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.

Australian House & Garden - - Contents - STORY John McDon­ald | STYLING Toni Briggs | PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Armelle Habib

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.

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