How a landscape designer tailored a Melbourne property to her fun-loving brood.
Ben Dalling doesn’t think twice when asked about the favourite feature of his newly renovated home. “There’s a garden view everywhere you look, so the greenery feels like part of the house,” he says, crediting his wife Mary-Claire, a landscape architect, for creating a leafy aspect from every window.
The Dallings bought the house in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs in 2005. With toddler Tom and one-year-old baby Sebastian in tow, they began enthusiastically making plans to transform the ageing Victorian into a modern space for the family to grow into. Ten years passed and one more son arrived – Hamish, now 11 – before their home was finished.
“It took us a little longer than we’d hoped,” says MaryClaire, “but the upside was that we really came to know the intricacies of the space, such as where the light fell and where the warmth was, how the house coped with the changing seasons and also the needs of three boys, all of which had an enormous influence on the final plans.”
During those years of planning, Ben’s father, celebrated architect Rodger Dalling, drew many floor plans, often on napkins at family functions. When he and Ben’s mother Kathleen moved to Shanghai for a while, he handed his most recent design to Jo McIntyre of Beautiful Home. Her brief was to create a spacious family home with ample storage, something the single-level house lacked. “Having three children slightly older than ours, Jo helped us plan where to store sports bags and schoolbags and even fit a tech docking station,” says Mary-Claire. “All the boys’ gear now fits into the large new laundry/storage space.”
The Dallings kept the original floor plan of four bedrooms and a quiet sitting room at the front, but opened up the hallway at the back and added a generous new living area. Long gone are the canary yellow walls, unforgiving terracotta tiles and bold fruit-print curtains that greeted them in 2005. Now, wide custom windows capture the eastern light, while dark stained Victorian ash floors and a white base palette seamlessly blend the original facade and interior features with the new build.
When it came to soft furnishings, Mary-Claire had some clear favourites: “The surfaces had to weather the rigours of energetic boys but still be snug.” The Hycraft Ravine wool carpet in the bedrooms remains luxurious despite heavy traffic, and the inky denim sofas in the living room (where the boys watch AFL) provide colour and durability. “I love them – they don’t show a single mark,” she says.
The unexpected hit? The backyard spa that the pool builder convinced Mary-Claire to have, on the basis it would keep her teenage boys and their friends at home longer. His advice proved to be right. “In summer or winter, every Friday night after cricket and hockey training, the boys and their friends are outside in the spa,” says Mary-Claire. “It extends the swimming season for us. And it’s not uncommon for the boys to be in the spa and then brave the cold pool!”
Beautiful Home, Balwyn North, Victoria; 0417 341 853 or beautifulhome.net.au. Botanica Garden Styling, Hawthorn, Victoria; 0417 307 311 or botanicagardenstyling.com.
LIVING A Gloria Petyarre work called Bush Medicine Leaves is the perfect piece of art for a garden designer’s home. Button frog artwork by Sebastian Dalling. Button fern in Bisonhome pot. Designer buy: Ethnicraft ‘Nordic’ oak buffet, $3995, Globe West. DECK Sons Hamish and Sebastian with mini groodle Frankie in the north-facing outdoor space Mary-Claire designed.
“It’s brilliant, but used to get very hot,” she says. “Covering the pergola with Suntuf and training Boston ivy over it has made a big difference, especially in summer with the reduced heat and lovely dappled light.” Rug, Frey. >