Gillian & John

Tonight we step back in time and into one of the amazing and eclectic apartments tucked away in Newcastle’s old Athcourt Building. 

This historically handsome block, located on the corner of Watt and King Streets, was built by W Stronarch in 1939.  Stronarch engaged a series of local craftsmen to undertake construction work and to this day the building, with its many and varied design details and elements, stands strong and beautiful.  They certainly don’t build them like this anymore.

There is so much to love about this structure with its four spacious apartments on each of the five living levels. The clunky old lift adds a certain charm as it leads to each floor that features a gorgeous set of  leadlight glass doors. The ceilings are high and detailed, the rooms are large and the central stairwell is unbelievably cool and understandably a popular choice for photo shoots.

My absolute favourite feature of all is the communal laundry hanging space on the 6th floor, complete with magnificent views to the ocean and picturesque harbour.

Traditionally, when building an apartment block (and still found in many parts of the world today), the top floor was kept as a communal space for all to share and enjoy – as opposed to being used as prime ‘penthouse’ real estate. So awesome.

It would be hard to find another more perfect family to appreciate and bring such a residence to life than Gillian and John. Gillian, a local textile artist and John, a sustainability consultant, live here with their two children. John was originally studying at university in Tasmania, but transferred to the University of Newcastle to complete his Architecture degree when his parents moved here. That decision led him to meeting lovely Gillian.  

The couple has travelled and lived extensively, and it’s the collective influences of their shared experiences that you can feel as soon as you step into their perfectly curated home. The art, the furniture, the chic … in fact, with the right music playing you could feel as though you were in Paris.  

Come take a peek. Enjoy!

PHOTOS: LARA SAVAGE DESIGNLANE

What is your favourite thing about living here?

The apartment itself is lovely to live in as it has the lovely spaces and old style proportions, and the beautiful oregon wood details in every room make it feel warm and homely. The solid building makes for a snug winter home and a cool summer retreat.

We have both always lived near the beach and love the proximity to it, and Good Brother is close enough to get take-away coffee in our own mugs. We consider GB to be an extension to our living room (whether they like it or not).

Your art collection is truly amazing. Do you have a favourite piece?

John: My favourite piece would have to be the Reg mombassa “Deeper Water I” which references Paul Kellys song and the beach at Newcastle South. I love the ocean, love the song, love the local connection, and its a gift from Gil.. 

Gil: it is hard for me to decide on a favourite piece. A lot of the work on our walls are by friends of ours and we have slowly acquired piece by piece over the years. I do love Clare Weeks’s photograph of the curtained window in our room. Lucas Grogan’s black and white piece is pretty special too.

Apartment living is the norm for your family.  What are the pros and cons of this style of living with two young ones?

The pros are we are close the beach, have access to a great patch of Newcastle, and have a simple functional home to enjoy. The cons are we don’t have a backyard, a space for the kids to run outside or a veggie patch, let alone space for a studio and we will run out of room as the kids grow. But right now it’s perfect, even if we are still learning the art of optimal storage.

lizzy hodginsNewcastle