Crumbling ruins become family homes on Restoration Australia

Sibella Court hosts the new TV series Restoration Australia.
Sibella Court hosts the new TV series Restoration Australia. ABC TV

INTREPID Aussie families undertake labours of love in the new series Restoration Australia.

The seven-part series, filmed over two years, follows the efforts to restore seven neglected buildings ranging from Georgian mansions to colonial pug and pine huts.

Host Sibella Court follows the progress of Aussie battlers facing an array of challenges from budgets to the weather and strict heritage rules.

"Most people need to go into something like this quite naively, or else they wouldn't do it," Court tells APN.

"It takes a lot of patience and stamina. They have to have a variety of skill sets as well. You need that in any building job and even more so in restoration. There are long periods of time where you can't see what's happening (with the infrastructure) and it can be frustrating and morale destroying."

Court is a designer, stylist and author with a degree in history. She is also the daughter of a builder and has a passion for hand-crafted wares and heritage trades.

"I absolutely can relate to the romance of the restoration," she says.

"At the end of the day these are not period houses that are historic sites. They're family homes that people are going to live in; history is living. They have all been sensitive to the past and the people who lived there and have loved the discovery of those stories, but they're the new storytellers.

Clay and Narelle pictured in front of the ruins of Keith Hall in a scene from Restoration Australia.
Clay and Narelle pictured in front of the ruins of Keith Hall in a scene from Restoration Australia. Tony Hill

"After working in a more commercial space - where you hear 'we're going to paint this beige because it's good for the rental market' - this is a lovely breath of fresh air."

Travelling across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia to regularly check the seven projects, Court says she was inspired by the resilience she saw.

"I got very inspired by all the couples and families who were involved in the project.

"They all came out so strong and with so many new skills, and I think their relationships were better. For everyone this was very much about a journey, not the finished project. It's a lifestyle choice... They expect to be in these places for a long time."

The Women of Style Award winner has a handy analogy for the difference between renovation and restoration.

"It's like the difference between slow food and fast food," she says. "The nutritional value is quite different.

"What we've done is find the knowledge. With a lot of the old trades there are not a lot of people who can pass on that information in Australia."

This is the first TV presenting role for Court, who looks up to Grand Designs host Kevin McLeod.

"If only I could be Kevin McLeod. His delivery is just spectacular," she says.

"Being a stylist for 22 years I'm usually behind the camera.

"I was hired and I started two weeks after that. It was a pretty fast pace. I was thrown into it. There's so much I've learned on this project. I will be looking very differently at the next thing I do."

Restoration Australia debuts tonight at 8.30pm on ABC1.

Topics:  abc1 restoration

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