PERHAPS it was the glistening drive around the Serpentine, winding my way down to Bilgola Ave, but by the time I came across home owner Rowena McGilvray watering the front garden, with 4yr old son Ben at her side, I was already in love with this house.
Rowena is the creative soul behind this boldly beautiful home which she has not gutted, but rather renovated to perfection. She explained on the way up the wide and welcoming front stairs that it was she who determined to make the steps this wide, and to keep the font of the house, including the front door, filled with simple glass.
“I wanted this house to be welcoming from the moment you arrived here.” And it is. From that front door the home seems to open up, with your line of sight immediately drawn through the house, through the enormous opening to the terrace (central to the living areas of the house) and out to the towering cabbage palms.
The main living area is a very big space, though not cavernous, nor fussy. The broad planks of the floor are not highly polished; the planks milled from recycled timber found in a Lidcombe factory. The ceiling retains the original battens, that intersect around the perfectly chosen overhead fans that lazily spin from their well designed fittings around the house. A casual, classy Hamptons feel has rarely been captured so well.
As we stop for a cup of tea, there is time to admire the very long `kitchen’ bench topped in a gold flecked marble, over white painted cabinetry. The teas are, however, made in the very generous walk through butler’s pantry.
Across from here is another lounge area, that fits around an enormous fireplace with a sandstone clad chimney breast, besides which is a special spot I had admired in pictures, and quite literally adored in real life. The perfect window seat. “We all fight over who gets to sit here,” said Rowena as Ben jumped up to show me how he could stretch all the way out and still have room to spare.
As we walk toward the rear of the house, we pass three three large bedrooms where the McGilvrays’ four children rest their lucky heads and then enter their lounge wing.
“They have their own entrance,” said Rowena, pointing to the rear boundary through more enormous windows.
While Rowena and Ben struggle with a stubborn toy I went up stairs to the master bedroom, with it’s cute cape cod roof lined and painted timber ceilings and ample ensuite. Ben ran up the stairs and assures me it is a “loverly “house.
“The bones of this house,” said Rowena with admiration, “they were here when we arrived, and we couldn’t make it any better than it was.” However, I disagree. She is a highly talented designer and decorator, who has created a stunning family home that is more than welcoming, it is enchanting.
Prue Miller is a journalist with News Ltd and can be read in The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph and The Manly Daily – on paper and online.