This grand home in Toowoomba blends the old with the new perfectly

Words by Tamara Simoneau

Bunya Park is bewitching. From the first glance over its perfect picket fence to the gleaming white facade, you’re captivated and want to see more. That’s pretty much how the 128 year old Toowoomba home cast a spell on 
Lucy Osborn three years ago.

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“The crazy thing is that we weren’t looking to move,” recalls Lucy. “I had been chatting to an agent who is a friend of ours because we were looking at selling a block of land we owned, and somehow the conversation of Bunya Park being on the market came up. I went and had a look and I fell in love with it instantly!”

Lucy just had to convince her husband, Jeremy, that packing up three of their five children still living at home and moving was a good idea. While impressed by the home’s heritage charms, he had some reservations.

“I really didn’t like the back part of the house,” he says. “We had come from a home that was bright and modern, and here was a kitchen/dining area that was dark, dated and didn’t make use of the surrounding garden. Also, there was no real outside entertainment area that we could use”.

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The couple still went ahead with the purchase and began plans for an extension, engaging Paul Brundell of Fusion Building Design for the job of adding a modern addition to this grand old dame.

“The design mandate was light, light and more light! It also had to be sympathetic to the original house,” says Lucy.

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The original house was always stunning and elegant – complete with pressed metal ceilings, polished timber floors, and ornate fretwork – in keeping with its era.

Juxtaposing a modern design onto a gothic colonial home can be tricky, but Paul took Lucy and Jeremy’s brief and created a space that feels like a conservatory, integrating the outdoors with large panels of laminated glass, a high raked ceiling with skylights, and custom 2.8m high bi-fold doors.

“The new living space had to fulfil two roles – firstly an indoor living area, as Toowoomba has cold winters. The second was to be an outdoor gazebo space for summer, hence the large folding doors to the east and west, opening the room up completely to the garden,” says Paul.

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Taking on the build was Garry Pinches, of G.W. & J.J. Pinches Building Services, who has years of experience with these types of projects in a city filled with historic homes.

“You really have to have a passion for this type of work and a team of expert tradesmen,” says Garry, who worked closely with the couple throughout the four month construction period. “They both had very creative, original ideas and pushed all the boundaries of building construction.”

The entire project, including the renovation of two bathrooms, cost about $250 000, and along the way Jeremy has fallen just as much in love with the home as Lucy did on that very first visit.

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“The new area is exactly how I wanted it to look, and it just makes all the difference to the feel and the look of the house. It really does give it that ‘wow factor’, especially as you come out of the old hallway,” he says.

The couple has also discovered a newfound passion for uncovering the home’s full history. There have been some prominent Toowoomba entities who have lived here, with newspaper archives documenting the many social events that took place here in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

“I think one of the most interesting people who lived here in the early 1930s was Gladys Leighton,” says Jeremy. “She pioneered the Angora rabbit industry in Queensland, raising the animals in what is now our laundry and may originally have been the kitchen. She went on an Asian cruise and ended up falling in love with and marrying the ship’s Captain!”

It’s a fascinating history as grand as the home itself – and just as rebellious in manner.

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Photography by John Downs
Styling by Aaron Bourne