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A young family brings a romantic heritage cottage into the 21st century

There really is no place like home for this young family, who have breathed glorious new life into their Melbourne abode.

What began as the chance to transform a dilapidated cottage into a dream home to be sold to another family, soon became so much more for Melbourne builder Dale and his wife Gemma. To the couple’s surprise, they found themselves forming a strong emotional connection to their “cute but rundown” century-old weatherboard, tucked away in the city’s leafy south-east.

Homeowners Gemma, a public relations consultant, and husband Dale, a builder, plus their young sons Hugo, three, and Angus, one, love nothing more than welcoming family and friends to their beautifully reborn home in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs. Flowering white roses and English box hedges grace the entrance, imbuing the garden with a traditional quality that is perfectly in keeping with the home’s classic Edwardian facade. “It’s come together very well,” says Dale of the garden that he and his dad created together.

And before Gemma and Dale knew it, their plan to renovate and move on had evolved into something much more personal. “It quickly went from being a home that we were going to house-flip into a home we plan to stay in for a much longer time,” says Dale. “We found ourselves falling in love with both the house and the area.”

One of Gemma and Dale favourite features is the kitchen’s island bench in Ice Green marble from Signorino. ‘Ardent’ stools from Relax House create a contrast to the island’s Ice Green marble and Carrara marble on the rear bench and splashback, and mirror the inky-toned custom rangehood box from The Melbourne Joiner. For a similar mixer with a pull-out option, try Hansgrohe’s ‘Talis M54’ model. The large green vessel on the island bench is from West Elm and a similarly hued vessel on the rear bench is by Karen Morton from Greenhouse Interiors.

Parents to Hugo, three, and one-year-old Angus, Gemma and Dale bought the home in November 2015, just a month before their wedding. “It’s our first home, which also makes it really special,” says Gemma with a smile. “It was liveable when we bought it, but it needed a lot of work. We always knew we would renovate the front rooms and add an extension at the back, and we decided to live in the house before and during the renovation.”

Appliances have been cleverly tucked away behind fold-out doors in the kitchen.

Engaging the architectural services of Cera Stribley, the couple was armed with a carefully thought-out wish list. While Dale – whose construction company The Melbourne Builder oversaw the renovation of celebrity couple Bec and Chris Judd’s bayside abode – took charge of the works, Gemma unleashed her creative energy on the home’s gorgeous interiors.

The centre of Gemma and Dale’s home boasts all the right ingredients for a stunning, practical space. Designed with everyday living and entertaining in mind, the adjoining dining area is anchored by a Canvas + Sasson dining table partnered with ‘Luca’ beech and rattan chairs from Temple & Webster. “The table was originally a walnut colour – we spray-painted it black,” reveals Gemma. A plethora of cabinetry by The Melbourne Joiner, in creamy Buff It by Dulux, keeps clutter at bay.

“We didn’t rush into any decisions too quickly,” says Dale, who also runs The Melbourne Joiner. “As we were living in the house for a couple of years before we started on the renovation, we got to understand it really well – the way the light comes in and all of the different features of the house and garden.”

Infused with a bright and breezy sense of contemporary style, the family’s living domain has instant appeal. A showstopper artwork – Sound Chambers 2 – Unravel by Claire Kirkup from Studio Gallery is the focus of the room, where the expansive ‘Doug’ sofa from Harbro Furniture has been partnered with the Sarah Ellison ‘Alva’ lounge chair in Biscuit. Gemma found the marble coffee table at Globe West, while the velvet ottoman is by Zenn Design. “It was absolutely a joy to work on the interiors, although I did find it challenging at times,” says Gemma. “But it’s wonderful to see everything come to life in the spaces.” The plush cushions on the sofa were sourced at Tigger Hall Design.

Today, beckoning behind a grey picket fence, a traditional garden, lovingly brought to life by Dale and his father Mark, brims with new plantings of roses, magnolias, snow maidens and English box hedges.

Curtains by HBS Blinds and Curtains brings a serene sense to the living room.

“The garden has undergone a massive transformation,” says Dale. “Before, there was a lot of concrete, some yuccas and bamboo, and really not much else. I’ve loved working on the garden with my dad.”

The home itself has also been transformed. Once you step over the threshold of the heritage home you are immersed in a dramatic union of old and new. While the original rooms at the front – housing the sleeping quarters and bathrooms – pay respectful homage to the beauty and charm of the Edwardian era, the luminous rear extension is a study in contemporary family living.

Angus ventures outside to explore the outdoor room that’s used for entertaining. An extendable Ethnicraft oak ‘Bok’ dining table paired with ‘Kazbah’ chairs from Relax House create the perfect spot to relax and the Emperador Grey marble-topped outdoor kitchen, designed and built by The Melbourne Joiner, makes cooking a breeze.

Fully retractable steel-framed glazed doors flood the open-plan family domain with daylight and a soaring raked ceiling enhances the sense of airiness and space. “People are taken aback by the scale of the house and the light, which is really beautiful,” says Gemma.

From family barbecues to balmy dinner parties, Gemma and Dale have outdoor entertaining sorted with this outdoor room framed on both sides by fully retractable glazed doors. “There’s nothing better on a nice evening than opening up the sliding doors and sitting out here while the kids are playing outside,” says Gemma.

Large-scale contemporary artworks and plush furnishings, juxtaposed against a palette of predominantly white walls, pale timber flooring and beautifully tactile marble, infuse the home with colour and texture. Shades of green, peppered throughout, bring a sense of unity. “We wanted to take a few risks and have a bit of fun with the palette,” explains Gemma. “We always seemed to come back to the colour green, with different shades featured in the rooms.”

The family bathroom showcases terrazzo and Carrara marble.

Over the past year, Gemma and Dale – like so many of us – have come to understand the true meaning of home life, and with that, has come an overwhelming sense of appreciation. “We tried to find the silver lining in the situation by taking the time to unwind, re-set and slow down a little more with the kids,” says Gemma. “At the same time, we’re growing with the house – and that’s a really lovely thing.”

“This is our sanctuary,” says Gemma, of the couple’s retreat, which is a large bedroom with an original fireplace, as well as a new ensuite and walk-in robe. Set in a sumptuous green, the bedhead from Life Interiors marries perfectly with a Jen Sievers quilt from Greenhouse Interiors and a Tigger Hall Design cushion. A Home Republic stool from Adairs doubles as a bedside table, while the ‘Kaya’ irregularly shaped mirror is a Target find.

“I learnt through this process that I’m more indecisive than I realised!” ~ Gemma

Above the shower is what Gemma describes as an “enormous” skylight that allows daylight to stream into the couple’s ensuite, which comes complete with double basins and underfloor heating for the cooler months.

“We found the ice green marble early in the design process… we went on to design the entire interiors palette around this amazing piece of stone.” ~ Gemma

“It’s such a luxury,” says Gemma of the added heating. White mosaic wall tiles from Signorino provide the chic match to the Carrara marble vanity, while Dowel Jones ‘Lord Sconce’ wall lights offer the right amount of task lighting when needed.

“I had so much fun styling the kids’ bedrooms,” says Gemma. And it certainly shows! In Angus’s room, light touches of whimsy have been combined with stylish but sweet furnishings to elevate the space above the ordinary. A fairytale canopy from Numero 74 and an Artecnica mobile are suspended over the Mocka cot, as if lifted from a secret fairytale garden. An armchair from Brosa offers a great entry point into designer shapes while a lion print by Dots by Donna provides pre-nap time conversation. The raffia ‘Egg’ lamp is from Tigmi Trading while the extra throw is from Jardan.

Hugo’s bedroom features a sweet artwork by Bobby Clark. On the floor

is an Oyoy Lion Rug from Leo & Bella.

The Ice Green marble from Signorino also reigns supreme in the home’s luxurious powder room. “The fully-integrated marble washbasin has to be my favourite feature here,” says Gemma. Tapware from Reece complements the modern look while the timber wall arch by The Melbourne Joiner is a shapely feature in the pared back room.

“We wanted the laundry to be stylish but most of all functional, so plenty of joinery was key.” ~ Gemma

There’s nothing at all utilitarian looking about this home’s laundry, which proves that practicality can indeed be beautiful. A sea of 2-pac cabinetry, in half-strength Natural White by Dulux, has been created by The Melbourne Joiner for easy above-head storage while on-trend white mosaic wall tiles and terrazzo flooring – both from Signorino – add texture to the deliberately pared-back palette. Greenery in a vase and a beautiful original landscape by Jen Sievers Art – represented by Greenhouse Interiors – add shots of colour.

Gemma and Dale’s home has a gracious facade and a bullnose verandah.

(Credit: Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

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