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Bright Spark: A family renovation embraces colour and pattern

This family’s love of colour and pattern is beautifully showcased in their sunny living room
Annette O'Brien
The ottoman has Warwick’s ‘Kenji’ cotton in Chartreuse on the sides and ‘Alhambra’ cotton in Fuchsia on the top (Credit: Annette O’Brien)

Renowned designer Carolyn Burns-McCrave couldn’t wait to get started on one of her favourite projects – the makeover of the living room this home in Melbourne’s north-west. Carolyn – also the resident expert on House Rules – and the homeowners were on the same page from the start. While they loved much about the Edwardian home, they felt its dark and dreary relaxation quarters appeared to be stuck in something of a time warp. They didn’t quite know where to begin, and decided to engage Carolyn.

Now a haven for everyday family life, the living room is an inviting fusion of colour and style.

The original room – definitely time for an update (Credit: Supplied)

When Carolyn first stepped into the original living room, it appeared to have been taken from the pages of a furniture catalogue from many years back. Dark chocolate-brown leather couches and the other furniture came from the homeowners’ old house and didn’t reflect the vibrant young family that lives here. 

New window seats cleverly cover up the room’s hydronic heating panels (Credit: Annette O’Brien)

“Window seats are an opportunity to add fabrics and soft furnishings to a room”

Carolyn Burns-McCrave, interior designer

“We settled on a Hamptons-style makeover with an Australian twist,” says Carolyn. “The elegance and formality of the Hamptons style suited the architecture of the house, but we wanted to give it an irreverent, fresh feel by introducing lots of colour and pattern.” Now, a base palette of white walls and the existing solid timber flooring allows a beautifully curated blend of textures and hues to shine.

With a timeframe of two months from planning to completion, rather than costly structural changes, it was simply a matter of cosmetic updates, including new built-in window seats with fabric covers, which Carolyn designed herself, in the makeover.

A pair of chartreuse occasional chairs, originally found at Freedom, introduces another glorious splash of colour (Credit: Annette O’Brien)

Embracing all things bright and beautiful has proven to be the key to this makeover. The sumptuous floral fabrics covering the window-seat cushions and ottoman work a treat with the fresh new decor. “I love the mix of fabrics on the custom ottoman,” says designer Carolyn. “The ottoman and the window seats are now bespoke pieces that up the elegance factor.”

Carolyn advises those who embark on a room makeover to begin by narrowing down the style that sings to them. “Find something you love, even if that’s just one cushion with colours and patterns that you respond to, and use that as your starting point,” she says. “Be creative, buy what you love and don’t expect it to come together overnight.”

Budget breakdown

 Armchairs  $1200

Built-in window seats  $4000

Wallpaper  $250

Lamps $1320

Ottoman  $2200

Side tables $518

Sofas  $4000

Total: $13,488*

*excludes labour and building costs, some costs are based on owners’ estimates and will vary

Interior designer: Carolyn Burns-McCrave, (03) 9894 0586, burnsmccrave.com.au


Jump to this story for more expert renovation advice from Carolyn.

The geometric form of Sanderson’s ‘Siam Trellis’ wallpaper from Domestic Textiles covers the chimneybreast (Credit: Annette O’Brien)

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