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Test of Time: The Journey Home, Reid

Emma Macdonald

It’s a classic 1930s Reid cottage – white render, gentle arches, set well back from the road.

But this Coranderrk Street example stands out from the suburban row with its vibrant red chairs and bold mix of red, green and black Kate Spade upholstery adorning its deep and wide front verandah.

And that’s just the way interior designer Nadine Neilson wants it.

The frontage of the stately original home—which was among the first erected by the Federal Capital Commission in the suburb—is a virtual business card.

Nadine Neilson

And the bold pops of colour differentiate it from the other similarly classic homes dotted throughout the suburb. They all share the distinction of being built for the middle to upper-ranking bureaucrats moving to the new capital, while the lower-ranking government workers had to be content in the cheaper wooden houses going up over in Ainslie.

Mind you, when Nadine and her husband, Antolin Feria, purchased the property in 2011 it appeared more tethered to its 1970s double-brick extension than its rather lofty history as one of Canberra’s original—and now securely heritage-listed—homes.

But she saw beyond the lime green kitchen benches and highly patterned carpets.

“I have to admit like most homeowners we purchased with emotion, we just fell in love with it. Though, sensibly speaking, Reid is the most convenient suburb in Canberra— not to mention beautiful.”

Now Nadine has brought it into a new era—as a platform for her interior design business, Journey Home, which consults to clients across the city, and often, interstate.

Nadine’s style is authentic Hamptons/Ralph Lauren with a twist of Canberra Heritage thrown in for good measure. 
She has decorated the front half of the home in a carefully curated and high-end style—adding wall panelling, an impressive Austrian Swarovski crystal-encrusted chandelier and restoring the fireplace to 
its rightful place as the focal point for the room. She and Antolin have whiled away many a weekend winter afternoon, soaking up its glow and crackle.

It’s a multi-layered approach that illustrates Nadine’s mastery at mixing pattern, palette and texture. Don’t try this at (your) home without expert advice!

Nadine took about six months to renovate the front half of the house after designing it—calling on her secret trade sources for just the right fixtures and scouring her favourite haunts such as a Sydney salvage yard for the external front door light.

While the back half of the house still presents in all of its ‘70s makeover glory, Nadine has similarly drawn up its soon-to-begin metamorphosis. And with a beautiful stretch of backyard shaded by a massive Japanese Pagoda tree, there is plenty of room to move.

The journey has been a joy.

“Sometimes I will look at one of my rooms from a hallway, and if the light is coming through the window just right it is a picture-perfect vision. It makes me feel really good.”

Nadine also transformed the front yard— creating a formal garden complete with fountain—which hides a long garden bench just right for stretching out in the dappled sunlight.

“We love our front garden so much that we spend more time there than in the enormous backyard.”

Always competing for her attention are Nadine’s commissioned jobs, including a number of heritage homes around the city, the installation of her signature Hamptons style kitchens, and more recently a very modern Kingston apartment.

There’s no rush to complete the second half of the renovations, however, as the Reid home—which faces onto Glebe Park—is the couple’s forever home and will continue to be a gallery to showcase Nadine’s work to potential clients.

Some tips for those taking on restorations and renovations of stately and heritage- style homes include, first and foremost, “run with the character”.

“Resist putting a contemporary box extension on the back—it is already dated before you start and the neighbours who thought they were buying into a tranquil heritage suburb will hate you! Trust me I’ve seen this,” says Nadine.

She also warns that double brick walls can be expensive to take out if you are looking to create modern and open-plan living with more light, while plot ratios can be restrictive for extensions, and renovations will cost more per square metre than building new.

One of the home’s most stunning rooms 
is a guest bedroom which shows Nadine’s flair with a British Colonial look. It combines masculine and feminine features in a dark and luxe mix of navy wall paint, natural cloth wall covering, rattan fans, velvet upholstery, custom soft furnishings and decadent upholstery material forming thick curtains.

But then there is the joy of a summer’s eve on the front verandah in a distinctly Canberra style— sipping a wine and watching their Golden Retriever, Bailey, sneak through a hole in the hedge to visit his friend Lily—the terrier next-door.

Reid continues to be a genteel suburb where the bold stylings of this Coranderrk Street home attract many a friendly comment from passers-by.





Photography: Tim Bean Photography

This article originally appeared in Magazine: Home for Autumn 2018, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine and where to grab your free copy.


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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