Inside Out (Australia)
A creative couple’s use of colour inspires the imaginative reinvention of their Edwardian Melbourne home
A creative couple with a shared aesthetic take a hands-on approach to the renovation ofo their Edwardian semi
“If we had materials ready but couldn’t book in a tradie, Ben would just do it himself ” SARAH HARRIS, HOMEOWNER
When imagination, style and attention to detail combine, a successful renovation is all but guaranteed. Sarah, a graphic designer, and Ben, a former carpenter who now uses his skills in precision as a helicopter pilot, combined their talents to produce this stunning renovation in Melbourne’s inner east.
The existing two-bedroom home was “pretty dated and tired, with a ’70s-style renovation that didn’t really make use of the northern light at the rear,” says Ben, who, together with Sarah, had recently completed another renovation just around the corner. “It had cheap carpet and a quick paint job before the sale, but we loved living in the area and could see its potential immediately.”
Expecting a fairly smooth renovation ride, the couple took a month to do a mini-renovation before they moved in. “We did the front two rooms and hallway, turning the second bedroom into a walk-in robe and an ensuite off the master bedroom,” says Sarah.
During this time, they also came up with the master plan for the rest of the home. “Ben can visualise spaces, and then I’ll come up with a heap of examples from magazines, Instagram and Pinterest to see how others have done it – and then take the best ideas and go from there,” says Sarah. “Ben hand-drew the plans to scale, then I put them into Illustrator, which isn’t an architectural program at all, but it was enough for us to be able to give our draftsperson a good guide for him to produce the plans for council – a great way to save some money,” says Sarah.
“We knew the town planning would take a little while, but certainly didn’t envisage a 12-month hold-up until we could start the second stage,” she says. “We had gutted the place and it was cold – I used to let our dog Babe sleep on the bed just to keep me warm!”
Once the green light was finally given, Ben took on only occasional piloting jobs “so I could work pretty much seven days a week on the house,” he says. His building experience and meticulous planning meant that all the materials were ordered and delivered on time and no further hold-ups ensued. “He was so keen to get on with the job,” says Sarah. “If we had materials ready but couldn’t book in a tradie, he would just do it himself.”
“I did as much as I could,” says Ben. “I prepared the slab and got a concreter to pour and screed, then I built the frame, did the cladding, installed the windows, did the painting, the floors and the landscaping. We called on family, friends and good people
I’ve met over the years whose work we can trust for the rest. My brother is a great plasterer, Sarah’s brother did the plumbing, and we got in a sparky, a tiler and a roof plumber.”
“We’d broken the back of the structural work by August,” says Sarah. “Then the interiors really started to take shape.” The couple share a similar taste, which is another big plus for creating a really resolved and cohesive interior. “We do like similar things, and when we do disagree it’s generally because my tastes are a bit more classic – which then translates into more work for Ben,” she says.
“For example,” says Ben, “Sarah loves parquetry, but I knew how long it would take to do and suggested an easier option, such as wide floorboards that would take a day and a half to lay, as opposed to 12 days for the parquetry. Once I started, I definitely got on board – I was just trying to save myself some work. I guess the fact that I’d do it all again means I’m very happy with it!”
The other stunning standout in the home is the beautiful blue kitchen cabinetry – again a product of the couple’s teamwork. “I was collecting lots of images of dark grey and green kitchens, but Benny suggested the blue, and it was such a winner,” says Sarah. “The first blues we tried were way too vivid, so we kept going darker and finally settled on Oolong by Dulux, which is a bit greyer in flat paint, but in the two-pack is the perfect deep blue.” With their own winning formula now down pat, Ben and Sarah are planning their next move – another period renovation in the same area. Stay tuned!