It takes real foresight to buy an old house in disrepair and then imagine how it could be transformed into a modern family home.

For Charmaine and Andrew Searle, Kenworthy was love at first sight, even though they were not looking to buy, let alone renovate again. They had just completed a major makeover in Toowoomba’s East and were wanting to relax rather than take up the tools again.

But with a few other renovations under their belt on the Gold Coast coupled with a love of old houses, the possibility that Kenworthy offered had them hooked, despite the hotch-potch of colours and styles they had to deal with.

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“I’ve always loved old places as they have so much character and potential. You can add to their history and in this case, leave it in a much better state than we found it,” says Charmaine. Prior to the Searles’ stewardship, the house had been apartments, a rental property and was vacant for an extended period of time.

Kenworthy gives a family nod to the past being named after Andrew’s maternal grandfather Dr John Kenworthy Ogden who was a longtime registrar at the nearby St Vincent’s Hospital. Indeed, without Doc Ogden’s involvement, Andrew and Charmaine may have never met – he encouraged Andrew to try some novel methods to find a wife to produce the grandchildren he so keenly wanted. How did they meet?

Kenworthy is now home to children Hugo (8) and Xanthe (4) and, as well as a family abode, it accommodates two home-based businesses – Andrew’s mortgage brokerage and Charmaine’s financial advice company.

highlife downs living magazine

Over the past six years, the couple have unified the extensions from the 1920s, 70s and 90s with double strength Antique White USA paint,and repaired golden crows ash flooring throughout. A pale hardwood no longer produced, it is only available as a recycled product with a price tag to match. Luckily a perfect match was found, sourced from Toowoomba Grammar renovation – the link between the two remains a mystery.

The Toowoomba Historical Society has dated Kenworthy to the early 20th Century, and the extensive pressed tin patterns suggest the same. Art Nouveau glass surrounds the front door and stained glass French doors are from the 1920s and 30s. Charmaine has repaired some of the stained glass and added her own – a stunning sky light in the living room.

A new kitchen and beautifully appointed bathrooms bring the amenities into the 21st Century with all finishes in these and the new master bedroom downstairs chosen by Charmaine. This is more than a superficial touch-up – the main living areas have wall and ceiling insulation and there is ducted gas and also airconditioning, rarely used for cooling thanks to the established shady trees.

A favourite spot to entertain or catch some sun in winter is the north facing verandah, but the garden is where Charmaine most enjoys being. “There was nothing in the garden when we arrived and it’s so good to see the results,” she says.

The couple has done as much work as possible themselves – painting, filling and gardening. Now that their renovation list is completed, they are moving onto something completely different for them – building a new home. “We have had lots of satisfaction in bringing Kenworthy back to be a functional home but not forgetting its history, but now we now ready to design from scratch.”

Words by Janet Kieseker

Images by Focal Point Photography.