AUSTRALIANS are serial renovators and Novocastrians are no exception to the rule. So it's not really surprising that Naomi Findlay has developed a niche as an expert in home staging and styling, assisting clients in upgrading properties without stumbling on the many pitfalls in the home industry.
She's also well aware that clients do not want to overcapitalise, whether they are flipping a property for quick resale or upgrading their own home with an eye to selling it down the track.
Findlay, the creative director of Silk Home Staging and founder of the International Institute of Home Staging, took us through a Cooks Hill property this week that was one of her most recent projects.
The owner asked for her help about six months ago, seeking a total makeover on a Darby Street unit with loads of potential but limited by governance rules on the structure. The end goal was resale.
The final result: a sparkling three-bedroom unit with an ultra-modern kitchen, new bathroom with an excellent "wow factor", and furnishings that exude warmth, class and charm.
The attention to detail reflects trades and designer working on the same page. While the windows could not be replaced due to title conditions, they were resashed and relatched. The custom-made curtains have a textured appearance, adding warmth and interest, and filter natural light, a big plus in this corner unit with views of Empire Park.
The kitchen, which opens to a small verandah, features Quantum Quartz 40-millimetre benchtops, new built-in dishwasher and the addition of a built-in washer/dryer unit for added convenience.
The kitchen splashback option is a matt-finish geometric embossed white tile.
"It's a little bit old-world upholstered look," Findlay says of the tiles, "which pays respect to this property."
There's generous lighting in the kitchen, including directional hanging lead crystal lights ("to show the beauty of the tile", Findlay points out).
The kitchen includes a small breakfast bar at window height and a chair. "You can cook and chill," Findlay says, explaining the logic of the design.
The polished tallowood floorboards, uncovered in the renovation, ooze old-style class. The white walls and high ornate ceilings are the perfect contrast.
Built-ins were added to two bedrooms, but not the third, allowing the option of turning it into a formal dining room or office.
Ceiling fans were added to all three bedrooms, but an air-conditioning unit was installed in the lounge room to avoid interfering with the smart historic decorative ceiling.
The fireplace in the lounge room was a major aspect of the job, peeling off a layer of '80s tiles that covered the entire floor-to-ceiling feature. A mantel was added and the fireplace was upgraded.
Findlay's decorative touch makes this room jump: from the simple, but attractive white shag rug, to the white leather lounge, funky accent chairs and ceramic chevron stools, it all works a treat.
"The rug adds warmth and texture," she says. "Everyone wants to take their shoes off and roll around."
On the chairs: "I love bringing accent chairs into a space. They are moveable. You'd be amazed at how the position of furniture changes how you behave in a space. It's called 'conversational seating'."
Just off the lounge room is a small study, created from a much-ignored storage space. With the simple addition of a kitchen laminate benchtop and custom-fit shelving, it's a magic little room that looks out on to the street below.
The comfy Grant Featherston chair in the master bedroom is another highlight, begging visitors to have a sit.
"It works anywhere - beach, retro and modern," Findlay says of the style. "They come in a pile of colours and they work everywhere. No one has not liked the way they look. It feels like wool felt, like a sheer wool finish. It's very sweet."
Although the bathroom is almost the smallest room in the property, it exudes luxury. The mother-of-pearl mosaic tiles are modern, classic touch and the double shower heads maximise personal comfort. There is a clever wall cistern and a ledge near the toilet conceals pipes.
"It was a big challenge," Findlay says. "The cavity had to stay, the windows had to stay, the plumbing had to stay. It was difficult to get opulence and wow."
The bottom line: the property sold. The buyer is interested in buying several pieces of furniture in the unit.