A journey of revival

Interior design queen Naomi Findlay talks about writing the next chapter in the story of
Carrington House – with an expert eye for colour, textures and a passion for space medicine.

When I first laid eyes on Carrington House, it was what real estate agents would call “a renovator’s delight,” and – believe it or not – that was sugar coating it. The state of affairs was so dire that the pre-reno photos have a disturbing, almost haunting quality to them. So why did I walk away from my first visit with a compulsory urge to buy this 1880s cottage in West Wallsend, one of Newcastle’s western suburbs?

It went beyond the obvious need for the building to be rescued. The property was exuding a sense of hurt and resentment. It felt like it had a story to tell with nobody picking up a pen (or in this case a hammer, a brush and more than just a dozen pots of paint) to tell it. So after that first visit, I just couldn’t bear not having it as mine, I just had to restore that dilapidated old structure’s unique voice.
Room by room I transformed this stone cottage that had suffered through long periods of utter neglect, while being butchered and cut up haphazardly. My goal was to turn it into a modern country home, a comfortable, cosy cottage with a classic vibe, the new home for my Design Studio and Findlay & Co homewares store.

I could fill volumes with everything that was wrong with this house. But a description of rotted waling plates, destroyed bearers and joists, unstable floors, damaged multiply-lined walls, water damage, mould, a sub floor well and a complete loss of any of the home’s character doesn’t make for fun reading.

In the end, I was only just able to save the front of the home while the back literally fell apart and hence presented me with an unexpected but welcome opportunity to reinvent the space, allowing me to incorporate the learnings of space medicine. It is a concept I am deeply passionate about and deals with the effect our physical environment has on us. Research shows that when we adhere to space medicine principles, we can experience a significant increase in our productivity, creativity and overall wellbeing. The impact of the spaces that surround us, how they make us feel and how they drive our reactions is well documented – from a cellular level all the way to our mood and how we interact with others.

Creating connections

Space medicine, along with the individual needs of my clients, is the driving force behind every single one of my projects. My first step is always about connecting spaces with nature. But even at that early stage I am pondering the effects of colour, texture and multiple layers of light on the overall design and functional concept.

In the front of the house, I wanted to create a strong, feminine, classic feel, anchored in practicality. The back of the house was going to be all about the feeling of expansion without losing any of the classic charm. Balancing such seemingly contradictory concepts was a key consideration and every single design element had to support it. I knew that colours and patterns would write an important new chapter in the story of Carrington House, and I needed to make sure there weren’t going to be any typos.

You might notice the audacious floral wallpaper in one of the bedrooms. The delicate, almost whimsical artwork draws strength from the deep navy-blue colours and it became my starting point for the colours in every single room. In the second bedroom, a gentle shade of powder blue perfectly enhances the boldness of a broad stripe.

Read more in the Autumn edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

By Naomi Findlay, photography by Eyes of Love and Naomi Findlay