At Home With
With two growing girls, Susan and Gordon Tait’s cottage was feeling squeezy. As luck would have it, everything they wished for was around the corner.
For a pair of furniture designers with a growing family, the update they needed was just around the corner... literally.
Who could imagine that a fit of frustration could be the catalyst for future happiness? Outdoor furniture designers/ manufacturers Susan and Gordon Tait and their daughters Lily, now 21, and Coco, 17, had outgrown their 1920s two-bedroom home in Melbourne’s inner north. They had contemplated extending but the cost outweighed the benefits. And while a move was on the cards, they hadn’t begun actively looking.
“One afternoon, the girls were driving Gordon crazy in our cramped living space, so he went for a walk to let off steam,” says Susan. It proved a fortuitous stroll. Almost directly behind their compact cottage, Gordon spied the solution: a double-fronted Victorian property that had been passed in at auction. “It was everything we wanted and more,” says Susan. “And the perfect size for the next stage of our family’s life.” They snapped it up.
The home had undergone a major renovation just prior to the Taits buying it. The front of the home, containing four bedrooms leading off a central hallway, was largely original, but the rear of the house had been “totally reinvented” to add a study, bathroom, laundry and an open-plan kitchen/ dining/living area with direct access to the garden.
The pine flooring was all brand new too – but not to the Taits’ taste. “Before we moved in, we stained all the timber floors a rich chocolate brown (Feast Watson Black Japan) and had the bedrooms carpeted,” says Susan. “Once we settled in, we redecorated the back area, updating the kitchen
with a beautiful tiled feature wall, and more functional cupboards. We also designed built-in storage for the living room to house our books, artwork and AV equipment.”
Beginning with a canvas of Dulux Whisper White, Gordon and Susan added feature walls in select rooms for interest. Clean-lined classic Danish furniture abounds, layered with vintagetreasures,colourfulceramicsandstatementartworks. “All of our furnishings are considered purchases, which we still love as much as the day we bought them,” says Susan. “That said, we do add to our collection every now and then. If we feel like a refresh, we tend to leave the big pieces where they are and move the smaller items or artworks around.” “The look of our outdoor area probably changes more often than the interior,” says Gordon. “We often bring prototypes of our new products home to road-test; living with a piece ourselves is a great way to assess a design, to see where we can improve or develop it before signing off on its release.”
Considering their line of business, it comes as little surprise that both Gordon and Susan nominate the garden as their favourite part of the home. “A few years ago, we redesigned the layout to suit a family with teenagers
insteadofyoungchildren,removingthecubby/chookhouse to build the studio as a second living area/art studio in its place,” says Gordon. It is arranged in zones for enjoying at various times of the day: the north-facing back verandah is afavouriteformorningcoffee;thestudioistheprimeposition for sunset; the lawn for barbecues; the rear corner for alfresco dining. “We also have a fire pit, which everyone loves,” says Susan. “It provides great warmth and entertainment, as well as a wonderful way to socialise of an evening.”
The Taits love nothing more than hosting a gathering and this house is perfect for it, says Gordon. “We’ve always wanted a social house and the open-plan area, with its double doors to the deck and garden, makes it really easy. Having the studio is great too, especially with the girls growing up – it’s somewhere they can entertain friends separately from the house.” “The kitchen bench is scarred from cocktail parties and our floorboards dented from high heels,” adds Susan. “It’s definitely a house with a few stories to tell!”
Soft greens bring the outdoors in; rich chocolate brown grounds the room.