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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.”
“I learnt through this process that I’m more indecisive than I realised!” ~ Gemma
“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
“We wanted the laundry to be stylish but most of all functional, so plenty of joinery was key.” ~ Gemma
When it comes to writing about all things homes-related, Jackie – a magazine features writer for over 25 years – is simply in her element. Few things bring her more joy than sitting down for a chat with homeowners to uncover their secrets to decorating magic. Other than spending time with her family and beloved golden retriever Bosley, of course!
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