INTO THE BLUE
– a dark blue palette is used to dramatic effect in Melbourne’s leafy suburbs
The bold use of an inky blue palette totally transformed this Melbourne
home, without the need for structural alterations.
Below: the Ro armchair and footstool in the main living area are Jaime Hayon for Fritz Hansen, the standard lamp and starburst mirror are vintage, while the coffee table was custom-made. Left: taking the blue paint into the hall links the contemporary part of the house to the original rooms.
Belinda Hall’s house in Melbourne, Australia, shows what can be done to live more beautifully within an existing framework of a building. Melbourne’s oldest suburbs were laid out in the boom years of the Victorian era gold rush, when neat quadrants of brick cottages were built, street by street. These streets are now lush and leafy, and the homes in them much sought-after. Houses of this era are most often renovated to retain the gracious front rooms, while demolishing the various additions at the back to erect a modern extension; a ‘white box’, if you will, with lofty ceilings, bright spaces and open-plan living. Hall’s house had already been renovated in this manner when she found it, but she viewed it as a blank canvas and “set about adding meaning to our space for our family”.
Without any further structural changes or architectural input she has transformed the house into something altogether more sophisticated – a home that responds to the different needs of a growing family and one that feels warm, layered and enriching.
The house retains no vestige of its former life as a working dairy and from the street, the formal garden and the deep red brick facade give no hint to the vim and colour of the interior.
Hall, an interior stylist, together with her business partner Fiona Richardson, forged a design ethos based on the idea of interiors reflecting the rich layers of life, where many lifetimes of travel and living come together in a carefully edited modern family home. They set about creating different spaces to allow the family to congregate or separate, depending on the mood.
Hall’s husband, Patrick, was an enthusiastic collaborator in the project. He brought pieces home from his travels abroad, including a pair of pineapple wall sconces, although even he baulked at lugging a tin of Farrow & Ball paint across the world.
The transformation of the house started with wallpaper, which Hall says assisted in creating warm, emotive spaces. “For me it harked back to positive childhood experiences – my daughter Rose’s room was papered in a soft metallic Colefax and Fowler Rose wallpaper, which was a nod to my grandmother’s decorating choices.”
The greatest leap, though, was choosing a deep, midnight blue as the dominant colour in the back part
Left: Hall reupholstered the vintage armchairs, the armoire is vintage French, a Gan Kilim Palermo rug adds a contemporary feel to the space. Below: Hall and daughter Rose sit on
leather window seat banquettes.
Left: the dining chairs are vintage from Arrben Italy, the jug is 1980s Conran. Above left: the kitchen cabinets were painted to match the walls. Above right: a soda dispenser, crystal decanters and cloche (all vintage) dress a Gubi trolley, behind which hangs Anthropologie’s Etched Arcadia Mural. Below right: glossy blue tiles bounce light around the kitchen. Below left: white worktops contrast with the blue palette.
of the house. This created warmth and allowed for different spaces to emerge.
Wallpaper, indoor trees and smaller sitting zones defined by rugs also assist with this. Two nib walls papered with the towering trees of Anthropologie’s Etched Arcadia Mural cleverly lead away from the kitchen space. A window seat tucked in the corner beckons, and French doors painted in the same dark blue provide a stunning contrast with the vivid green of the garden, leading the eye outwards.
“Painting out all woodwork ensures the depth of the colour feels endless,” says Hall. “This single move and the later decision to paint the kitchen cabinets and install Spanish tiles in deepest blue really ensured the success of the scheme”. Those tiles glossily light up the kitchen and enliven the space.
The deep blue contrasts beautifully with pale floors and pieces such as a blonde-wood sideboard, created in the 1950s by Albert Guénot, the former head designer at French department store, Le Bon Marché. Other special pieces – a brass vase, stone sculpture or wool cushion – provide a natural element to the house and add a thoughtful layer to the refurbishment, designed to put you at ease.
As Hall says, “My favourite experiences at home are the times when all family members are milling around in the one large room, separately reading, drawing, watching TV, cooking – but all together.” The warmth of the palette provides much-needed cosiness on Melbourne’s cold winter evenings, when the open fireplace is a blessing.
To link the contemporary rear of the house with the original rooms at the front, the hallway was painted at half height in the deep blue. Above this, sits a dado line in brilliant gold, by artisan Australian company Porter’s Paints. The gold picks up gilt picture frames, including a portrait of Hall’s mother by her great-grandfather.
The master bedroom is a study in calm; blush pink walls create airiness and modern pieces contrast with the classical architectural forms of the windows. The pendant light and bedside light are clean and crisp in this restful room. The colour scheme is classical; pink, the grey of the original marble fireplace and a pop of colour from the citrine bedspread.
Corners to sit and read, spaces for children to play and perform. Enough space for a large gathering of friends or a quiet moment at the end of a busy week. That is the success of this inner-city transformation; all in all, a place of spirited sanctuary.
Below: the Lustre 3 Petit Cargo pendant light by Design Heure and bedside light by
Lumina add a modern touch to the calm master bedroom. Left: Colefax and Fowler Fontenay wallpaper in Rose’s bedroom. Far left: the windows in the master bedroom retain their original form.