Home Tours

The light, bright renovation of a 1980s Melbourne home

This two-storey house is stunning with white, wallpaper and gold details.
white kitchen with grey pendantsPhotography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay

Testament to the power of pattern and texture, the makeover of this home delivers style and romance. And that’s just as interior designer Melissa Balzan envisioned it. To Melissa, the sprawling two-storey house in Melbourne’s north-west called for a major cosmetic rebirth showcasing a lush colour and material palette.

When she first walked through the home – built in the late 1980s – it was looking somewhat dark and dated. That said, it was certainly in a liveable condition for its owners – a busy couple with grown-up children and young grandchildren. “I was recommended to the owners by an interior design friend who is based in Sydney,” says Melissa, revealing she quickly realised this would prove a joyful collaboration.

“The couple are divine, and very dynamic,” she says. “They run taekwondo schools in Melbourne, but the husband used to be a builder, so he oversaw a lot of the building works on this project. While they do have a lot on, they are very house-proud, which is always lovely to see. And they were definitely ready for this renovation. They wanted the home to better suit them and their family.”

white staircase with grey wallpaper
The entrance was treated to a makeover, beginning with Thibaut ‘Shoji Panel’ wallpaper. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Formal living

Melissa added a custom ottoman in Mokum ‘Kabuki’ and Khotan rug from Behruz Studio to give this formal entertaining area a glamorous ambience. “The gold mirror, chandelier, wall sconces and crystal lamps were already here, as was the Chesterfield sofa and armchairs,” she says. Cushions in ‘Filigrana’ fabric from Suzanne Tucker Home and side table from Cromwell.

white living room with chandelier
Features like the gold chandelier were retained and styled around. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)


Generous slabs of Statuarietto marble, sourced from Gladstones Granite & Marble, encase the island bench and splashback in the kitchen and the space is brought to life by CKC Joinery with shaker-style 2-pac cabinetry in Dulux Natural White partnered with a built-in bench table. A shapely Laal ‘Conehome Mega Arch’ pendant illuminates the space while Mattiazzi ‘Leva’ chairs were found at District.

“I love the natural stone benchtops and splashback – the movement and texture bring interest.”

Melissa, interior designer
white kitchen with grey pendants
A casual dining area is built in beside the kitchen island. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

“The owners’ main brief was to lighten everything, as the house was looking quite dreary,” says Melissa. “There was dark carpet everywhere, dark granite benchtops in the kitchen and dark feature wallpaper. I was asked to design an all-new kitchen, butler’s pantry and bathrooms, and to update the finishes and furnishings in the home, while keeping its traditional style intact.

“One of the first things I did was to change the flooring to light timber boards, which immediately lightened the house. I also brought in lots of beautiful rugs, wallpaper and art,” explains Melissa.

white kitchen with grey pendants
Marble covers the island bench and splashback. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Dining room

An exquisite bespoke display cabinet in the dining room teams perfectly with the homeowners’ long-held dining setting. “The design of the display cabinet was based on the detail of an antique piece that I drew inspiration from,” says Melissa, who took a highly-customised approach.

Other bespoke pieces include a built-in timber table in the heart of the house for relaxed family meals, and display cabinets in the kitchen and formal dining room. Also important was to layer cohesive and calming shades of the owners’ favourite hue with rugs, wallpaper and art. “The clients love blue,” says Melissa. “So, while we kept the base palette quite neutral and timeless with lots of white, natural stone and pale timber, we gravitated towards highlights of blue everywhere. This set the feel for the entire makeover.”

dining area with white built in cabinets
The display cabinet was designed drawing from antique inspiration. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

In the dining room, ‘Mockingbird’ by Michelle Fogarty from Forman Art & Framing is an eye-catching artwork and its colourful hues echo in the No Chintz lampshade, custom made by Cromwell. “I love how this artwork seems to tell a story, while instantly lifting the formal nature of the room,” shares Melissa. The console is from Coco Republic.

“We were always going to bring in some fun, colourful artwork and that suits the clients.”

living room with abstract artwork
An artwork called ‘Mockingbird’ by Michelle Fogarty brightens the dining room. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Living room

A sense of harmony continues in the light-drenched chill-out zone, made for family relaxation time. The custom modular sofa makes the most of the space and is upholstered in ‘Bonsai’ fabric in Beige from Unique Fabrics and layered with cushions from Brownlow Interior Design as well as cushions in Jim Thompson Fabrics ‘Obi’ fabric in Mineral from Milgate. The large Boyd Blue coffee table anchors the area. An artwork by Sarah Bishop on the right, titled ‘Rain Dance’, has been teamed with the homeowner’s existing artwork on the adjacent wall.

“The homeowner loves blue, so I gave her lots of blue. She’s thrilled.”

white living room with cream sofa
Blues add interest to a neutral base in the living room. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

High style comes to every room in this reinvigorated home and this corner of the living area is no exception. Here, Melissa married an Arthur G ‘Logan MKII’ chair upholstered in James Malone ‘Pardus’ animal print velvet in Grey from The Textile Company with Susan Trigg’s dramatic ‘Baroque Flourish’ artwork. “I love animal print and, in particular, ocelot,” says Melissa. “We loved the idea of creating an unexpected statement in the corner of this room, and the chair certainly does this.”

white living room with accent chair
An animal print accent chair elevates the living room styling, along with Susan Trigg’s dramatic ‘Baroque Flourish’ artwork. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Main bedroom

The transformative nature of wallpaper is also evident in the couple’s room, with Sanderson ‘Chiswick Grove’ design from Domestic Textiles. ‘Mimi’ bedding from Diane Bergeron, draped with a Cromwell throw, adds to the sense of tranquility. The Westwood lamp with a custom shade is from Cromwell.

bedroom with leafy wallpaper
Wallpaper from Domestic Textiles transforms the main bedroom. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Powder room

The downstairs guest bathroom has wow factor in spades. Walls in the whimsical Virginia White Collection ‘Clea’ wallpaper in Jungle from Tigger Hall Design are an instant talking point, paired with a Tundra Grey limestone vanity from Gladstones Granite & Marble. “I introduced the wallpaper here for an element of surprise and fun,” says Melissa. “It works beautifully with the colours used throughout the house.” Wall sconce from Cromwell and artwork by Alex Brownlow.

bathroom with wallpaper
The jungle-themed wallpaper in the powder room is from Tigger Hall Design. (Credit: Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Certainly, an attention to detail is evident, with the beautifully decorated home infused with a distinct sense of grandeur. The house is now as stylish as it is welcoming. And that delights owners and designer alike.

“We’re all thrilled with the result,” says Melissa. “It’s a home that can now be fully enjoyed by the entire family. For me, it will always be a favourite project.”

Designer Tips

Melissa Balzan’s insider insights on how to add personality to every room.

Break the rules “I love all colour and don’t think there are any rules when it comes to mixing colour. I like blue and green, and even pink and orange, together. But if you’re a little unsure about colour, start small with cushions and accessories. They’re the easiest way to incorporate pinches of colour,” says Melissa.

Buy art you love “When choosing art you really need to love it. Art must sing to you, as it is so personal. It should also work in with the other pieces in the room, without looking too ‘matchy-matchy’.”

Don’t just wallpaper one wall “Wallpaper is definitely having a major moment in interiors – and that’s a wonderful thing! But the one thing I don’t favour when it comes to wallpaper is to only do the one wall. Always wallpaper the entire room, or it can look ‘half done’. Commit to the design with confidence.”

Set the tone with the entry “Entryways offer the perfect opportunity to set the tone for the home, regardless of how much space there is. And a beautiful console in an entry provides a practical surface for life’s necessities, as well as showcasing a statement lamp or flowers.”

Source book

Interior design: Melissa Balzan Design, 0400 645 745, melissabalzandesign.com.
Joinery: Gerard Sloothaak, CKC Joinery, 0418 378 863.

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