Back­yard Boys

How a land­scape de­signer tai­lored a Mel­bourne prop­erty to her fun-lov­ing brood.

Australian House & Garden - - Content - STORY Sue Smethurst | STYLING Toni Briggs | PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Anna Robin­son

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 beau­ti­ful­ Botan­ica Gar­den Styling, Hawthorn, Vic­to­ria; 0417 307 311 or botan­ica­gar­den­

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....

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