Family TIES
Australian House & Garden Magazine|December 2021
Few on the verge of an empty nest would opt to build a bigger house, but one savvy Sydney couple did just that and found much to love in their own style of multi-generational living.
Owen Lynch

COURTYARD GARDEN This page and opposite Architect Georgina Wilson, daughter of the owners and mastermind of the much-loved home’s recent sensitive renovation. Tribú ‘Kos’ armchair, Cosh Living. The steps are clad in sandstone pavers that were removed to make way for the lawn. New Guinea rosewood shutters and doors.

Back in 2000, Dr Margaret Kearns and Dr Richard Smith had three young-adult children soon to fly the coop. They began considering their options: downsize or stay put in their much-loved family home? The discovery of a 19th-century cottage a stone’s throw from Sydney Harbour put a third option on the table: buy something different for the next chapter in their family’s life.

Part of a row of impressive terraces on a dress-circle street in Sydney’s exclusive Double Bay, the cottage was set on an uncommonly large block for the area and enjoyed water views. But the house itself had seen better days. A lifetime of indelicate extensions had ruined its heritage credentials and rendered it uninhabitable.

Enter Georgina, the couple’s eldest, who was studying architecture at the University of Sydney and working part-time for renowned Sydney practice, Tzannes. It was Georgina who brought Alec Tzannes to her parents’ attention, championing the award-winner’s aesthetic as well as the logic and level of craftsmanship he invested in each build.

“Family was always at the centre of Mum and Dad’s brief,” says Georgina. “For the next phase of life, they wanted a house that was social and generous, so they really needed a designer who could take a site like this and enhance its value. I knew Alec could do it.” Richard and Margaret shared that belief, and invested in building a property that would accommodate themselves, their children and future grandchildren.

FACADE Motorised cedar blinds, JWI Louvres. LIVING Artwork by Leah Thiessen, Flinders Lane Gallery. B&B Italia ‘Michel’ sofas, Space. Throw, Montmartre Store. Flexform ‘Este’ coffee table and ‘Kidd’ side table, both Fanuli. HC28 ‘Bold’ armchair, Domo. Agra rug, Armadillo. Heat & Glo ‘Mezzo’ fireplace, Classic Fires. The fire surround and joinery unit benchtop are made from Calacatta Oro marble from SNB Stone.

Since it was double the width of the adjacent properties, with both front and rear lane access, the site allowed for a handsome threestorey, five-bedroom home. Thanks to its careful scaling and thoughtful materials selection, it now sits proudly yet harmoniously alongside its older neighbours.

“FAMILY WAS ALWAYS AT THE CENTRE OF MUM AND DAD’S BRIEF. THEY WANTED A HOME THAT WAS SOCIAL AND GENEROUS FOR THIS NEXT PHASE OF LIFE.” Georgina Wilson

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