Home Front 2018: Bathurst's amazing homes

If these walls could talk, 169 Havannah Street was built for a future mayor Francis Crago, Dame Nellie Melba once graced the house’s ‘stage’, and three friendly ghosts call the stately property home.

It all makes for a remarkably colourful history for this grand old lady, who dates back to circa 1883.

Current owners Brett Melhuish and Rob Salama purchased the property in 2007 and for the next decade their labour of love was to restore the home to its former glory. But that wasn’t their original plan.

“We weren’t planning on purchasing the property,” Rob said. “We just popped in to have a sticky beak and fell in love.”

Though 169 Havannah was in very poor condition at the time, the pair saw the house’s potential and were drawn to bring her back to life, with a modern twist.

Pick up your copy of the 2018 Bathurst Home Front from the Western Advocate office at 163 George Street, Bathurst.

Pick up your copy of the 2018 Bathurst Home Front from the Western Advocate office at 163 George Street, Bathurst.

“The plaster on the walls needed to be redone and so did the floors. One bedroom had no walls, floors or ceilings to speak of,” Brett said. “There were even remnants of a kitchen in there.”

So decrepit was the house, very little of the original internal components were able to be saved.

The challenge here was to now do a period renovation rather than stick to the modern, which we had done before.

Rob Salama, property co-owner

“It really required a complete internal rebuild,” Rob said. “There is only one part of the hallway ceiling which we were able to keep.”

This renovation was the fifth the couple had tackled, deciding to complete the work themselves. It was done in stages, room by room, so they could still live happily and “close the doors and hide the mess”.

“And this one was equivalent to all five previous renos put together,” Brett said.

“But we believed in ourselves, having renovated before. The challenge here was to now do a period renovation rather than stick to the modern, which we had done before,” Rob continued.

“Because we weren’t able to actually know what this house was like - it had been changed so many times over the years. We kind of had to make it up a little bit and research Victorian architecture. But at the same time we wanted to bring it into the 21st century. So, it may not be pure Victorian but there are certain elements.

“And we kept the electricity and the gas,” he joked.

Externally, the house is a nod to the Victorian era with the pair really only needing to render some of the original blonde bricks which had, unfortunately, been painted in the 1970s.

“And those bricks were fragile. If you tried to actually scrap the paint off them the brick would just deteriorate. So, we rendered the bay section and those on the side.”

There are many highlights in the five bed and five bath house which boasts 12-foot ceilings, Kauri floorboards, two formal living areas, a bar area with plumbed fridge, parents’ retreat, and upstairs verandahs with sweeping views - but the couple do have their favourites.

The lounge room is certainly the most welcoming, with the bay window and wood fireplace enhancing the “cosiness”, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Pure luxury is the only fitting term to use when describing the main bathroom upstairs. Each element, from the colours to the tiles and fittings is in perfect sync. The generous modern bathtub provides more than a splash of indulgence and the working fireplace will dull the bitterest of winter chills.

Make your way downstairs to the formal dining room, which features 12-foot ceilings gas fireplace, while gorgeous large window and doors bring the outside in. The room can happily host 40 guests.

“It is the heart of the home, the perfect place for great dinner parties and plenty of entertainment,” Brett said.

Flowing from this dining room is a beautifully appointed kitchen, with black stone benches, which seamlessly marry the old with the new. Commercial appliances, including a freestanding eight-burner cooker, sit nicely next to an old wood stove, making the kitchen a practical and homely space.

Step through the French doors to the courtyard and pool area and you’ll feel like you are in Tuscany - a deliberate strategy from Rob and Brett, who both adore the Italian region.

The solar heated salt pool and private courtyard are made for long, lazy days entertaining and unwinding. And if you are hoping to have a huge family function - cue the wedding march - the 21-metre by 6-metre purpose-built carport can comfortably seat 100 guests.

This wonderful piece of Bathurst's history has, indeed, been lovingly restored and the gracious grandeur - with a modern twist - of 169 Havannah Street will ensure she endures for many years to come.

  • All photos courtesy of Raine and Horne, Bathurst