Not for sale: belle of the ballroom
As the entryway creaks open with a blend of electric access and heritage-listed hardwood it’s apparent this is no ordinary unit.
The 1860s Gothic Revival residence Gladswood House has that magic and this particular apartment has the honour of incorporating the manor’s original ballroom into its footprint.
Towering sandstone walls separate the original residence into two wings and a verandah with three bays. Under a slate roof the Tudor chimneys survive alongside a fireplace that is thought to go back to 14th Century England. Set at the end of a cul-de-sac, its spires punctuate the Double Bay waterfront with their cathedral-like presence.
The old manor was divided and extended in the 1990s into a cluster of seven impressive apartments. Some are mostly new, and some are entirely Old Worldly. And others blend old and new with perfect synchronicity like this.
The last time this apartment sold it wasn’t this rousing. A simple kitchen looked out of place against the grandeur that seeped from the old rooms. Modest pavers rubbed 1990s shoulders beneath the 1800s sandstone. And the bathrooms had the harmless simplicity of a Tuscan villa.
All in tact, it wasn’t crying out to be renovated. But it deserved something like a well-thought-out refresh. That would end up taking 4 months.
The ballroom is now a master bedroom, the 4m ceilings are a blend of impressively detailed timber and ornate plaster, all heritage listed. New cabinetry and new chandeliers now pay homage to the era, rather than simply existing alongside it.
A new kitchen went in topped with Manhattan marble benches that continue into the bathrooms. These new finishes are tied together with marble floors in dramatic explosions of pattern and texture.
It’s a sophisticated result and skillful accomplishment for David and Juanita Baldwin who live here with their teenage children.
“We saw this space a number of years ago when our kids were younger and it wasn’t the right home for us then. It would have been an expensive decision to make for something that’s ‘not quite right’,” Juanita says.
Instead, the family embarked on a renovation of a late-1960s family home in Bellevue Hill. When that went on to sell, they rented in Darling Point for another 2 years.
In the meantime, they’d discovered the upkeep that comes with maintaining a large residence. It was expensive and kept everyone constantly busy around the house. When they weren’t working on it, they’d only use 2 main rooms.
Realising they didn’t need that much space, the stars aligned and Double Bay came up for sale again.
“It takes time to find the perfect one,” Juanita says. “And this time I had a complete vision for it, and we had help from a very skilled team.
“It was so exciting finding a smaller space that would still work with our family dynamic. We just wanted to be together and not separate. I think with big houses you end up shouting at each other down the stairs.
“Sydney has so much beauty and uniqueness like this, but not a lot that isn’t in insane price brackets. There are so many waterfront estates that have been preserved. But there are not many mansions that have been divided up like this.”
With Juanita from South Africa and David from New Zealand, they’ve also lived in many countries, always looking for the unique from the Philippines to Netherlands, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and the US. The family now divides its time between Sydney and Singapore.
A background in textile design and printing saw Juanita move into interiors during 6 years in Jakarta and Manilla. Expats would arrive to work and want to renovate, but their 2-year contracts wasn’t long enough get to know the jungle of furniture makers and the manufactures.
And in the 1990s, these artisans were doing amazing things with quality of workmanship when online directories or faster furniture wasn’t available.
This current residence has an energy that seems to draw on that idea and the family’s well-traveled background. It’s an exotica that could be anywhere in the world, but a wow factor that is intrinsically Sydney.
“We’re transient and I don’t think we’ll ever stay in one place forever,” Juanita says. “I think that’s what excites us. That’s what we’re equipped to do – to change a lot.”
But as a ‘forever home?’ Juanita says that’s still up for debate.
“We’d love to have this one forever. We just don’t have that mindset.”