Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Sense Of Place II

Six years ago I began writing this blog. As I recently admitted, I haven't exactly been prolific. I still struggle with what it's meant to be about, how much I should reveal of the private self, and that English self-consciousness that prefers to be 'seen and not heard'.

Imogen, my moody teenage daughter, would shrug at this point and say, 'whatever'.

One of my earliest posts was about a house that we didn't buy in the Adelaide Hills. At that point it was the only time in my life that I felt completely drawn to a property. It had some kind of hold over me. You can read about it here. It is called Hatchlands, and it has acres, a barn and even a separate cottage. This is what it looked like in 2007 when it was on the market:

My internet research would suggest that it doesn't look like it's been sold since; I'm glad that whoever bought it is still happily ensconced, breathing new life and hope into this charming old building. It needed quite a lot of TLC. I loved the Georgian, colonial style. The symmetry, the second floor verandah, the curving staircase at the back of the house, the paned and sash windows. I imagined it would nurture my soul and embrace my dreams.

At the weekend, the Gent and I stumbled across a house that pulled at my heart strings in almost the same way.

It's called Benson House, and is of considerable significance to the Richmond township. The Australian Heritage Database had this to say about the house in 1988

This two storey house was originally a single storey colonial Georgian house built c 1840 by the Benson family, shipwrights and artisans of the Hawkesbury River valley. A first floor was added in similar style at the turn of the century. The front elevation has a five bay, two storey timber verandah with cast iron balcony, balustrading and arched timber valences. The hipped roof is sheeted in corrugated iron and is continuous over the verandah which returns to the east side. A fine panelled door and transom within a Classical door case with pilasters, marks the front entrance facing the old carriage loop and the remains of an extensive Victorian garden. At the rear there is a detached kitchen and cellar. A slab shed and boarded timber barn stand near the northern boundary. The property is an important residential complex. The rear view of it from the Richmond lowlands is an important visual component of Richmond.



Apologies for the quality of the photographs; they're from Real Estate websites. Benson House last sold in 2012. The facade was a creamy yellow, with timber picked out in a darker yellow, with shutters and the front door painted an almost emerald green. Today, the facade is a pale green, and the shutters and timber are picked out in white, and the front door is black.

I don't think either colour schemes do it justice. I think I would start by painting the facade a cafe latte colour; warm enough to give it depth, but not so warm to be pink. I like the black door, mind you.


The Drawing Room at the front (south facing) of the house has a lot of potential. It has superb bones, a beautiful fireplace and I understand that the stencils underneath the cornice date back to 1887.

When it sold a couple of years ago, the styling was a little more in keeping with the character of the house:

BEFORE, in 2012

All taste is subjective, but if this were my house, I'd want to simplify and celebrate the glorious architecture. I'd want it light and clean. Pure and simple. Something like this:

There are two glorious bedrooms upstairs, also at the front of the house. This bedroom looks a bit tired at the moment. Unloved.



It looked a lot better when the house was for sale a couple of years ago; it's a very traditional interior look appropriate to the period of the house. Again, if this were my house, I'd choose to do something like this (source):

Light, bright, soft, simple, neutral, cosy, gentle, elegant.

These photos are from a colonial home in Alabama, USA that was recently for sale. Americans do style, comfort and function so very well. Most of the interior design blogs that I love are American. The blog that showcased these photos is consistently good: The Lettered Cottage

Looking at Benson House, and thinking about how I felt when we lost out on Hatchlands in South Australia six years ago, has been interesting.

At the time, when we didn't buy it, I was so upset. A first world problem, I know, but I did feel heartbroken for a while. This blog was a really important way of putting it into perspective. I turned instead towards our peripatetic lifestyle and tried to embrace the opportunities it offered.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be living here, inspired and treasured by this house. My muse. My inspiration. And even though we are transient here at Circa 1937 - it's most certainly not ours - and absolutely not Georgian, I feel as though I'm living the dream.

For a short time, anyway.

If you would like to know more about the sale of Benson House, it is for Auction (24 May 2014) with Vibe Property. Visit their website here.

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