Emily Davies O’Sullivan spent a lot of her childhood in Newcastle, and now lives happily in Stockton with her family of five and dog Maggie.
In 2015, after a bit of world travel, she and husband Nicholas Dowman were looking for a place to live in the region. At first, she didn’t even consider Stockton.
“I thought it was 45 minutes away from town; I thought it was basically Port Stephens,” she says.
But they took a quick ferry ride across to Stockton and realised how accessible the peninsula was.
Here they found their current two-bedroom one-bathroom home. It had been recently renovated and featured a big backyard and a paradise room.
They were smitten.
“It ticked all the boxes and more; it was near the beach. We couldn’t believe our luck. We were stoked,” she says.
When they returned from travelling abroad, they lived with her parents. They moved to a Merewether apartment and during this time Jasper was born. On Jasper’s first birthday they moved into their Stockton home.
Jasper likes that there are no stairs in the house, and Oscar likes playing with his little green truck. Jack can’t yet articulate what he likes, but give it time.
It’s a small place, but the high ceilings make a big difference. When they moved in it was the “classic off yellow”, but they painted the hall and loungeroom. They’re slowly working through the house to make it fresher.
Davies O’Sullivan has included lots of blue and green decor, and Dowman, a musician, has his instruments on display.
“We inherited the piano from my great grandmother who was a piano teacher. This was her piano that she taught everyone on. They shipped it out from Germany, although she was Scottish,” Davies O’Sullivan says.
“We’re planning to all play it eventually.”
Their artwork is a mix of different aspects of their life, and some pieces they’ve painted themselves. The large bee piece in the loungeroom was a gift from their parents. They have three Norman Lindsays.
They also brought furniture and art with them from their Merewether apartment.
They will probably have to address the boys' future sleeping situation as it will be challenging having all three in one bedroom. Their long-term plans will probably include renovating.
The backyard and garden is an important part of the space, particularly the sheltered paradise room at the back of the property. It has power, lights and is like an extension to the house, Davies O’Sullivan says.
“From the kitchen you can see the whole back yard, you can keep the kids in check. It keeps them all together,” Dowman says.
They believe their home is typical of the homes in the area.
“We think this place must be pretty old, but we can’t find evidence of when the house was built,” she says.
“It’s probably at least a hundred years old, at least parts of it.”
Davies O’Sullivan and Dowman met while both studying a bachelor of planning at university in Sydney. They were both looking for jobs in similar fields and knew that it might be challenging to both get a job in town planning in a smaller city such as Newcastle. At one stage they were looking at moving to the far south coast where Dowman’s family is from. But things worked out and they both were able to find employment at Willana Urban in Newcastle.
Now they both work in the CBD and don’t have to drive as much. They walk or cycle and catch the ferry and the two older boys, Jasper and Oscar, go to daycare on Darby Street.
She says there’s a great community in Stockton.
“The people on the ferry are so friendly; they all know all the kids. The stuff that I didn’t expect was the sense of community; it’s like a little coastal town. We can walk to the beach,” Davies O’Sullivan says.
“There’s a couple of coffee shops here, there’s an IGA, there’s a butcher, a bakery and even the op shop I really like.”
Their home in Stockton is compact, colourful, conveniently-located and clearly full of love. The five are happily settling in and making it more and more their own.