A rundown terrace renovation in Sydney’s inner west



a large building: Slowly but very surely, a rundown terrace house in Sydney’s inner west has evolved into a spectacular family home.


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Slowly but very surely, a rundown terrace house in Sydney’s inner west has evolved into a spectacular family home.

Renovation projects come in all shapes and sizes. This one, in Sydney’s inner west, was completed in four stages over almost a decade. “It wasn’t ideal,” says homeowner and interior designer Annie Bowen, “but it was the best way for us to be able to afford what we set out to do.”



a person and a dog on a leash: Interior designer and homeowner Annie Bowen looks out from the living room balcony. Pictured opposite is Annie's son Billy, 10, with the family's groodle, Biscuit.


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Interior designer and homeowner Annie Bowen looks out from the living room balcony. Pictured opposite is Annie’s son Billy, 10, with the family’s groodle, Biscuit.

From the minute they bought it, Annie and her husband Sam had ambitions of restoring the 1901 terrace and extending it for their growing family. Others might have run a mile when the initial quotes – best described as eye-watering – came in, but Annie took it all in her stride and applied her considerable design experience to breaking the project into smaller, much more doable portions.



a bench in front of a house: Luscious clumps of Casuarina glauca 'Cousin It' cascade over the edge of the balcony garden bed. Landscape design by Garden Society. Exterior painted Wattyl Dawn Rain. Bluestone pavers from Artisan Stone.


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Luscious clumps of Casuarina glauca ‘Cousin It’ cascade over the edge of the balcony garden bed. Landscape design by Garden Society. Exterior painted Wattyl Dawn Rain. Bluestone pavers from Artisan Stone.

The house had been a purchase from the heart. “It was 2011 and we’d not long finished a previous renovation so we weren’t looking to buy,” she says, “but I fell in love with the history of this place.”



a living room: Sunny sofa and Wilfred armchair, Jardan.


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Sunny sofa and Wilfred armchair, Jardan.



a woman standing in a room: Bush medicine painting by Minnie Pwerle.


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Bush medicine painting by Minnie Pwerle.

The two-storey terrace was built for a wharfmaster who proudly displayed his support for Federation in the motifs of its street-facing stained-glass windows. It had ornate ceilings, a beautiful timber staircase and lovely marble fireplaces … but it had also been subject to some questionable DIY renovation over the decades.



a kitchen with an island in the middle of a table: The island's polished-concrete bench is paired with stainless steel for the wall-side bench and splashback. Ilve 1200 cooker. Fisher & Paykel french-door fridge.


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The island’s polished-concrete bench is paired with stainless steel for the wall-side bench and splashback. Ilve 1200 cooker. Fisher & Paykel french-door fridge.



a person sitting at a table in front of a book shelf: Pendant lights, Coco Flip. Artwork by Jasper Knight.


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Pendant lights, Coco Flip. Artwork by Jasper Knight.

“Once, Sam took a sip of water from the bathroom tap and felt his lips tingle. It turned out he was getting electrocuted because the house hadn’t been grounded. The bathroom wasn’t waterproofed, the oven didn’t seal and only one burner worked on the cooktop.”



a chair sitting in front of a window: Gubi 'Bat' armchair, Cult. Always Another artwork by Jenny Lundgren. Feelgood Designs 'Chair 170' dining chairs, Project 82. Tide Design dining table, Workshopped.


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Gubi ‘Bat’ armchair, Cult. Always Another artwork by Jenny Lundgren. Feelgood Designs ‘Chair 170’ dining chairs, Project 82. Tide Design dining table, Workshopped.



a living room filled with furniture and a book shelf: Antique chairs are paired with a coffee table and sofa from Coco Republic. Striped cushion, Lucy Montgomery Collection. Tani, a photographic artwork by Leila Jeffreys, hangs above the original fireplace. Artwork at right by Reg Mombassa. Pendant light, Mark Douglass Design. Vases, Planet Furniture.


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Antique chairs are paired with a coffee table and sofa from Coco Republic. Striped cushion, Lucy Montgomery Collection. Tani, a photographic artwork by Leila Jeffreys, hangs above the original fireplace. Artwork at right by Reg Mombassa. Pendant light, Mark Douglass Design. Vases, Planet Furniture.

When they moved in, Annie and Sam had two small children – Ava, now 13, and Billy, 10. When Annie fell pregnant with their third child Ted, now seven, they decided to tackle the dire, tiny bathroom and improve the layout of the upper level. Next, all the timber floors were repaired and stained for consistency, then the kitchen was gutted and overhauled.



a bedroom with a bed and a large window: Annie and Sam's bedroom suite occupies the whole top level of the house. Bedlinen from Cultiver. Armchair, Globe West. Cushion, Lucy Montgomery Collection. Artworks by the couple's children (bedroom) and Samantha Mackie (landing).


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Annie and Sam’s bedroom suite occupies the whole top level of the house. Bedlinen from Cultiver. Armchair, Globe West. Cushion, Lucy Montgomery Collection. Artworks by the couple’s children (bedroom) and Samantha Mackie (landing).



a restroom with a sink and a mirror: Abey basins from Cass Brothers. Custom American-oak vanity from Surface Gallery. Terracotta pomegranate, Santa Maria Novella. Society Limonta towel and alabaster canister, Ondene.


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Abey basins from Cass Brothers. Custom American-oak vanity from Surface Gallery. Terracotta pomegranate, Santa Maria Novella. Society Limonta towel and alabaster canister, Ondene.

In 2018 the biggest element of the renovation got underway: the attic was extended and turned into a parents’ retreat, plus a lower-ground floor for family living was added. The final stage involved installation of a pool and beautifying the garden.



a kitchen with a large window: Bath from Cass Brothers. All tiles and stone sourced from Surface Gallery. Sussex Scala tapware, Reece. Black timber stool, Water Tiger.


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Bath from Cass Brothers. All tiles and stone sourced from Surface Gallery. Sussex Scala tapware, Reece. Black timber stool, Water Tiger.

Knowing she would be working on this project for some time, Annie’s focus was firmly on longevity. “My first step was to devise a colour palette that would work right through the house and over time, and to choose fixtures and finishes that wouldn’t date,” she says. It’s an approach that has paid huge dividends, with new and old elements of the home linked beautifully and cohesively.



a view of a living room: The striking Atlas of Astronomy wall mural is from Rebel Walls. Bedside table and lamp, both Mark Tuckey.


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The striking Atlas of Astronomy wall mural is from Rebel Walls. Bedside table and lamp, both Mark Tuckey.

Two restored rooms at the front of the house are now used as the formal sitting room and formal dining room. “They are dark rooms and you just can’t get around that, so I decided to embrace the darkness with a deep colour on the walls. It creates mood and feels really appropriate there,” says Annie. Upstairs, she opted for a softer grey. “We’re up so high – we call this our sky chamber – so I wanted a colour that would feel fresh and provide a nice connection to the view beyond.”



a wooden cutting board: Landscape designed and installed by Garden Society. It's planted with slender weavers bamboo and giant bird of paradise. The low white pot from Think Outside Gardens is filled with vivid Sedum mexicanum. Pool constructed by the builder, Savvy Group Constructions. Stump seat, Harbour Outdoor. Dining setting, Tait.


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Landscape designed and installed by Garden Society. It’s planted with slender weavers bamboo and giant bird of paradise. The low white pot from Think Outside Gardens is filled with vivid Sedum mexicanum. Pool constructed by the builder, Savvy Group Constructions. Stump seat, Harbour Outdoor. Dining setting, Tait.

Liveability and practicality are seamlessly woven into every element of this home. This is a family that loves to entertain, so the industrial-inspired kitchen is kitted out with a generous cooker and both stainless-steel and polished-concrete benches. On the lower-ground floor, an expansive sofa makes for a stretch-out-and-relax family room that opens out to the frequently used outdoor kitchen and the backyard and pool beyond.



website: BeefEater barbecue and Vintec wine fridge from Harvey Norman Commercial. Joinery in Dulux Monument.


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BeefEater barbecue and Vintec wine fridge from Harvey Norman Commercial. Joinery in Dulux Monument.



a woman sitting on a bench with a dog: Ava and Biscuit look out to the backyard. Balmain armchairs from Harbour Outdoor.


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Ava and Biscuit look out to the backyard. Balmain armchairs from Harbour Outdoor.

“I used to love gardening, but with a busy job and three kids, I recognised that I needed some help,” says Annie. Landscape designers Garden Society stepped in to create an outdoor space that is as gorgeous and inviting as the home itself. “It’s the finishing touch – and it represents a point in the renovation process that we were thrilled to finally reach. Now we get to just enjoy our hard work.”

anniebowendesign.com; gardensociety.com.au



a large brick building: The terrace's characterful facade was built in 1901.


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The terrace’s characterful facade was built in 1901.

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