After all, the stunning — and diminutive — 36-year-old strings the stethoscope of Dr Zoe Gallagher, confident emergency department doctor, around her neck each week in front of an adoring army of 1.4 million All Saints fans. So it’s with a sense of awe that one steps into the four-bedroom, four-bathroom mansion that she shares with husband Paul Williams, 41, a sales director in the Growing up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches,
Allison Cratchley lived in no less than 10 different houses with her master builder father, mother and two younger siblings. Today, the spontaneous, surprising style that floats throughout her cool, cultured bayside home pays homage to a girl who grew up going with the flow.
The eldest of three children born to Noel Cratchley, a master builder and wife Kathryn — “a stay-at-home mum” — Allison grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. But dad’s job meant that moving house was part of growing up.“We lived in about 10 houses because dad pretty much built, sold and moved on,” she remembers with a smile, sitting in Claudia’s rumpus room for the interview — a large sun-filled playroom which runs immediately off the kitchen, designed so mum could keep an eye on her little one while cooking. “We lived in a garage once while dad built the house — poor mum, pregnant with my little sister Sally, and watching over my brother Noel and I who were both very active. Then we would live in some two-bedroom shack while dad built his dream home. We’d move in there and then out again to some run-down place. “I remember living in a beautiful four-bedroom house at Long Reef and then moving to this horrible little two-bedroom cottage — in a better position — but it had lime-green carpet on the walls and saloon doors! I was about 12 and said, ‘I’m not bringing anyone home here!’ But of course dad had such a great vision of what he could turn it into.“So I’m not really attached to a home. To me it’s not a home that I can’t live without. It is a house. There are memories there but then you move onto the next one. A house is about accommodating that moment in time,” she says.
’”They moved to Rose Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in December, 2005. “We wanted to find a family home and it was really important to us to get a place with a large kitchen which looked out onto the outdoor area so I could watch Claudia while she played. I wanted a little yard and Paul wanted a pool (their pool is saltwater and heated all year round). We wanted four bedrooms (one of which they currently use as a study) and a double garage.“We weren’t just going to buy anything — you know, the house that isn’t quite right; we were very specific about what we wanted and we were prepared to wait.”
Bizarrely, they had been pipped at the post on a property in the very same wide tree-lined street where they now live, just two months before. “We drove up the street — true story!” laughs Allison, “drove past this house and said — ‘Something like that would be just perfect!’ Two months later it came on the market.”The house has a rustic exterior evocative of an Umbrian villa. Inside it is as wide as it is long and the use of cool whitewashed walls give a fresh, countrified feel, yet at the same time cultured and contemporary.The previous owners had been immensely proud of their enormous open-plan kitchen and Allison says she tries to emulate their tradition of cooking numerous dishes and leaving them buffet-style on the central reservation.Testament to Paul and Allison’s conviviality are the 10 custom-made dining chairs with an Aboriginal-style print which gather around their stunning dining table, made by a Newtown furniture maker who specialises in crafting pieces from wood he rescues from provincial farmhouses in Europe.“We have roughly three big dinner parties a year with our three different groups of friends,” says Allison. “Sometimes I’ll cook; sometimes I’ll get in a chef. She is standing in the main lounge, a vast space which houses the dining table, generous loungers and two stunning handmade Swiss dot-pattern chairs. You could hang the Archibald exhibition in this room there’s so much wall space and indeed a canvas by an Archibald exhibitor, Melbourne artist and book illustrator Esther Erlich, hangs in this room.
The couple met on a road trip — both were travelling to a mutual friend’s wedding and happened to be accepting the same ride there. “I had been told there would be two guys who worked in pharmaceuticals in the car so I brought about 10 magazines and my headphones for the journey. I got in and thought, ‘He’s cute!’ and was so nervous I didn’t stop talking for the entire journey!”They married in Noosa in September 2003 and that’s where they would like to buy a second holiday home one day.Growing up on the Northern Beaches, Allison is invariably drawn to the ocean. She left home at 18 and moved into a flat above a pizza shop in Manly with four girlfriends. She laughs as she remembers how she picked the back bedroom — a bad choice as it faced east to the beach and the sun would wake her at five every morning. Plus the room was on a slant and her bed had to be propped up with telephone directories! But she tells a delightful story of her protective dad, worried about his first born not living under his roof. There was no fire escape so Noel Cratchley fixed a huge rope secured by a giant hook to the back of Allison’s window so she and her mates could always be sure of a swift exit in the case of fire!
Later she would take acting classes at the prestigious Herbert Bergoff studios in New York. An actress who takes her craft very seriously, Allison did a recce at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney before taking on the All Saints role.Medical advisors usually have just 10 minutes to explain the medical jargon and procedure to the actor before the cameras start shooting a scene. It’s been a little over a year since she took the role and she and Dr Zoe Gallagher clicked right away, says Allison. “You know when you meet someone and there’s an instant connection; you know you are going to be great friends. I felt just that. I knew I could have an amazing relationship with this character.”She enjoys a great relationship with the cast, too — a tight-knit group who enjoy nothing better than dinner out together.