Bring­ing it back from the brink

An un­ex­pected vis­i­tor makes the re­ju­ve­na­tion of a clas­sic old home all worth­while,

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - STYLE - writes Louise Surette More north­ Pic­tures Penny Clay

When Sally Hol­brook de­cided to save a crum­bling Cal­i­for­nian bun­ga­low and trans­form it into her first home with her part­ner, lit­tle did she know how many happy mem­o­ries she was sav­ing along with it.

“While we were ren­o­vat­ing, we had a visit from an el­derly cou­ple,” Sally says.

“The lady ex­plained that her fa­ther had built the house in the 1920s and she had grown up in it as one of eight chil­dren. She was afraid it would be knocked down so you can imag­ine her de­light when she found we were ren­o­vat­ing her child­hood home.”

By all ac­counts, the house in Coburg in the north­ern sub­urbs of Mel­bourne was lucky to have been saved. It was so di­lap­i­dated, Sally and her fi­ance, Mark Hlawaty, dubbed it the haunted house months be­fore they bought it.

“It was a knock­down. You couldn’t even call it a ren­o­va­tor’s de­light. It was in ter­ri­ble con­di­tion,” Sally says.

For­tu­nately, the house fell into the right hands. Sally is an ar­chi­tect and di­rec­tor of North­bourne Ar­chi­tec­ture + De­sign and was look­ing for a project that would of­fer his­toric charm, and give her the scope to put her stamp on it.

“Even though half of it was fall­ing down, I could see the po­ten­tial in the house,” she says. “It had gor­geous pro­por­tions.”

Back in the game

The cou­ple had the house res­tumped, rewired and re­plas­tered, but one of the big­gest im­pacts was adding win­dows, as well as large glass doors at the rear, which brought in lots of nat­u­ral light.

The bath­room was also re­con­fig­ured, with a free­stand­ing bath, shower and a large win­dow that gives it an in­door-out­door feel — more lux­u­ri­ous than the pre­vi­ous out­house.

Sally says her home is quite dif­fer­ent to the de­signs she does for clients, al­though she re­sists putting la­bels on her style. “I don’t re­ally put my­self in a box,” she says. She has a num­ber of mid cen­tury-in­spired pieces col­lected over the years mixed with some more con­tem­po­rary pieces.

“Over your life, you col­lect things that have mean­ing to you, that tell a story but to make them all work har­mo­niously can be dif­fi­cult,” she says. “But I think we’ve man­aged it.”

While Sally is proud of bring­ing a home that was near­ing its end back to life, she’s es­pe­cially pleased know­ing how im­por­tant the home was to so many peo­ple.

“We loved the house, so we were go­ing to take care of it re­gard­less, but it added that ad­di­tional sense of love for it.”

“Over your life, you col­lect things that have mean­ing to you, that tell a story but to make them all work har­mo­niously can be dif­fi­cult”

Clas­sic alu­minium Navy chairs, first re­leased in 1944, sit around a tim­ber mid-cen­tury din­ing ta­ble, with a colour­ful art­work as the back­drop.

Kitchen cab­i­nets make an un­ortho­dox but prac­ti­cal stor­age so­lu­tion in the bed­room.

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