Wednesday, 2 September 2015


I wrote this article a couple of years ago for the now defunct local magazine 'Tasmanian Life'. It still captures a snapshot of life in our house in Hobart:

My home is in it’s 100th year. It’s been the domain where 100 years of personal history has been lived on a domestic scale and because I can’t help myself I often wonder about the other people who have called this particular place home. About who else, over the years, has dug in the garden, descended the staircase or looked at the view from the upstairs veranda.

Most of the former inhabitants are shadows in the dark yet we know that this house was originally built for a princess of industry. Mabel was one of Sir Henry Jones’ nine daughters and this house was a wedding gift on the occasion of her marriage to Tom Fitzgerald. David Walsh of MONA celebrity may be who everyone’s talking about in Hobart these days, yet 100 years ago the name on everybody’s lips was Henry Jones. He too was a local boy made good. Famous for starting work at age 12 in George Peacock’s Jam Factory pasting labels on tins, he went on to own the company and to become the first Tasmanian knighted. He was a local entrepreneur with international interests – he had a finger in what seemed like every pie. His personal motto was ‘I excel in everything I do’. And he did.  His name continues as the Henry Jones IXL Jam Factory is now the swanky Henry Jones Art Hotel down on the Hobart waterfront and IXL jams can still be bought at the supermarket.

When my family moved in, eight years ago, we set to work exposing the homes original bones, which luckily had survived the passage of time and the demands of previous inhabitants. Over the century it had transformed itself into various guises within it’s original floor plan, from a house to two flats to a house with a dental surgery and back to being a house again. It adapted to suit its changing circumstances and the times.

When we found it, it’s soul may have been somewhat obscured by heavy drapery, patterned carpets and tired paint schemes. Yet once the jarrah floorboards and vast windows with coloured glass detailing were exposed and the walls were dressed with neutral colours and displayed to the world again, it’s identity proved to be intact. I’m sure that if Mabel dropped in for a jam tart and a cup of tea she wouldn’t have any trouble recognising her old house.

From the outside, it may look all red bricks - heavy and imposing however once through the front door everything changes. There is a generosity of lightness and space that is unexpected and almost modern in feel. Such period enhancements as crystal chandeliers and beautiful leadlight windows only enhance the sensation. It veritably sparkles.

It wears its Arts and Crafts label with myriad elements defined by the doctrine still in situ. A dramatic, dark timbered staircase….tick leadlight windows….tick beamed ceiling…..tick graceful curved arches……tick and a requisite Inglenook fireplace….tick. This was a movement that spurned the mass produced and the machine made in favour of craftsman created simplicity. Mabel Fitzgerald took this creed somewhat to heart, as she actually carved some of the subtle Gothic embellishments with her own hands - the lions head wreaths on cupboard doors and the curious gargoyles on the armrests of the bench seat. Parts of the house may have a manorial almost medieval feel, it’s the fusion of what is now history evoking an even earlier history, yet it’s lightened up with soaring ceilings, open plan rooms and simple, unsuperfluous detail.

 These days the original architecture and details are allowed to speak for themselves. They are a perfect backdrop to our things and our day to day life. Because we are now part of a global community, decoration is a mishmash of continents with Designer’s Guild fabrics from the UK, Kelly Wearstler ‘Imperial Trellis’ wallpaper and Brunschwig & Fils fabric from the USA. Juxtaposed with Oriental rugs, books, contemporary Tasmanian paintings, books and furniture reclaimed from family and the somewhat  addictive Gowans auction house at Moonah. True to a sense of place, this interior is all about Hobart in the 21st century and our family who lives here. There are no rules. Souvenirs brought home from our travels; a clock from a Paris flea market, a bust from the Vatican Museum in Rome and a miniature of the Mannekin Pis in Brussels, sit side by side with a cornucopia of taxidermied treasures; a zebra skin, groupings of butterflies and a deer head. Books, flowers from the garden, personal ephemeral collections, and the detritus left by children also form the tapestry of detail. It is a mixup of everything that we love and live our lives amongst, which makes our style decidedly sentimental rather than slick. Everything is accompanied by a story.

We have tinkered minimally with our home's basic layout, adding much needed bathrooms and converting what was the dining room into the kitchen. The original kitchen loitered in the far back corner of the house, way away from the goings on. Now it is out amongst it. It may have a chandelier, yet there is an emphasis on functionality in the kitchen. Modern accoutrements such as the fridge and dishwasher are hidden from view in the cabinetry and while it is undoubtedly a kitchen it also multi tasks as a dining room, a place for homework, a playroom and a cosy spot to sit in front of the fire with a glass of wine. Even now it references the Arts and Crafts movement - the bench top may be industrial concrete yet it was cast and finished off by hand. A contradiction between industrial and hand made.

Upstairs in the master bedroom whimsy has been given free reign. Take a second look and it’s not really a hole in the ceiling which opens onto the sky but a rather a cleverly rendered trompe l’oeil painted by Hobart artist Peter Gouldthorpe. It may have been inspired by a ceiling in Josephine’s boudoir at Malmaison outside Paris yet here it is decidedly less glitzy and is instantly recognizable as a Tasmanian sky in the manner of the celebrated Tasmanian colonial landscape painter John Glover. Just like the real sky different shapes have been spotted in the clouds – the map of Scotland, the mask of comedy and various indeterminate figures and faces. Oh and our five year old swears that he can see a kangaroo with a koala on it’s back.

This house, a century ago, was built to be a family home and a family home it remains today. That is probably the defining connection between now and then. Our children no doubt aren’t the first to slide down the banister and living amongst the delicate fabric of history - there’s a lot of glass in this house - they have learned to adapt their play. They know now not to skip rope under the chandelier. There is a great vibe going on here - over the last hundred years it has obviously known lots of love and happiness. There is no marauding miserable ghost rattling its chains in this house.


PS Follow me on Instagram here!


  1. Firstly, where to even start? I am so happy you've blogged again - hooray for that. And what a cracker of a return post! Your home is so beautiful, colourful, warm, collected and personal. I love how you've respected all the details of the past, but not been slavish to creating a period style house.
    Mabel sounds like quite a gal. Hand carving details for her house is just right up my alley. I also can't believe Henry James had nine daughters! Wow, was he… blessed. I'm sure he was heartily glad to marry them off and build each daughter a house to get her out of his! Wonderful piece and so enjoyed reading more about your beautiful home. xxx

    1. Thanks Heidi, I can't believe I've blogged again nor that I've half written my next post! Would have loved to have met Mabel, she lived here until her old age when she cut the house into 2 flats - upstairs and downstairs. She would have planted the crabapple tree....I of course am responsible for planting the quince tree! Rx

  2. So good you are blogging again! I love your home. I enjoy seeing snippets on Instagram and your latest toile is one of my favourites. I only have it in cushions though. It's so nice to have such features in your house. Mine although old doesn't have any except for the wooden floors that are put after the road got bombed in the war. I am reading s book you might enjoy by Judith Flanders called the making of home. Not finished but think you would enjoy it. I think you have described the perfect home so well!

    1. Thanks Naomi, I'm about to cover another chair in that toile! Will be tracking that book down over the weekend as it sounds like a great read! Rx

  3. welcome back!!! I love your home and you should always wear those jeans and stand next to that sofa! see you in ten days!!!!!! xxx

    1. Thanks K! I wrote this article back when my beagles were still alive....can't believe they've been gone for two years. Love those jeans yet am thinking one day I'll have to have a dress made in my bedroom fab would that be! Rx


  4. Romy - how lovely to see you back on the blogging wagon ! There are only a few blogs around that I seek out and yours is definitely one of them.

    This is a beautiful account of a beautiful family home - and with such an amazing history, I didn't know Henry had so many daughters. My uncle was the last GM of the factory and I think one of the hotel suites was his office. When you see old photos of the fruit ships parked up at the wharf and the hundreds of workers milling around you can see just how much of a king Henry would have been in Hobart back in the day.

    Looking forward to more posts. The snippets you show of your home are always so fascinating - I love layers and subscribe heavily to the 'if you like it, buy it' theory. I am always buying bits when I should be having curtains made instead ! Mag home spreads are often so bland to me - how can people live without books and pictures and clutter ? I'm sure that my rather chaotic approach would make their hands sweat, so each to their own...

    Ann x

    1. Thanks Ann, yes good old Henry had lots of daughters.....he was a teetotaller also you know! Always makes me sad to think that he died so suddenly at 57 in Melbourne....Faux Fuchsia, Heidi, Pammie and I drank wine last weekend in the hotel which bears his name that used to be his factory! The house 2 doors down from me was also a Jones house yet Errol Flynn and his family lived there later on! Rx

  5. Hurray! You are back and what a post, so well written and absolutely fascinating! Please tell the story of the chandelier. I am currently visualisng a chandelier crashing down, crystals scattering in a crescendo of smashed glass! Skipping rope and child entangled amongst it all. Do tell! Emma xx


I LOVE hearing your thoughts! Rx