At Home With

Tack­ling an 1870s cot­tage in Mel­bourne was a unique chal­lenge for celebrity ren­o­va­tors Josh and Jenna Den­sten – one that has set them and their grow­ing fam­ily up for a very bright fu­ture.

Australian House & Garden - - News - STORY Ta­ma­rah Pien­aar | STYLING Jenna Den­sten | PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Nikole Ram­say

The Block’s Josh and and Jenna Den­sten un­locked the po­ten­tial of a Mel­bourne cot­tage to cre­ate a cosy fam­ily nest.

josh and Jenna Den­sten freely ad­mit that real es­tate is their pas­sion. The two-time con­tes­tants from

The Block who be­came pro­fes­sional de­sign­ers/ ren­o­va­tors were “do­ing a drive-by for fun” in 2013 when they spot­ted this two-bed­room 1870s cot­tage in Mel­bourne. “We fell in love with it in­stantly,” says Jenna. “The inner-city lo­ca­tion – a wide, tree-lined street – was just gor­geous, and the house was so cute with huge po­ten­tial… I knew it could be our for­ever home.”

Re­al­is­ing that po­ten­tial would be a chal­lenge, how­ever. “It was dark and damp, there was no in­su­la­tion or ceil­ing fans, and prob­a­bly only two or three power points in the whole house,” says Josh. All the pe­riod fea­tures, in­clud­ing the floor­boards, had been stripped out. There was also apoor­ly­de­signedand­shod­dily­buil­tear­ly1980­sex­ten­sion to con­tend with, and her­itage list­ing meant that knock­ing down and re­build­ing was out of the ques­tion.

The cou­ple de­cided to de­mol­ish the later ad­di­tions en­tirely and con­vert the orig­i­nal part of the cot­tage into a self-con­tained one-bed­room stu­dio. While down­siz­ing a house goes against con­ven­tional real-es­tate wis­dom, do­ing so here was a no-brainer: it re­stored the her­itage value of the semi, suited their present needs and, as an ad­junct to a big­ger house they planned to build at the back of the cot­tage, would fu­ture-proof their in­vest­ment.

“Josh did some re­search and dis­cov­ered that the cot­tage was orig­i­nally one big room – a bed, kitchen area and per­haps a bath in front of the fire­place – so it made sense to re­store that lay­out,” says Jenna. “We also wanted to do some­thing pro­gres­sive; this de­sign plays to the idea of the Tiny House move­ment. We live only with what we need be­cause there’s sim­ply no room for any­thing else.”

The lay­out aims to max­imise light and func­tion­al­ity in the cot­tage, which mea­sures just 32m2. The com­bined kitchen/din­ing/living area at the front of the house is sep­a­rated from the bed­room at the rear by a com­pact bath­room ‘pod’. “The pod stops short of the ceil­ing, so both nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial light can bounce over it and be shared be­tween the zones,” says Josh. Atop the pod

is a plat­form for plants with trail­ing vines. “The green­ery soft­ens the ef­fect of the hard fin­ishes,” Jenna ex­plains.

Cus­tom join­ery ex­ploits ev­ery cen­time­tre of the home. “We wanted to make the oak join­ery a fea­ture, which also meant in­te­grat­ing some el­e­ments,” says Josh. “We worked with­thetea­matE&S,who­helpe­duschoosetheap­pli­ances that would work best in the small space. We par­tic­u­larly love the Gagge­nau oven – it opens side­ways so it’s easy to ac­cess and, be­ing py­rolytic, is a breeze to clean.”

Next, the cou­ple in­tend to build a three-bed­room dwelling at the rear of the block and use the stu­dio as a flat. “My sis­ter, Kelli, has a learn­ing dis­abil­ity and we wanted to cre­ate a space where she can live com­fort­ably and in­de­pen­dently,” says Josh. “Un­til then, it also gives us some­where to ac­com­mo­date both our sets of par­ents, who live half a day’s drive away.” In fact, plans for Josh and Jenna’s sec­ond dwelling are well un­der way, ex­pe­dited by the ar­rival of their daugh­ter Fred­die in June.

“This ren­o­va­tion was all about life­style and mak­ing the prop­erty what we needed it to be,” says Josh. In that re­spect, it’s a tri­umph. “It’s the first house we’ve lived in where every­thing has a pur­pose, a place,” says Jenna. “It’s calm­ing and prac­ti­cal – and just feels like home.”

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