Branching out
Australian House & Garden Magazine|May 2021
A home among the spotted gums has been lovingly transformed into an exquisite boutique destination.
Sarah Pickette

OUTDOOR LIVING This serene spot extends off the formal living area. Tribu ‘Senja’ sofas, Cosh Living. Coastal Drift hanging chair, Malawi Cane. Coffee table, Grazia & Co. Thimble stools, Dowel Jones.

EXTERIOR Weatherboards painted Dulux Black Spur. Miami light, Gineico Lighting.

KITCHEN The kitchen has two zones: a social side, shown here, and a more functional cooking zone, which is tucked behind the joinery wall. Murello ‘Earth’ terrazzo benchtop from Surface Gallery and Lignapal ‘Vibrant’ oak veneer cabinetry from George Fethers & Co, installed by Blakes of Sydney. Mattiazzi ‘Osso’ stools, District. Anchor Ceramics ‘Potter Halo’ pendant lights, Hub Furniture.

Wandering around the block she’d bought on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, owner Kim Ellis stopped to pick up a chunk of iron-red rock. “It was unlike anything I’d ever seen,” she says. “The stone had a richness of colour and movement. You could make out the lava layers that had formed over years.” What Kim, the founder of Wild Luxury retreats, was looking at was a piece of late Permian to middle Triassic-era rock, revealed after the soil and top layer of Sydney sandstone had eroded. Finding it intriguing and beautiful, Kim took the small piece of rock home and later presented it to Melbourne interior designer Carole Whiting, who had been engaged to transform the double-storey home on the 1825-square-metre block into a luxurious holiday-rental property. “That fragment of stone formed the basis of our palette,” says Carole. “It’s where we started with colours and materials.”

From the very beginning of the design process it was clear that the house should embrace the beauty of its location – reached by private road, it offers dazzling views of Pittwater on one side and Avalon Beach on the other. It’s also home to a stand of 25 endangered Pittwater spotted gums. Part of what Crane Lodge, as it’s now known, offers guests is a beautiful ‘forest-bathing experience that celebrates the magnificence of those trees and the bushland that surrounds them.

“When you step into the house, you have the feeling of still being among the trees,” says Carole. “The view is the star and the interiors work to frame and highlight it.” Thoroughly reconfigured inside, the property can now accommodate up to 15 guests (in both the main house and a studio nearby). While the central staircase up to the bedrooms remains where it was, the rest of the ground floor was mostly gutted. “The existing conservatorylike structures on the kitchen and dining sides of the living space were opened up further to the elements, with floor-to-ceiling windows bringing in more of the trees,” says Kim.

Built in the late 1990s, the house had been designed by an architect whose brother happened to be part-owner of a timber mill in Tasmania. “This proved to be very beneficial to us,” says Kim. “The boards are premium-grade solid Tasmanian oak. All we did was refurbish them and give them a clear protective coating, so all the beautiful tonal variation could shine through.”

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