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Wander through the front door of Ann Gordon and Chris Armstrong’s pretty yet unassuming semi in Sydney’s Queens Park, and it doesn’t take long to get a sense of the personalities of its owners. Light pours into the airy open space, illuminating clusters of artfully placed textiles, vintage collectables and artworks, and drawing attention to the lush native garden outside. “When we decided to renovate, I wanted it to be more than just extra rooms plonked on top,” says Ann, an artist and mother of Kit, three, and Monty, two. “I wanted to completely change the way we used the house. I wanted every room to feel good to be in.”
With the help of the couple’s good friend, architect Michael Hilliard, they have done just that, with every nook of the spacious home ingeniously used. Today, the house is a welcoming three-bedroom family abode that doubles as a showcase for the couple’s much- loved collectables and growing art collection, which includes an ever-changing visual feast of Ann’s own artworks.
The home is full of clever eco-friendly features, from a water tank connected to the house to eco-glass windows which facilitate natural heating and cooling. Northern light fills every room – a vast improvement to the “old house”, which was often excruciatingly cold. “It was very un-eco,” recalls Ann. “In winter, you needed to stand on top of the heater on full blast all day. In this house, we never have the heater on during the day and only occasionally at night. The sun warms the place up and the eco-glass keeps the heat in.” And in summer? “It’s like a natural airconditioning system. All the hot air escapes through the louvres on the second level and it’s lovely and cool.”
The centrepoint of the home’s design is a double-height void over the kitchen and the sun-filled courtyard, which allows light to flow into Ann’s airy studio upstairs. Sitting in her creative space, she can look out over urban rooftops, a beautiful jacaranda tree and, conveniently, back down into the rest of the house. “Being able to work in a space that is separate but still part of the family home is just so wonderful,” says Ann of her light-filled sanctuary, which is also linked to the master bedroom by an open walkway. “I can put on some dinner for the kids, go upstairs, do a bit of painting, leave it to dry and then come downstairs again.”
With her ever-expanding art collection and precious vintage finds in mind, Ann deliberately chose to keep the home’s walls, extensive joinery and lighting neutral. “I thought if I kept the palette restrained, I could put up pieces from fellow artists, as well as objects I’ve collected over the years and my own paintings, which are colourful, to see how they could work in a home environment,” says Ann. “Sometimes if there’s colour and texture already, it just looks messy. Here, there’s more focus on the objects and it gives them space.”
While Monty and Kit love running in and out of the many entrances and exits of their new home, Chris’s preferred feature is the freestanding double garage. “He spends a lot of time out there tinkering with his bikes and projects and playing New Order very loudly,” says Ann. And the best thing about the garage, for Ann? “It’s out the back.”
Photo by Craig Wall Oct 12, 2012
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