When Jaimie and Aimee Woodcock bought Chillamurra, their 1918-built sandstone and timber beach bungalow in Terrigal they were no strangers to the joys and pitfalls of buying an old house – Jaimie is the co-owner of McGrath Central Coast real estate agencies.
They loved the traditional features that were an integral part of the house, and that it came with a well-established garden. Many of the trees had been planted as an arboretum in the 1930s and ’40s, and the garden had featured in many local ‘open garden’ days over the years.
‘The grounds were much larger originally,’ says Jaimie. ‘So we’re happily surrounded by neighbouring gardens that still have some of the original trees.’
As soon as they bought the house, the first person they brought in, was not an architect to design the renovations, but landscape designer Michael Cooke to review the garden and to ensure that as many of the old plantings were kept as possible. It was important, too, that the garden remained visually and physically connected to the house. Michael loved the garden and was quick to single out a Telanthophora grandifolia shrub as a magnificent and unusual specimen from Mexico, with giant leaves and yellow flowers.
‘We don’t like it all that much,’ confesses Jaimie with a guilty smile. ‘But Michael was horrified when we wanted to pull it out. So how could we?
’Michael was also able to save a small, flame-flowered tree, Alberta magna tree which is native to forests in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Because it’s such a well-established garden, many of the new plantings were brought in as mature trees and shrubs so they would look as though they had always been part of the garden.
The house’s understory was built from sandstone carted from Gosford Quarries. It had been hand-cut in the early 1900s, so Cornerstone Landscaping sourced old sandstone blocks for new garden steps at the side of the house as well as for a beautiful, aged-sandstone garden wall.
‘We found an advertisement for an old house that was being demolished in Leichhardt that not only had old sandstone blocks as footings, but convict-carved stone,’ says Jaimie. ‘So Cornerstone was there with a truck and crane as the house was demolished, and then up the freeway they came to Terrigal with a heavy load of old stone.’
’We had lots of ideas for what we wanted to do with the house itself,’ says Aimee. ‘And our architects, White + Dickson, incorporated some of those ideas but then had many more that we would never have thought of.’
‘The architects added wonderful touches, such as the custom-made light fittings, brass handles to the kitchen drawers, and the ash-grey, herringboned brick tiles in the kitchen,’ added Jaimie.
‘The tiles were not something I would have thought of,’ says Aimee. ‘And they’re not cold underfoot, so they’re perfect in every way.’
The understorey of the house that had previously been a poorly utilised space was opened up into a sunroom and a welcomingly cool space on hot summer days. The space also links to two bedrooms (one converted into a study during Covid).
Upstairs, the long veranda has been re-established and remains open to northerly breezes and extensive views. A ventilation and privacy screen of timber casement allows control and direction of breezes deep into the balcony and into the home.
A long wooden table creates a casual dining hub that catches the sun in winter. The stunning panorama takes in Wamberal Beach and lagoon, with a vista as far north as Norah Head Lighthouse. It’s easy to see why it’s a much-frequented room in the house. ‘Typical of houses from that era, there were lots of doors leading into hallways,’ says Aimee. ‘We opened up the upstairs area and I love that it is now so light-filled, with sight-lines from the kitchen, through the living areas and to the beautiful tones of the brass mesh that shields the entry foyer.’
Architects, Ben White and Andrew Dickson extended the classic weatherboard-clad footprint of the house with a black-stained, timber shingles-clad extension that accommodates an open kitchen with Fior di Bosco marble counter tops, a scullery and breakfast area, as well as a master bedroom suite.
‘Cantilevered steel was used for the extension to avoid the need for columns, so there is just glass, ocean and trees,’ says Andrew Dickson. ‘By seeing through and into adjoining spaces and to the beaches and the headlands beyond, those visual connections throughout the house make it feel larger and more expansive.’
A low, pitched timber pergola-style ceiling harmoniously connects the old and new parts of the home where white walls offer a dramatic contrast with a black feature wall and black wrought-iron staircase balustrade.
In the kitchen, the cabinets, window frames and some of the light fittings continue the relaxed yet dramatic colour theme. The use of brass detailing fits comfortably with the era of the house.
It also weathers well, and adds a mellow patina, slowly ageing with use and time.
Sash-less casement windows in the new extension continue the traditional window treatment throughout the house. The addition of an entry vestibule and porch welcomes visitors through a generous space with glass, black door frame and brass features.
Chillamurra is a stunning example of a Coast weekender that has truly been reborn as a new classic for relaxed and stylish living.
WORDS CATHARINE RETTER
PHOTOS BRETT BOARDMAN & BRIGID ARNOTT