Seventies-inspired chic in Waratah

This article was first published in the Newcastle Herald ‘Weekender’ magazine and online on January 29, 2022. Image by Stephen Little.

Husband and wife Stephen Little and Amanda Hood decided to call Newcastle home after 18 months spent circumnavigating Australia. They purchased their beautiful Waratah home in January 2018, making the move from Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

“Newcastle had the attributes we were searching for in a town. It offered a climate to our liking in a small city that lacked the congestion of our former home in Coburg,” explains Stephen.

The city’s proximity to the beach and Sydney and the opportunity for Amanda (who is one of the proprietors of Hamilton Yoga) to further her yoga business were also drawcards.

“Our home in Waratah was built by the former owner, David Scowcroft and his wife, about 54 years ago.”

The dwelling is set on a generous 700-square-metre block, which allowed them plenty of space for a lovely garden and their dogs, Hank, a restless Jack Russell-cross, and Patsy, a beautiful Irish Wolfhound-cross.

“It is situated on a rise looking down towards the port. We can see trains in the valley and ships in the river. This industrial vista disappears when you turn your head and is transformed into a leafy forest.” 

The house is triple-fronted with four bedrooms; one of which serves as Amanda’s office and yoga space. The living area is all on one level and sits above a small garage and bathroom.

Stephen and Amanda recently completed renovations on the property. They engaged Jasmine Richardson of Toronto-based Ekah Studio to help them “create a connection between the garden and the house”, alongside Paul Blowes of PBQC as their builder.

The major work undertaken included removing the old kitchen, adding the open plan living space across the back of the house, crafting a new hardwood deck to facilitate access to the backyard, and updating the bathroom.

The sash windows in the lounge room were replaced with louvre windows and the walls were painted a light creamy colour to “enhance the feeling of space and light”. The old carpet and lino were also removed, and wooden floors were installed throughout the house.

Stephen describes their interior style as “seventies chic” and says they have tried to remain true to the era of the house.

Their stylish new kitchen is an L-shape and features green terrazzo benches, pink splashback tiles, modern appliances, and a dining table at its centre.

Local carpenter Brad Williams, who built their deck, also created a striking triple-level shelf made with recycled blackbutt wood that hovers above the kitchen bench and connects to the roof.

“We have placed our treasured coloured glassware on these shelves. We completed it with plants that drape over the shelves. Amanda set herself a project of weaving lampshades for the kitchen/lounging area. She is halfway through. These lampshades are adding colour and ambience that cannot be purchased.”

The large living space that runs across the back of the house connects to the deck via bi-fold doors. It is complemented by a bi-fold window that opens up the back part of the house.

“The backyard is terraced, so as you move toward the back of the block, you travel through different spaces. The blackbutt verandah is the first space you encounter outside the bi-fold doors. We can lounge here looking out over the end of the world,” says Stephen.

“A stairway leads to a terrace created by sandstone blocks, second-hand bricks, concrete terrazzo stepping-stones, and dichondra repens. Three sandstone steps set you on a righteous path that will take you past garden boxes overflowing with vegetables and herbs. The path takes you either to the garage or down four more steps to our lower lawn, which is surrounded by native plants.”

Stephen loves how the back area of their home has an outdoor/indoor feel.  “It is wonderful to have the natural world intruding into your home. In the afternoons, the sulphur-crested cockatoos will flock past along the valley above Mayfield. Sometimes, they will rest in the trees below our house. When they recommence their journey home they will fly above our house. It is spectacular.”

“There are birds of all descriptions. There is a pair of wedge-tail eagles who appear occasionally, but who are always chased by feisty peewees, ravens, or currawongs.” [LC1] 

Stephen and Amanda also appreciate Waratah as a place to live. “I enjoy taking the dogs up to Braye Park where one can enjoy 360-degree views. If you keep walking down Cooksey Close you will eventually reach the North Lambton off-leash dog park. A short stroll from there is Lambton Park, where you can drop into the tea rooms for a cuppa, and then home.”

The couple feels “humbled and grateful” for the immense efforts of all involved in renovating their home. With time, they hope to add a plunge pool, complete furnishing the house, and potentially add some built-in window seats.

“We would like to stay in Newcastle for the time being. There is always the lure of the road, meanwhile, we want to enjoy Newcastle and its immediate surrounds. The lure of the beach is compelling.”