Renovation: A fairytale ending


An ‘ugly duckling’ property is transformed into a majestic, beautiful swan




dining room





Sydney’s eastern suburbs are well known for their overtly grand properties, and naturally, these homeowners insisted theirs, on a heritage conservation area, be just as impressive. Taking the Queen Anne-style home’s bare, neglected bones and using this as a basis for a glamorous transformation has provided marvellous results and the home of their dreams, and certainly one that most can only dream about. But its starting point was not so grand.

“The house has elements of English Arts & Crafts style but was badly in need of repair, with no internal stairs, but external stairs to access the two sides of the house,” says architect Maddalena Vienna, of Sydney-based firm Vienna Design. “There was a poor, unsympathetic addition at the rear, with a flat roof, and many of the original features were taken away.”

Maddalena was inspired by her enthusiastic clients, who, like her, also recognised the home’s hidden potential, and came to the project armed with an abundance of ideas. “The clients loved American Hampshire-style homes and wanted a beautiful home that’s not only elegant, but also practical, with all possible comforts,” says Maddalena. “They had lots of images of what they liked and wanted to put into the project. It was a pleasure to work for someone with good taste and is always assertive in what they like.”

With a home of this age came plenty of special considerations, in order to delicately revive and preserve its natural beauty. “As much as possible we tried to retain the original features, such as the fireplaces and cornices, but we also added plaster and timber detailing to the walls to highlight the heritage elements that were stripped out recently,” says Maddalena.

The changes that took place were not just cosmetic, but structural, too. “We removed a number of walls on the ground floor, completely changing the existing layout configuration and creating a new entry to the residence,” says Maddalena. “In particular, on the ground floor, we enlarged the kitchen and added a powder room and laundry.” The kitchen is now very special, with state-of-the-art appliances and an array of superb high-end finishes, such as Calacatta marble for the splashback and benchtops.

New stairs were built to the top floor, the roofline at the rear was changed to give much-needed height and light to the existing rooms, and new bathrooms were created on the first floor.

“We also enclosed the front and side verandah to form a study and a new ensuite, added a Juliet balcony to the main bedroom, and built a new carport, garage and pergola on the side of the home,” says Maddalena.

“I now love the flow of the spaces and the privacy that each room has by having large sliding doors that create intimacy when needed.” The clients also had wonderful furniture and pieces of artwork that complete the picture and work very well with the home’s sophisticated, neutral palette.

Finally, outside, new fences, a luxurious swimming pool and landscaping that complement the style of the home complete the overall work. “This house is now built to last for another century, with solid construction, insulation and a water tank for the swimming pool,” says Maddalena.

Not only was the age of the property a concern, but naturally, when carrying out a renovation of this nature, various hurdles were faced throughout the process. “Council requirements are always a challenge, especially when the residence is in a conservation area and the neighbours complain; however, diplomacy and perseverance works wonders,” says Maddalena.

Although the house has now been sold, the clients are very happy. “A truly ugly duckling has been turned into a magnificent palace,” says Maddalena. “The first time I took measurements here, I could feel the negative energy the house had, but now, the place feels happy and alive. The house is very much a celebration of the past with the comfort of modern living.”


This project was designed by:


Suite 602/37 Bligh Street,

Sydney NSW 2000

Tel: 02 9233 4566




This project was built by:

Owner’s builder



Kitchen/dining/living/bedroom/stair: Timber

Outdoor: Stone



Dining: Timber beadings/panels

Stair: Timber



Benchtop/splashback: Calacatta marble

Cabinetry: Artarmon Joinery



Cabinetry: Artarmon Joinery

Tiles/walls and floor: Carrara marble



Frames: Custom made, Artarmon Joinery



Roof: Terracotta roof to match existing

Paving: Sandstone


About the area:

“The Ethan Avenue heritage conservation area provides a record of a significant historical time. The avenue has a distinctive character that retains the qualities of a more compact early 20th century garden suburb. The streetscape has a high aesthetic value, showing housing displays of quality and distinction of a wide range of Federation styles, from the Federation Queen Anne housing, to the English Arts & Craft styles and the American-influenced Federation bungalow. The consistency of the dominant roof forms and stylistic elements such as verandahs, porches, bay windows, chimneys and front gardens contributes to the strong streetscape qualities of the area.” – Maddalena Vienna


Written by Danielle Townsend

Photography by Rowan Turner

Originally from Australian Period Style Volume 8