This petite home punches well above its weight in charm and functionality, making it just the right fit for a young family.
The chief focus of Sydney homeowners Liz and Rob’s renovation of their inner-west terrace was to replace the existing configuration at the rear – a separate 1950s kitchen, a brick wall and a single door opening to the backyard – with a more modern floor plan, to create an airy and open space for entertaining and where their two young children could play. Liz, an interior decorator, is well versed in emphasising a room’s best attributes; here, she included plantation shutters, which bounce light around the room to enhance classic furnishings.
“I’ve always loved older homes and their period details. A square box doesn’t have the same appeal to me.” Liz and Rob, spent four years dreaming and scheming on how to make the most of the home’s assets. “Over that time, I would tear things out of magazines and collect ideas from different sources,” recalls Liz. “I had quite the wish list by the time we came to renovate. Of course budgets needed to be kept, so some of the wish list was put to the side for future dream homes, but everything else was the result of years of planning.”
The home was perfectly liveable as it was, and the previous owners had redone the bathroom and made the whole house tidy, but a 1950s extension at the back was not making the most of the space: the kitchen was separate and the brick rear wall was begging to be knocked through, while a second floor addition needed work.
Architect-turned-builder Ole Kjaer was brought in to tackle the renovation, which proceeded with all the joys and perils you would expect of a period home. “As is so often the case with old homes, we hit a lot of curve balls along the way with the renovation,” says Liz. “The foundations all needed to be redone and there was absolutely no structural support for the upstairs. Sadly, a lot of the budget went into things you can’t see.” Still, the dramatically transformed rear space caught the eye of Home Beautiful, and it was a finalist in our 2017 Beautiful Rooms competition.
"I love our open-plan kitchen/dining/lounge because of the natural light and the view to our backyard"Liz
Renovation complete, Liz has kitted out the home in contemporary classic furnishings, pieced together over the years. Designer splurges (as the budget allowed) are matched with high-street steals and quirky objets . Although Liz, through her work, has an eye for the perfect piece, the house is far from a show home; the overwhelming feeling is one of warmth and welcome. “This is where we live – we have friends and their children here all the time,” she says. “We were never going to have a house where you can’t wear shoes inside or eat on the sofa. This is a house to live in, not to look at.”
The entrance sets the tone for the rest of the home: fresh, bright and classic, with hits of black. “Before we renovated, the house was a lot more colourful; the front door was red and we had a lot of red accents throughout,” says Liz, who splashed out on a pair of pendants from Laura Kincade. “Then my husband said he wanted a black door like 10 Downing Street, and that started it – we decided to carry the black elements all the way through.”
Subway tiles and Shaker-profile cabinets give the kitchen a Hamptonsesque vibe. With lots of storage and spacious worktops in Caesarstone Organic White, the kitchen is wonderfully functional. But for the couple, who love to entertain, the most important aspect is its openness to the rest of the space.
Though not custom made for the space, the kitchen is everything that Liz dreamed of, made even more her own by a mix of classic and quirky accessories. On one wall hangs a vibrant set of Anthropologie plates – bought on a trip to New York – and an offbeat hand sculpture, which was Liz’s first purchase for the home. Teardrop pendants from Urban Lighting make for a beautiful inclusion that keeps the look clean and open.
The sitting area where Frankie the pug curls up on a cosy couch from Sofa Studio faces floating white joinery. The wall is accessorised with a variety of Liz's travel snaps and mementos, including the Italian mints box Rob used to hide the engagement ring in when he proposed – Liz framed it and gifted it back to him on their wedding day.
Painted in Dulux Roe, Rupert’s room is a cosy space filled with precious pieces. The cloud wall hangings are from Cotton On, while the dog picture is a custom artwork by Liz, whose latent artistic talent came to the fore when she was heavily pregnant. The Coco Republic chair was Liz’s first splurge item, bought before the couple were married, and was used to nurse both their babies. “I’ve spent so many hours sitting in it and it’s been so comfortable,” she says. “Even though it’s white, it has definitely stood the test of time.”
The renovation included opening up Liz and Rob’s bedroom – once two separate rooms – and adding a bathroom to the suite. “I always wanted an ensuite,” says Liz. “It was one of those life goals! It sounds ridiculous, but when you grow up in a big family, the idea of having your own bathroom is amazing.”
"You can still have a nice home on a budget, or with kids and dogs - it's about what you spend your money on, and what you don't"Liz
Opening up to a little balcony, Liz and Rob’s bedroom is a fresh and open escape, with a classic black, white and grey scheme that evokes calm. Wreaths from Etsy hang above La Maison bedside tables, while a stormy sea print from Design Twins introduces a hint of Liz’s favourite colour, blue. The bedhead is an older piece that has been re-covered. “I like to refurbish things where possible,” says Liz. “It just makes sense to me.” One of her favourite features is the timber cladding on the ceiling, which is echoed on the walls of the ensuite. “The whole bedroom used to be cladding and I always loved that element of it – but unfortunately the termites loved it, too!” she recalls. “So it all had to go. The budget wouldn’t allow us to clad the whole space again, so we did the roof and the ensuite, and that was our compromise.”
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