It’s hard to imagine a setting more beautiful than a historied home sitting on the very edge of a bay, perched high and with banksia-yellow shutters. It’s the kind of house you float past and dream of owning. Built-in 1862, Ventnor is said to be the oldest surviving home in Sydney’s north and today it remains one of the most visually dreamy, with the beach on one side and a wharf and boathouse on the other. You can only access Ventnor by boat, and it’s after you dock that the magic happens.
This page The boathouse features ‘Twiggy’ furniture including the coffee table and dining table and stools, modelled from foraged branches and reclaimed wood by Melbourne furniture maker and landscaper Greg Hatton. Opposite page One of the oldest homes on Sydney’s northern shores, Ventnor was built by William Oliver and his wife Mary in 1862. William was the son of parents transported to Australia in the 1790s, his father Henry convicted for stealing bacon, a finger of butter and two ducks, and his mother Margaret for taking fabric and bread. William and Mary turned the property into a “food bowl” and working farm with goats, fruit and olive trees, and a bakery on-site using local red gum to fire the oven. Salt was produced at nearby Scotland Island.
There’s a holiday feel in the air from the minute you step onto the jetty and approach the twinkling lights of the boathouse. This isn’t just any boathouse – the sweet little structure is set over mangroves, so you can watch the tide rise and fall and feel as if you might drift off to sea at any minute. Inside, the furniture is nature-based, decorated with market finds and Greg Hatton’s ‘Twiggy’ pieces, including a glass-topped coffee table filled with corals and set with crystal decanters ready for a sneaky dram of whisky or two.
The boathouse may be totally swoon-worthy, but more delights await as you make your way up the stone steps to the top of the hill where the main house sits. Owner Craig Andrade – a former lawyer and now founder of Raconteur, an artisanal luxury fragrance brand that specialises in natural Australian botanicals – jumps between days relaxing in the sun with his partner, entertaining family and friends, and zipping across the bay in his boat to his new store, The Embassy in Paddington. Visiting the Embassy is a sensory thrill, filled as it is with Raconteur candles, fragrances, handmade beeswax bowls and pendants, plus a careful curation of bespoke brands from around Australia.
“We had chartered an old Halverson [boat] one weekend and by chance, we’d moored in Lovett Bay and spotted the ‘for sale’ sign on the bank,” says Craig. “So we swam ashore, climbed up to the house and I immediately fell in love with its massive 150-year-old Port Jackson fig tree.” Ventnor, from the outside, reminded Craig of his childhood in Africa: “The old farmhouses, the big trees, the wide stone verandahs and the corrugated roof … I remember being in the veld, watching a thunderstorm roll in from up high, the rain on the roof, it was so evocative of all those memories. My heart was captured and we bought the property the next week.” Owing to its age, the house needed quite a bit of work: a new kitchen and bathroom, plus all the plumbing, electrical wiring and water tanks needed replacing. “All the unsexy stuff,” he laughs.
This page In the sunroom a grouping of Michael Hirst timber and leather safari chairs surround the vintage Minotti coffee table from Tarlo & Graham topped with chess set and vintage finds. Cushions on the bench seat are from Utopia Goods on Sydney’s Oxford Street and feature Australian native botanicals. The chandelier is a 1970s vintage from Milan in chrome and smoked glass. The rug is handwoven with palm reeds and leather and made by the Tuareg tribes of the Sahara in Morocco and Mauritania. Opposite page, clockwise from top left Ventnor can only be accessed by boat. Owner Craig Andrade commutes from here over Pittwater to his new store, The Embassy, in Paddington. The original fireplace was retained in the kitchen. Red Bottlebrush artwork by Melanie Vugich.
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