Written by Sibella Court
In 2013, I signed up for a dream job as host of Restoration Australia. With an Australian history degree under my belt and a great love of heritage trades and historical houses, this was a match made in heaven.
Over two and half years I followed the restoration of seven houses as the passionate families who owned these time capsules embarked on a journey of a lifetime. Not only was this about all things history & building process, it was an opportunity to visit some beautiful locations around Australia and really get to know them, the people and the surrounds.
While being a TV host is not my main job, the premise of the show aligned perfectly with the philosophy of my very own store The Society Inc and design studio. Our products are designed & crafted with the shared values of all those involved with the show including a deep appreciation of heritage trades, honest & humble materials, craftsmanship, age-old skills and a love of sourcing original building materials and vintage wares.
I shot largely on the weekends but it never really felt like work - I would naturally fall into lengthy conversations about hand-forged nails, pressed glass from the 1900s, hardwood timbers, pre-fab houses from the gold rush era - all these subjects and more I enjoyed immensely and experienced great joy in learning from other enthusiasts.
Keera Vale was built in 1843 from old convict bricks, making it one of the oldest properties in the Wollongong area. Originally built for a judge, it’s original grandeur has been crumbling until it fell into the hands of the passionate and dynamic Jen & Harold who wish to restore this ‘house on the hill’ into a new family home.
A trip to Keera Vale was always welcome; an easy drive down the beautiful coastline of Sydney to Wollongong and the knowledge of endless cups of tea & sweet things. Jen & Harold always have a full bustling house that seemed to give everyone there a big hug. One of the many visitors/workers/friends I met there was local Australian artist, Paul Ryan. His rich paintings, thick with paint are easily recognised & I quickly fell for his painting, ‘Blue Boy’ that he dropped over for Jen. We swapped numbers & in no time I had him painting for me for my hospitality design job at Hotel Palisade in Millers Point!