Made to or­der A de­sign-savvy duo trans­form their fam­ily home



Sea­soned ren­o­va­tors Rachael and Alex have had plenty of prac­tice turn­ing ugly duck­lings into beau­ti­fully re­fur­bished swans, but their lat­est project, a new build in Mel­bourne’s bay­side area, was a fresh experience for the de­sign-savvy duo. Build­ing from scratch pro­vided dif­fer­ent chal­lenges but, most ex­cit­ingly, it gave them the chance to cre­ate a truly be­spoke home, de­signed to fit seam­lessly in with the way their fam­ily lives. “We’ve done a few houses be­fore, so I had some strong ideas about what I wanted,” says Rachael. The first chal­lenge for the cou­ple, par­ents to daugh­ter, Ge­or­gia, 15, and son, Char­lie, 14, was find­ing the right block, which proved far from easy. The pair wanted some­thing close to the wa­ter (as ex­pat Brits, it’s im­por­tant for them to en­joy the laid-back life­style of Aus­tralia’s sea­side sub­urbs), with rear-lane ac­cess for park­ing, on a block big enough to sub­di­vide and with­out a her­itage over­lay – a house that they could de­mol­ish with­out any vis­ual cost to the streetscape. Their dili­gent hunt­ing was fi­nally re­warded with the per­fect place: a noth­ing-spe­cial Cal­i­for­nia bun­ga­low sit­ting on 600 square me­tres – a pala­tial site for this in­ner-sub­ur­ban area. The orig­i­nal plan was to di­vide the block in two, cre­at­ing one lovely house for them­selves and a twin to sell. How­ever, a lit­tle experience and re­search can be a tricky thing. With past ren­o­va­tions and much en­thu­si­as­tic mag­a­zine flip­ping and Pin­ter­est pin­ning in mind, Rachael ad­mits her list of must-haves kept ex­pand­ing – so much so the home’s planned size swelled by a third. Yet, de­spite this, the cou­ple stayed true to their orig­i­nal in­ten­tion, which was not to over­build on the block, and were still able to sub­di­vide. “We were quite clear in our minds that we didn’t want to cre­ate mas­sive rooms just for the sake of hav­ing big rooms,” says Rachael. “We wanted it to be quite eco­nom­i­cal in the space.” The re­sult is a house that feels light and airy, with­out be­ing overly large. There are plenty of spa­ces for the fam­ily to en­ter­tain and spend time to­gether, as well as quiet nooks to get away from it all. Most im­por­tantly, ev­ery­thing feels very con­nected, courtesy of a cen­tral void, in­ter­nal win­dows and flow­ing open-plan spa­ces. The prac­ti­cal rooms – laun­dry, pow­der room, pantry – are hid­den away in two black ‘boxes’, re­mov­ing them from no­tice. Alex is the co-founder of Smarter Bath­rooms, so one of the cou­ple’s ma­jor goals was to make a show­piece kitchen and two-anda-half wow bath­rooms. Set­ting the team loose on the spa­ces, they achieved des­ig­nated chef Rachael’s dream kitchen and an award­win­ning bath­room de­sign, snag­ging the HIA Bath­room of the Year award in 2016. The pair had seen enough new builds to know what they def­i­nitely didn’t want, steer­ing away from any­thing too shiny and new-look­ing, and lean­ing to­wards nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als rich with tex­ture. “Be­ing a brand new house, we wanted to avoid that boxy feel,” ex­plains Rachael. Yet, build­ing from scratch has had one amaz­ing ad­van­tage: there’s been lit­tle need to com­pro­mise. “We spent so long think­ing about this house and how we wanted it to work with our fam­ily,” she says. “We drew on mis­takes made in the past and things we’d seen done well else­where.” This was in com­par­i­son to pre­vi­ous ren­o­va­tions of older houses, which left Rachael to wryly re­flect that they never felt com­pletely fin­ished un­til the day they pre­pared to sell. “The dif­fer­ence with liv­ing in a brand new house that we’ve had com­plete con­trol over is that it’s com­pletely fin­ished and it’s ex­actly what we wanted,” she says.

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