Doherty didn’t circle the fountain with her car when she first inspected Dickens Manor as the forecourt has been transformed with lawn and garden beds, but she was overwhelmed with the scale and detail of the 1920s home on its sprawling 1,300-square-metre site. “The ballroom is vast, as is the generosity of the other rooms,” says Doherty, whose brief was to create a more contemporary home (previously renovated in the 1990s as a home to former owners). “In a sense, I had to hold my clients back a little as I was keen to retain as much of the original fabric as possible,” she adds.
Although there’s a strong contemporary feel to the Elwood house, Doherty and her team took their design cues from the some of the home’s period features. The arrow motifs in the many leadlight windows, for example, as well their golden hue, can be seen in some of the new contemporary joinery such as the gold laminated cupboards in a living area, adorned with arrow-shaped brass handles. Other areas, such as the runner on the impressive staircase, features a graphic Art Deco-inspired motif but skewed for a more contemporary setting. “Our clients (a couple with two children) wanted a lighter feel in the home, so some of the timber such as in the stairwell, has been painted,” says Doherty.
As the ballroom is vast in scale, Doherty created two separate seating areas. “Originally guests would have strolled out to the terrace, and perhaps had their photos taken by the fountain,” says Doherty. And given the scale, Doherty inserted bi-fold timber doors between the formal living areas at the front of the house, and the dining area at its core. One of the substantial changes, although not obvious, was making a connection from the dining area, located at the core of the floor plan, to the kitchen. So, Doherty created a new servery and bar through one of the dining room walls that connects to the butler’s pantry. A new wine cupboard with a glass back and with timber shelves that capture the spirit of the Art Deco period, also brings gentle light into the core. “The leadlight adds colour to the house so we were fairly restrained in the way colour has been used, restricting this to joinery, the bathrooms and to areas such as the dining room (a dark navy/deep plum colour),” says Doherty. Other features, such as the oak herringbone parquetry floors, speak of the past, but create a consistency in the materials used.
The kitchen was also completely reworked. Cote d’Azur marble was used for the island bench, along with the splashback. And rather than wall-to-wall joinery, the overhead cupboards were treated more as objects. “It was important to create a lighter touch here,” says Doherty, who also included new glass doors to the north-facing garden. Other areas such as the main bedroom, leading to a terrace at the front of the house, has also been reworked. Previously a bedroom with two separate studies, it now includes two walk-in dressing areas and an ensuite bathroom.
Although Dickens Manor is a large house, with five bedrooms upstairs, several living areas and a stately ballroom capable of holding large functions, it’s certainly a home for a couple who enjoys entertaining. “It’s far from overwhelming even though the scale of some of the rooms are impressive,” says Doherty, who is captivated not only by the home’s original detail, but as much by its history. “You can still envisage how the place would have operated as a function centre,” she adds.
Doherty Design Studio can be contacted on 03 9815 2737
Images | Derek Swalwell
Words | Stephen Crafti