House of the Week | Wallsend | Photos

It was love at first sight for Wayne Rogers. Iona may not have been much to look at, but he knew he had to have her.

The Federation era home was in a state of disrepair – there were holes in the walls, the doors were a garish yellow and the half-finished modernisation project was taking the house away from the historic roots.

The home had been in one family since it was built and Wayne, a well-known entertainer, had a major task getting it back to the way the original dwellers enjoyed it.

“It was wreck then, but I could see the potential,” he said.

“Everyone kept saying to me ‘Please don't buy that house’ but I fell immediately in love with it and had to have it.”

Over the past 16 years, Wayne has transformed the property, rolling back the years to its former glory, all the while adding his unique flair to the restoration.

Although this is Wayne's first time renovating a home, he hasn't been afraid to get hands on. He's been front and centre throughout, sanding the doors to a more natural shade, revealing the beauty of the floorboards and re-appropriating parts of the ceiling to re-panel the hallway.

Wayne's a dab hand with a paintbrush too, adding intricate decorations to the home's cornicing.

“It's amazing what you can learn to do. I never knew how to do woodwork or any of that sort of stuff, but it's common sense really,” he says.

“You can work out how to do most things or someone will offer to help you."

While Wayne's the driving force behind the work, partner James Hingston has been a great help too, offering design suggestions and assistance with manual labour.

Professional help was been sought for larger or specialist tasks, but it's not always been easy to find someone who understands Wayne’s vision.

Rather than the wooden windows he wanted, builders would regularly suggest he go for the cheaper option of aluminium, going against the look of the home completely. The windows weren't the only part of the home that professionals wanted to modernise.

“All the electrical fittings are old ones. It’s hard to get electricians to work with those. I tell them when I ring up, but when they walk in they can't be bothered with it,” he said.

Friends too have been quick to help out, painting decorative flowers on the bedroom fans and donating items that fit with the historic feel of the home. Many of these gifts have a practical value, with ornate cups and teapots served to guests at their high tea events, Iona on Robert. This social activity brings the home round full circle, as locals remember the communal aspects of the home in previous generations.

James explains “A lot of people say ‘We used to go there when we were kids’. It's got a soul. Lots of guests comment on how warm and inviting our home is.”

“We invited someone round whose grandfather built it. He had tears in his eyes as he was walking through because of all the memories coming back and the way it had been brought back to life. He talked about how there were social gatherings, people playing the piano and in the kitchen there were always people around the dinner table.”

Guests at the high tea events are wowed by the decor, from the ornate fireplace in the lounge to the dazzling chandeliers in the open-plan kitchen/dining room, as reflected in the consistently positives reviews left online. Another highlight of the high tea is Wayne himself. A finalist on Australia's Got Talent, the singer performs at every event.

With so much to admire in the home, both Wayne and James struggle to pick out a favourite room. Their guests, however, commonly rave about the same item – the dunny.

Built as part of an extension to bring the outhouse facilities into the house, the old fashioned toilet is a thing of beauty, with a floral design adorning the bowl and cistern.

“We've actually started mentioning it at the beginning because that's what people always comment on. It's one of the older styles with the tank up the top, but it’s been hand-painted. It’s a masterpiece in itself and it’s not something people expect.”

After years of hard work, the property is almost finished. The recent addition of a white picket fence with aubergine detailing adds an extra level of charm, and leaves just the kitchen to be worked on. After that?

Wayne answers, “When I get to the end, will I need to start over again? I don't know. They tell me that when you live in an old home it's never ending.”

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