Wesigned to embrace outdoor living, Australia’s distinctive Federation houses were built at the turn of the 20th century, typically incorporating large verandas and generous gardens. And it was just this style of property that caught the eye of interior designer Jane Hewitt and her husband Simon.
Based in Sydney, the pair were looking for a large, light-filled home that would suit the needs of their children, Alex, 10, Isabella, eight, and Alice, five. ‘We wanted a house with an original feel,’ says Jane. ‘We saw this Federation cottage with excellent natural light and a north-facing garden and knew we could develop its potential.’
Jane and Simon decided they needed to reconfigure the modest building, which also featured a tired, 1970s extension. So they brought architect Phil Abram on board, who conceived a radical alteration. ‘Phil proposed forgoing interior space, instead creating an inner courtyard easily accessed from three rooms around it,’ says Jane. ‘It was the perfect idea, because, for us, this house is all about light.’ The existing extension was removed and replaced with a new two-storey addition, which better blends the old and the new.
What was once the kitchen became the inner courtyard, while the new structure teamed with muted furnishings make this a suitably restful space.
The original house was also rearranged to include an attic-level playroom. Now, as well as three verandas, the courtyard channels plenty of sunshine to the heart of the building.
Inside, Jane has decorated throughout in neutrals with generous splashes of pattern, bright textiles and vivid colour. ‘I’ve happily up cycled furniture that I’ve found on the side of the road, and I also love English and French antiques,’ she says. ‘We lived in France for a year, where I collected all sorts of pieces from flea markets, so I was able to have them shipped back here. The dark-wood coffee table in the sitting room is a favourite item.’ Jane also collects English textiles, Persian rugs and kilims, evidence of which can be seen throughout the house. ‘We’ve created an informal, eclectic look that is really easy to live with,’ she adds.
Unsurprisingly, the family likes to spend the majority of their time outside on the verandas and in the garden. ‘Sydney has such a great climate and we make the most of the sunshine,’ says Jane. Now, it feels like it’s been here forever.