Homes of the Hunter: Stimulating ideas for better living

From sleek inner city townhouses to Wild West abodes in the Hunter Valley, Weekender has covered a variety of houses in 2017. We’ve seen a cozy art deco studio apartment for two and a Wallsend mansion built in the1800s filled with Downton Abbey-style furniture and decor.

This week we’re taking a look at some of the most innovative and memorable places over the past year.

Best Renovation

Home renovation is practically a rite of passage for Australian home owners, particularly with rising house prices. When the Ibister family moved into their Carrington warehouse five years ago, it had previously been a coal testing facility and then a workspace for an environmental sound engineer. A space like this doesn’t immediately scream domestic bliss, but with stacks of work, the place was completely transformed into a two-storey home for the couple and their eight children, two cats and their cake-baking business.

Local builders Nathaniel and Jonathon Swannell built an entire second floor in the warehouse, complete with an upstairs kitchen and deck.

With eclectic decor and bright colours, the home became an industrial design blended with a cheerful comfortable vibe.

This is one renovation more remarkable than most, and it also gets points for innovation and sustainability, as all the rebuild was made from recycled materials.

Best Decorations

Interior design is not an easy art form. Colours must be considered, eras and style must be decided, and lighting is very important. Some designs are easier to pull off than others, but nothing is more impressive than when a resident is able to make something living a part of their Feng Shui.

Weekender interviewed two pairs of green thumbs this year who brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “natural design.”

Artist Chris Brown rents a house on Church Street, and in his humble abode that he shares with another, a lounge room morphs into a funky mix of many thriving plant cuttings from around the region.

Similarly musician and illustrator Pegs Adams has packed her one-bedroom apartment in Cooks Hill to the brim with plants of all shapes and sizes. She works at local plant shop High Swan Dive, giving her access to well-manicured varieties and knowledge on how to keep them growing. Both Brown and Adams have plants that were originally owned by loved ones who passed away.  

Like heirlooms and heritage homes, plants are living breathing examples of ongoing stories, and the owner that can maintain them deserves recognition. This interior design decision requires regular maintenance and attention. Indoor plants usually thrive in places with lots of natural light, and natural light also tends to make a space lovely. It’s no surprise plants liven up the humblest of homes.     

Best View

The Hunter Region has no shortage of amazing locations and views. Renters Mark Tisdale and Carolina Diaz moved to their two-bedroom terrace in the East End despite previously living in places that were already pretty spectacular. This house is one-of-a-kind, with a balcony that feels like it’s hovering over the Cowrie Hole. The views fit the quirky beachy abode to a sea.   

“It compresses your senses into this dark tall staircase and then you come into the lounge room and then it reveals all its wonder,” Tisdell said about the house during the time of the interview.

Indeed the stairs from the entrance lead up to the spacious multi-layer two-bedroom abode that shows off the Pacific Ocean. Well positioned windows give good ventilation and light, and even the bathroom has ocean views. Shower and gaze into the horizon!

Most Inspiring story

Homes of the Hunter is often just as much about the home dweller as it is about the house itself, and recently retired homeowner Kim Shepherd of Charleston’s inspiring attitude on life is reflected in her one bedroom apartment she recently downsized into. Despite the small quarters, her outlook on how to live has broadened substantially.

“For me, this apartment is all about new beginnings, I didn’t want to bring anything from my old life,” Shepherd said of the space during her interview.

After 35 years living and working in Sydney in much larger houses, she returned to Newcastle and eventually moved into her 78-square-metre apartment. This included her balcony, which has seating and a barbecue.

After a more extravagant home life in Sydney, she’s organised her space very carefully in order to handle the smaller environment. Shepherd has now dedicated her life to travel, and she brings back small souvenirs from her journeys to remind her of her adventures.  

“My rug from Turkey was quite expensive, but when I’m 80 it will be nice to put my feet on it and remember crawling through caves, climbing mountains and the balloon rides there,” Kim said of her house and memories.