and hung throughout the house.
Artwork and lighting restored
A large relief artwork and water fountain by the Danish-born sculptor, Otto Steen, was cleaned and carefully restored in the dining room. As one of the National Trust’s largest pieces of sculpture, the artwork required careful attention by two conservators who stablised original sections of paint and infilled missing areas of lost paint.
Conservators also repaired the Art Deco light fittings throughout the house. This required using the original details of fittings shown in historic photos, and developing 3D rendered models to document and manufacture the new designs.
A new exhibition space
Everglades House’s fascinating history is now on show thanks to two new exhibition spaces in the house.
One of these spaces is in Henri Van de Velde’s own bedroom, open to the public for the first time in many years. Exhibits include: an original portrait of the property’s owner; a historic photogravure print that was ‘hidden’ in the attic and discovered during the project; and a restored Huckleberry Finn statue that was formerly located in the gardens and is now conserved inside.
As part of the re-opening of the house, there is a special exhibition of photographer Harold Cazneaux’s works, titled ‘In Focus’ – now on show in the restored upstairs display space, highlighting the original images of the property that guided the most recent works.
Visitors to Everglades House & Gardens are now welcome to explore the house and see the remarkable results of the restoration.
“We encourage everyone to come and visit,” said Craig. “This is a very special heritage landmark in the Blue Mountains, and we’re now looking forward to sharing it with the public for many more years to come.”
This project was completed with the generous support of National Trust donors and members, the Copland Foundation and the Dick and Pip Smith Foundation.
The National Trust would like to thank the many donors, members and supporters who donated to the Everglades House appeal. It’s thanks to your generous donations that this project was made possible. We also thank the many consultants who worked on this project, including:
- Furniture by Olivardo and Co
- Painting by The Finer Craft
- Sculpture conservation by One Conservation
- Art and textile conservation by Heights Heritage
- Historic interiors advice by Hector Abrahams Architects
- Fabrics by Ascraft, James Dunlop and The Vintage Clothing Shop
- Curtains by volunteers from the National Trust soft furnishing group
- Upholstery by Spring Upholstery
- Exhibition spaces and design by 3D Projects and Designcraft
- Signage by Lookprint
- Electrical works by Paul Harris
- Lighting by Aglo Systems.
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