Homes of the Hunter | Merewether | Photos

A Singapore-based Australian family of five engaged Novocastrian small businesses to extensively renovate the interior of an original Merewether miner’s cottage on Buchanan Street, a place they have lovingly dubbed The Hideaway. 

“After living 12 years away from Australia and Newcastle, we have seen the street change dramatically and feel like our little miner’s cottage will be the only original structure left in the street,” says owner Nerida Ebrill, who bought the property with her family in 2007.

The three-bedroom home is light and airy and regularly rented out and listed on Airbnb. Ebrill’s stylist Stephanie Rose, of Stephanie Rose Design, describes the home as “contemporary coastal with a blend of Singaporean style”.

Ebrill’s brief to Rose was “white beach house inspired with a touch of Singapore black and white”.

“There are elements of traditional in them and then there are elements of tropical,” Rose says of the style.

“It’s a blend of the native and colonial. It’s characterised by a very neutral colour pallet. Usually white walls, timber floors, lots of natural textures, for example the woven cane arm chairs. And then lots of tropical greenery.”

The décor includes lots of cane and rattan. The house has a linen couch and curtains, and Rose used jute rugs to line the hardwood floors.

“The new kitchen island and pendant lights were added by Stephanie Rose Design,” Ebrill says.

“They were a quarter of the cost of getting an island built. They both make a huge impact in the open-plan living/dining space. She actually saved us money and time sourcing these pieces.”

Rose came in to do the styling after major renovations.

In October 2009 the family was planning to return to Newcastle from Hong Kong and decided to upgrade the house for their arrival. 

All walls in the front section were removed during the renovations and the kitchen and laundry were opened and combined. Sliding glass doors replaced the street-front wall that had only a small window. Then they created a new entry and front deck with an internal courtyard.

“This created a very open and light-filled house, which was previous cramped with little pokey rooms and little light and air flow which are reminiscent of the old miner’s style layouts and cottages,” Ebrill says.

They also pulled up carpet and had the original pine floors sanded. They upgraded the bathroom and kitchen.

After Hong Kong, the family next found themselves in Singapore.

In 2017 they briefly returned and quickly did some external upgrades including building a concrete driveway and internal and external painting by Jay and his team at DJS Painting.

They installed reverse-cycle air-con in every room in their cottage and created a new landscape design with the help of MUD Design. So far they’ve planted more than 100 plants, with more to come.  

After overseeing renovations from Hong Kong and Singapore, she was really impressed with the small, mostly family run, companies in Newcastle that contributed with their “can-do attitude”. She gives them all the credit for the final result

“The gardening work and continued care is by Aaron from Azmel Lawn care who brought MUD’s plans from paper to life. The bamboo and watering systems through the gardens were bought, installed and planted by Justin at Zen Bamboo,” Ebrill says.

“It really is amazing to see what was completed in the time frame and local companies’ work ethic to fulfil the job on such a short time frame.”

Her favourite space is the Singapore-inspired garden, created by Mark Tisdell from MUD. It was landscaped in the north-facing backyard, and Ebrill also loves the huge 50-year-old frangipani tree that blooms in summer beside the Singapore-inspired new plantings. She’s eager to see how they will grow over the next year. 

“Nerida’s brief was to design a Singaporean inspired space for the Australian climate. This presented some challenges, however we loved immersing ourselves in this space and learnt a lot about Singapore-style gardens during the process. Working with a client living remotely can present its own array of challenges, however if it’s tackled well, it can lead to inspiring and rewarding results,” Tisdell says.

Their home is at a place known as the golden triangle. A five minute walk in any direction will take you to either Bar Beach, Merewether Beach, parks, playgrounds, bars or cafes.

“We love this location with three kids 8 years and under. We can park the car and walk to everything every time we stay. It’s just so easy,” Ebrill says.

“Who knows what the future holds for us after 12 years away from Australia, but of course we would love to return home.”

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