Historic gem shines again

This article originally appeared in the August 2020 edition of The Sandgate Guide


One of Sandgate’s most famous waterfront homes, Cremorne, has been restored to its former glory.

Built around the turn of the nineteenth century by John McCallum, the home was named after his theatre in Stanley Street, South Brisbane. Sold to the Carrick family in 1925, Cremorne was famous for lavish garden parties and entertaining, before being sold again and divided up into six flats.

Local couple Leisa and Kevin Day have transformed the iconic house, with the help of builder Kim Alexander and designer/draftsman Jim McKeering.

Leisa said buying Cremorne almost happened by accident.

“We were actually looking to downsize,” she said, laughing.

“But Kevin loves a project and he called me to say Cremorne was for sale. I phoned Kim (Alexander) who told me he had restumped the house about 10 years ago and that it was ‘solid as a rock’. So we put in an offer and all of a sudden, it was on.”

The outside of the home remains virtually unchanged, with the exception of removing two extensions from the 1970s.

Very little of the interior of the home could be saved, but Leisa and Kevin kept as much original detail as they could and have carried a stunning Art Deco colour scheme and style throughout the house, starting with a magnificent grand entryway featuring black and white floor tiles.

“We wanted a grand entry, because it’s a grand house,” Leisa said.

“We’ve kept things original whenever we could and there’s a nod to the Art Deco era in the details, with the door knobs and the cornices.

“The bathtub we’ve used here we actually had in our garden at our old home for 17 years – we must have known we were keeping it for something special.”

Builder Kim Alexander said he was not daunted by the project.

“Cremorne is one of the character homes in this area,” he said.

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“The structure itself was in excellent condition, the outside hasn’t really been changed at all – there’s a couple of 1970’s extensions which we took off and it’s gone back to its original look.

“We redid the inside obviously, from being six flats. That was a huge change but from the outside, there’s not too many changes.

“You have to be so careful not to vandalise, I suppose, the look of anything – you really don’t want there to be anything that’s wrong for the house. But you look at the result and it’s really gorgeous.”

Kim added he had some help on the building site.

“Kevin actually worked with us, he was one the boys, so if we came across any issues we were able to say to him straight away, ‘what do you want to do here’,” Kim said.

“Leisa in particular had a very clear idea of what she wanted and the look she wanted.

“The house is from the 1920’s and there’s not too many of those … there’s a few around New Farm with some of that type of style, but Cremorne is really an architectural one-off for its day.”

Jim McKeering of Complete Design and Drafting won two awards for his work on the house, for Best Heritage renovation and Best Renovation ($350,000 – $800,00 category).

“When I first came and looked, it was a rabbit warren – a maze,” he said.

“You couldn’t physically walk through the house. There was a wall going into a window, it was crazy.

“But we were very excited to be asked to work on this house. I’ve grown up here in Sandgate, we used to ride our bikes on the foreshore past this house. I always said if I won Gold Lotto, this is the house I’d buy and do it up.”

Jim added he had completed an assignment on Cremorne during his student days.

“We were hugely thrilled to win the awards for the work on this house,” he said.

“We’re a small firm and we’re really very proud of the work we’ve done here. And it’s not often you get to work with people like Leisa and Kevin. We work with Kim a lot; and working with all of three of them on this home, it’s a special combination.”

Cremorne now features a beautiful open plan kitchen and living area, which flows out on the wide front verandah. There are four bedrooms, and a fireplace, as well as spacious lawns outside and a sparkling in-ground pool.

The famous “dome” on the corner of the house has been turned into a beautiful sunroom, with the original ceiling beams left exposed as a feature.

Kevin said despite the hard work that had gone into the project, every step had been worth it.

“There was a lot of back and forth with Brisbane City Council,” he said.

“We had a heritage architect and a town planner come here with a panel from council and they could see there was very little to be saved from the inside – it was a shambles.

“There flats under the house as well – there was even a bathroom under the dome! We kept hoping we’d find some hidden treasure, but it wasn’t to be.

“It has been really hard, but at the same time, you realise everything is doable.”

Despite not finding any buried secrets, the couple said they were delighted with their new home.

“We know we’re very privileged to live here and to wake up to this home and this view every day,” Leisa said.

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