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.
Whilst shooting Keith Hall I had the chance to drive between locations, from Daylesford to Beechworth on many occasions. I would travel with my new daughter, Silver, my partner Ben Harper or my father in tow and make pit stops & breaks along the way.
This part of the world is incredibly beautiful and the towns of Newstead, Castlemaine & Beechworth have a contagious vibrance, full of life & activity. Keith Hall is a fair drive from Beechworth town, tucked away at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by paddocks & cattle with views of the most spectacular sunsets. It was built in 1885 by Scottish master stonemason, John Morrison after his success in the gold fields. When owners Clay & Narelle fell in love with Keith Hall it was not much more than a few walls & a big pile of stones! The story of this crumbling structure became the story of its owners, one of discovery, renewal & restoration.