Bringing it back from the brink
An unexpected visitor makes the rejuvenation of a classic old home all worthwhile,
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.