Why is this couple building a Georgian style house in the middle of Canberra?

Why is this couple building a Georgian style house in the middle of Canberra?

For a very brief moment while driving along Simpson Street, Watson, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Boston, Massachusetts.

The brand new home coming to life at number 18 is being built in the Georgian architectural style: think brick walls laid in a Flemish bond, multi-pane windows, a side-gabled roof and a commanding front entrance with crown and pilasters. Inside, it’s all about soaring ceilings, arches, natural finishes and decorative cornices.


The Georgian style was prominent in Britain during the successive reign of three King Georges (1714 to 1830). It was used heavily in building the brand new cities of New York and Boston in the far north-east United States in the mid-1700s.

Located smack-bang in the middle of Watson, Canberra — a suburb of mid-century moderns — the new build definitely stands out. But there are myriad reasons the couple behind the build, David and Ebony-Maria Levy, chose to build in the Georgian style.


“We bought the original house back in 2011, a three-bedroom ex-government house, but by 2019 we’d had two children, were working from home exclusively and needed more space,” Ebony says.

“We started with quotes for a simple extension and it was just so cost prohibitive that it was not that much more of a stretch to begin again, and to be able to have things like higher ceilings, to really ensure that the foundation was great, things like that. 

“So we just did the cost benefit analysis and realised that starting fresh would actually represent a better return on investment.”


The couple began to design their dream home; and rather than focus on the short term, they wanted to build a house that would still be standing in 200 years. It was a chance to unite timeless design with a massive focus on sustainability.

“We asked ourselves, what does a house that will withstand the next century or two look like?” Ebony says.

“So in that sense, you have to go back in time to look at what worked. And we are strongly of the view that you can achieve timelessness only through the use of natural materials, like clay, stone and timber.


“It’s these sorts of materials that are enhanced by time. The beauty of traditional architecture comes down to the material longevity of the buildings, in that sense.”

The Levys drew a lot of courage from Leon Krier’s book The Architecture of Community (2009), in which Krier reassuringly states “even an imbecile cannot build a tectonic error when using natural materials; synthetic materials instead make even abstruse, illogical structures stand up".


Says Ebony: “It's 2023, so I'm not at all suggesting that mid-century homes from the 20th century won't take on that iconic status in 100 or 150 years, but the houses that are going up now —  the boxy, greyish monstrosities in the new suburbs — I just don't believe, given the comparative poor quality of synthetic materials being widely used, that they’ll have that same longevity.

"We staunchly believe that the most sustainable home is one that does not require replacing.” 

Finding an architect for the Georgian dream home proved challenging. In fact, it was impossible. So the Levys designed the home themselves based on plans set out in Abraham Swan’s 1757 stylebook on Georgian architectural designs and details. Alex Kwong of AK Design then drew up the plans.


Finding a builder, however, was much easier. From the moment they read the Laggner Constructions tagline: ‘Building tomorrow’s heritage’, David and Ebony knew they were the builders for their home. Both the Laggners and the Levys share Austrian ancestry, so that was something special to discover they had in common. 

Laggner Constructions have relished working on the home, and so has every tradie and craftsperson since. Those working on the home have gained new (old) skills, with one carpenter, Ned Oreskovic of Details By Ned, using his grandfather’s tools to hand-carve the staircase turns.


“The house offers this crazy sense of connection to the past,” Ebony says.

“We're really grateful to all the people who have these skills and knowledge and are able to educate us in the process.

“It's the people that are doing the work that deserve all the praise.”

So what’s the price tag on a four-bedroom, library, study, three-bathroom home in a style that’s so rare, especially in the capital?

“We’re building the cheapest house out of anyone we know,” Ebony says with a laugh. 

“I mean, it’s built from bricks. Just simple, Boral bricks.


“But we also started with this deep desire to use as many locally-sourced, natural materials as possible, which has delivered commensurate savings. 

“We’ve incorporated salvaged Turpentine wharf piers and remilled Spotted Gum telegraph poles in our interior design.

"Our kitchen cupboards will be made from recycled timber salvaged from Sydney house roofs. We have salvaged a bunch of antique tiles for our portico and exterior terraces. And we have big plans to used oyster shells to cover the bolts on the garage lintel, because oysters are great and sadly underused in architectural contexts. 


“We’ve been diligent with our sourcing to ensure we keep our budget in check.” 

The Levy family expect to move into their Georgian revival home in Watson in early 2024. You can follow the progress of the house on Instagram: @georgianhousecanberra

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