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A Brisbane worker’s cottage is brought to life with a kaleidoscope of colour

With overseas plans cancelled, one couple redirected their travel money to revive their charming home.
Mindi Cooke

For Monica and husband Joe, the highlight of 2020 was set to be an idyllic month-long holiday taking in the sights and delicacies of Italy, villa hopping with friends, before cruising down the central Adriatic coast to Croatia. But like many people’s plans over the past few years, Covid threw a spanner in the works and the trip was cancelled.

white queenslander cottage exterior
The heritage exterior, previously brown and white was also refreshed in Porter’s Paints Explorer Blue, with trims and filigree screens accented in Dulux Whisper White. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

With time on their hands at home, the couple instead decided to redirect their travel budget into renovating their 1930s worker’s cottage. Charmed by its character and leafy location not far from Brisbane’s CBD, the couple had bought their heritage home 12 years earlier and not long after sought to maximise its modest footprint by building-in underneath, to add three bedrooms, a bathroom and extra living area. Yet over the years, as the lower level had increasingly become a teenage domain for their two children, it was time to show the upper level some love.

pale blue queenslander verandah
Forced to cancel a long-awaited Mediterranean holiday, Monica, pictured with cavoodle Doug, and her family decided to embark on a dramatic renovation to the upper level of their home. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

Who lives here? Monica, an executive assistant, her husband Joe, their two teenage children, and three dogs Maggie, Doug and Mabel.

Best change? Monica: “Bringing colour, pattern and individuality into a formerly very bland house.”

Biggest splurge? “I was resolute in having a marble slab for the island, which was a logistical headache, but worth the effort and expense.”

Lessons learnt during the reno? “Trust the experts!”

What’s next on the to-do list? “We hope to get Hayley back to overhaul the downstairs area and give it colour and personality.”

colourful brisbane workers cottage living room
Once cramped and dull, the living area is now bright and welcoming. Original VJ walls painted in Dulux Whisper White provide a backdrop for artworks like this piece titled Awakening #4 by Joseph McGlennon. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

The main goal was to create a larger, more open kitchen and living area where the couple could entertain and make the most of the city views. Faced with a multitude of decisions, which all seemed too hard, Monica decided to engage the expertise of interior designer Hayley Hayes of Porch Light Interiors to oversee the project and devise a refreshed interior scheme throughout. “Hayley came up with wonderful ideas to rework the floor plan and our builder was so obliging,” recalls Monica.“I couldn’t have imagined doing it on my own.”

Hayley devised the inspired new layout and look brimming with colour and pattern. “I was really relaxed about the whole process and trusted Hayley with all the decisions, big and small, and she’s given us a unique and vibrant design which complements the cottage’s character,” reflects Monica.

In the living room, atop a Dash & Albert rug, custom upholstered sofas in a paisley Cloth & Print Co fabric and natural Belgian linen, scattered with an eclectic mix of cushions, is a favourite spot for the family. A pair of statement lamps from Visual Comfort on side tables from Xavier Furniture add to the fusion of colour.

renovated workers cottage living room vj panelled walls
‘Woodlore’ shutters from Norman were added to windows in the living area, alongside artwork ‘Better Be Fabulous’, by Lana de Jager. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

Almost magically, space was conjured by demolishing a bedroom, allowing the kitchen to double in size and change orientation. An unused section of the front veranda was also pinched and converted into a walk-in wardrobe for the main bedroom, with the ensuite transformed into a day- spa-inspired sanctuary. With lingering memories of an incredible stay at the renowned Parker hotel in Palm Springs, Monica’s wish for the new-look interior was to evoke a similar vibrant eclectic vibe, brimming with colour, texture and mismatched prints and patterns. “I trusted Hayley implicitly and gave her full control of all the selections from the fabrics and tiles to the kitchen colour. I never would have dreamt of a powder-blue kitchen myself and it’s one of my favourite features,” she says.

colourful brisbane workers cottage kitchen open plan living room
To give the home a more spacious layout, a bedroom was demolished and an original dining room wall removed to create an open living area adjacent to the enlarged kitchen. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

Fortunately, Covid didn’t significantly impact the build, with the family of four decamping downstairs during the six-month project, where they juggled home schooling, working from home and became accustomed to living without a kitchen, which they found was a great excuse not to cook. It also meant, once they moved back upstairs, the newly renovated top level felt even more spacious and luxurious. “With so much more light, space and fresh finishes, it feels like a new home, yet still has the charm of an old Queenslander. I just love it,” enthuses Monica. Thrilled with the result, the couple hopes Hayley can work her magic on the home’s lower level, but perhaps not before they head off on their long-awaited Italian getaway pencilled in for 2023.

brisbane workers cottage kitchen
A must-have in the kitchen was a personally selected slab of Carrara marble from SNB Stone. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

“Rather than a white clinical home, I really wanted a vibrant look with an unexpected combination of colours and fabrics and Hayley pulled it off perfectly,” explains Monica. Cushions in Lisa Fine Textiles, Walter G and Christopher Farr Cloth fabrics adorn sofas with the ottoman in Cloth & Print Co ‘Pukka Paisley’ fabric in Pandang.

renovated workers cottage kitchen
The kitchen island is ideal for informal family dining. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

With the timber floors refurbished and stained Feast Watson’s Black Japan, there’s no tell-tale signs of the original pokey spaces. Powder-blue cabinetry gives the kitchen a fresh yet classic feel. “Monica was originally going to have a butler’s pantry, but we offered alternatives, which allowed for plenty of storage as well as a big island where multiple people could sit and use the kitchen simultaneously,” explains Hayley. To complement the soft shade of blue, Carrara marble benchtops from SNB Stone and ‘Zellige’ splashback tiles from Elite Bathware & Tiles play a supporting role. “To break up the wall of cabinetry, the glass-fronted cabinets backed with mirrors reflect the room, boost natural light and are a nice way to have a few pieces on display, which gives the kitchen personality,” says Hayley.

brisbane workers cottage breakfast nook
A small bar area, defined by a Marcia Priestley artwork Lavender Farm, also adds to the space’s entertaining vibe. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)
brisbane workers cottage breakfast nook
In the breakfast nook a faux orchid from Provincial Home Living provides an everlasting flourish. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)
home bar vignette vj panelled walls
The Marcia Priestley artwork ‘Lavender Farm’ is from Greenhouse Interiors. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

“Pink and green is such a beautiful combination for a bedroom as it makes you feel happy and just pulls you in,” says designer Hayley, who drew inspiration from Kit Kemp hotels to create the custom bedhead in specially printed ‘Nine Muses’ fabric by Tigger Hall. To draw more light into the space and create symmetry, an additional window was added beside the bed and teamed with ‘Woodlore’ shutters from Norman.

queenslander bedroom floral upholstered bedhead
“I’d always wanted a big bougie headboard for that hotel feel and I absolutely love it,” says Monica. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)
queenslander walk-in wardrobe
VJ walls throughout the house were painted in Dulux Whisper White. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

In the ensuite, the spa-like space features Porter’s Paints Interno Lime Wash in Waterford on walls, a French oak vanity topped in Calacatta marble from SNB Stone, and Brodware tapware.

contemporary ensuite timber vanity
The spa-like space ensuite features Porter’s Paints Interno Lime Wash in Waterford on walls, a French oak vanity topped in Calacatta marble from SNB Stone, and Brodware tapware. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)
blue bedroom vj panelled walls
The guest bedroom’s linen and lamp are from Provincial Home Living. (Credit: Mindi Cooke)


Interior design: Porch Light Interiors, (07) 3391 0648, porchlightinteriors.com.au.

Joinery: M&C Cabinets, (07) 3881 1110.

queenslander verandah
The back deck was updated with new balustrades and furniture from Outdoor Living. “With the new layout inside, the deck now flows from the living and dining area where it’s become an integral entertaining area,” explains Monica. “It’s got great city views, which sparkle at night.” (Credit: Mindi Cooke)

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