In late February, Le Fanu, a Queen Anne style home originally built in 1893 as a ‘holiday cottage’ – with 5 rooms – for the then Manager of the Western Australian Bank, Mr Henry Diggins Holmes, his wife Maria and their children. Cottesloe was a holiday destination for Perth denizens in those days. The family called the home ‘Banksia’.
The home underwent significant alterations between 1898 and 1900. In 1945 the property was purchased by the Anglican Church. The church renamed the property ‘Le Fanu’ in honour of the Bishop of Perth, Henry Frewen Le Fanu (1929-1946). It was used as a meeting place for various church religious groups.
It was again sold in 1973 to an Esperance farmer. However her plans for a restoration to its former status as a beachside holiday home never eventuated and the property fell into disrepair and ruin.
The current owners purchased the property in 2009. A massive restoration and refurbishment was planned and executed over 3 years by Zorzi Builders under the supervision of Heritage Architect the late Ian Hocking of Hocking Heritage Studio.
The property was restored under the guidance of the State Heritage Council and the Town of Cottesloe. Over 300 tradesmen and artisans worked on the building, spending ‘hundreds of thousands of hours’ to restore and refurbish Le Fanu, not just to its former glory, but to be perhaps the most beautiful of seaside residences today in modern Perth.
David Reynolds, Zorzi Builders’ business development director, said many eager tradies would work after dark and on weekends to finish their jobs. “They’d try to sneak back in and get on with it. It was quite unique.”
Where possible, original features of Le Fanu were saved. Restoring, retaining and individually numbering salt-affected limestone bricks, which were more than 100 years old, for reuse was an arduous task.
Shattered floor tiles had to be salvaged to be reinstated and were reused as a feature in the home’s entry.
The restoration has paid homage to Le Fanu’s historic past with marble flooring, a grand use of timber, high ceilings, soaring columns, custom-made cornices, architraves, mouldings, skirtings and restored original fireplaces.
Other features include wrought-iron arched doors, an immense outdoor area and courtyard, a sweeping balcony that capitalises on the ocean views, a full home automation system, a state-of-the-art security system with cameras, as well as a wine cellar and tasting room, a marble-floored 10-car garage and a lift to connect the home’s three levels.
Le Fanu was classified by the National Trust in 1975. It was attributed the highest grading. Land value alone in 2009 was estimated to be $15 million. The only possible outcome for any purchaser was to renovate. As such the property was offered for sale at a mere $6.5 million! It ended up selling for $4.25 million.
For the new owners, this was their first renovation project – simply extraordinary. As mentioned the owners engaged the late Ian Hocking of Hocking Heritage Studio to supervise the project (he passed away in Nov 2014). Approvals were stringent – even the furniture had to meet with Heritage Council approval.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy this splendid renovation is through the gallery of pictures provided.
With over $11 million spent on renovation and refurbishments its rather pleasing to see such an investment being made in heritage values. it was no doubt a difficult project but what a simply breathtaking result.
Superb, gorgeous, exquisite. Take a seat, a gin and tonic and stare out into the Indian Ocean. Heritage restoration can be simply spectacular.