To Paris with love

Keira and Nathan had planned to go backpacking in Europe when the pandemic closed our borders. Instead, they ended up bringing French chic to Newcastle’s oldest street.

It was supposed to be the year-long trip of a lifetime. Keira and Nathan were sitting on packed bags and had rented out their apartment when Covid-19 began to turn the world upside down. “Like most people, we thought, ‘surely, the borders will open again soon’ and decided to stay with family and friends until things got back to normal,” Keira reminisces.

We all know what happened next and they were still couch surfing when a two-bedroom apartment they’d looked at years earlier, on Newcastle’s Watt Street, came back on the market. The serial renovators decided to grab the opportunity and embark on another project, and finally having their own home to live in again.

“What drew us to the property was the openness of the floor plan and the 3.2 metre-high ceilings, which are unusual for a 1950s apartment building,” Keira explains. “It gave the apartment this relaxing, spacious feel and an old-world charm which we wanted to keep and build upon.

“My Aunty is interested in local history and found documents about the site all the way back to the 1880s. There had once been a horse and carriage bazaar here and the current building was initially used as a political office, then as a health centre. The apartment conversion came much later, which is probably why the floor plan is so open and modern.”

Choosing your battles

With the floor plan in great shape, a second big-ticket item, the kitchen, was another win. “We really lucked out there. There was already a stone benchtop, and the cupboards were in good condition as were most of the appliances. It only required a few touch ups.”

Conversely, two bathrooms were complete gut jobs, but by retaining the existing layout they were able to keep costs in line. In the end, the uneven flooring became their biggest challenge. Not only were the white and blue tiles and beige carpets dated and visually jarring, the floors were also so unlevel they required drastic intervention.

“After we had ripped out the old flooring, Craig, our tiler, had to flood the floors with a resin compound to create a level surface for the chevron patterned timber flooring we had fallen in love with,” Keira explains.

“I had done lots of research on how best to create the Parisian French look I envisioned and wanted this chevron pattern to be a major feature. But it was hard to find a tradie who could do it.

“In the end, it was the staff at Carpet Court, where we bought the material, who put us in touch with Craig. He is an absolute expert and made us feel confident that the work would be executed perfectly.”
Craig says: “This kind of flooring pattern requires impeccable attention to detail. You need to get the colour combinations just right to create a natural flow. And you have to carefully plan the location of your joints for a seamless look.”

Keira and Nathan chose a lighter shade of timber to add to the light and airy feel of the apartment.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Teresa Brincat, Muse Photography

Read more in the Summer issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.