Made to order A design-savvy duo transform their family home
WITH PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE RENOVATING OLDER HOMES, A MELBOURNE FAMILY WAS EXCITED TO TACKLE A NEW PROJECT
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.