A house that’s the real deal

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Copy of NM JULIADECOR 5use INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS The house, restored to its former glory by Unger and her good friend and interior decorator Celeste Bushnell, boasts pressed ceilings, beautiful stained-glass doors, the marble floors, and archways decorated in ornate hand-worked architraves. Picture: Marilyn Bernard

Society darling Julia Unger recently moved into a spectacular Musgrave mansion with an equally spectacular history...

Durban - The 1906 heritage house made news in the early 1990s when property developer Dave Stang took the top two storeys off the brick-and-mortar house and moved it further up Essenwood Road to make way for four townhouses in what was to become the Royal Palm development.

While houses overseas are often moved it is a feat rarely performed here. The house was moved on rollers coated in Teflon (the non-stick substance used to coat frying pans).

When socialite Julia Unger, her husband Emil (whose great-grandfather was of the Union Whaling Company) and her three sons moved into the house last year, they were astounded at the solid structure – the thick walls that broke many a drill bit and the grandiose feeling of glorious space.

There was, of course, plenty of work to be done. Plaster came down with wads of 30-year-old wallpaper, for instance, but on the upside, dusty carpets, when removed, revealed unique Swazi marble floors.

The house, restored to its former glory by Unger and her good friend and interior decorator Celeste Bushnell, boasts pressed ceilings, beautiful stained-glass doors, the marble floors, and archways decorated in ornate hand-worked architraves.

The wrap-around veranda is metres wide.

In fact, this is the house on which many modern townhouses have been modelled.

It is the real deal and the scale grand.

The main colour in the scheme is steel grey. Bushnell used three tones of the colour, the darkest below the first dado rail and the lightest above the last. It plays on the height of the interior space, as do the vertical striped drapes.

The kitchen is a play on grey and white, with opening shelving so that Unger can show off the silver she has inherited and collected over time.

A solid wood table is set with ultra-mod ghost chairs, as one of the key elements in this interior is the juxtaposition of old and new.

In the master bedroom, perspex lamps are set either side of a very traditional headboard, with a contemporary light fitting hanging above.

The foyer is very much like a cross through the centre of the house, with doorways at just about every end. At the centre, where there once was a staircase leading upstairs (the upstairs section is owned by another family) is a self-portrait of Unger’s dad.

Much of what the couple own has been passed down from one generation to the next and seems most at home in this pristinely restored house.

The contemporary influence – such as the grey deep-buttoned lounge settee (spot-on trend) and the to-die-for Andrew Martin wallpaper in the library, as well as quirky combinations such as the faux snake skin ottoman by the piano, are among the elements that make the house so interesting. - The Mercury

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