It’s no shock that this artist’s home is filled with colour. What may surprise you is the style transition from Art Deco apartment to modern new build.
Who lives here: Artist Ali McNabney-Stevens, her husband Jay Stevens, director of a property advisory firm; daughter Molly, 14; sons Louis, 12; and Charles, 8; and Ted the cockapoo.
Style of home: A contemporary new build in Melbourne with clean lines and a flexible family floorplan.
Timeline: The house was demolished in June 2014 and the family moved into the new home in February 2015.
British-born artist and travel enthusiast Ali McNabney-Stevens is no stranger to crossing continents. But it wasn’t until a rainy London day, when the Tube let her down again and the dot-com bubble had burst that her Australian husband, Jay, suggested they ‘head for the sunnier shores’ of Australia. Although it started out as a two-year sabbatical with every intention of returning, 15 years later, this family of five now call Melbourne home.
“Our first home was a tiny Art Deco apartment in South Yarra, but it was never going to accommodate a growing family,” says Ali. “We then purchased an old home on a large block in a neighbouring suburb, unsure as to whether we would renovate or build.”
After careful consideration, rather than tackle the peeling walls and flaky foundations, the couple decided the demolition of the home – with a view to making the most of the block, creating more space and adding some creature comforts – was the only way to go.
Renting a nearby property meant Ali and Jay could keep a close eye on progress. Despite having been warned of the hazards and ‘surprises’ often associated with building, the couple confess to having enjoyed a relatively smooth experience from day one.
“Having a trusted and efficient builder [Frank Tarulli from Thomas Archer Homes] was definitely our secret weapon here,” says Ali. “There were never-ending decisions to make, from floors to tiles, down to the door handles,” says Ali. “But fortunately, Jay and I were fast on our feet with these, and other than a slight delay due to dubious plumbing work carried out on the building 100 years prior, and a workman and his wheelbarrow falling into the empty pool – luckily, he wasn’t hurt – everything ran to plan.”
The couple were thrilled to be able to retain the bricks of their original home, which now form a feature in the entry, but other than this nod to the past, the couple have embraced a contemporary interior fit-out to suit their lifestyle.
“I won’t pretend it wasn’t a challenge changing the style of house, as I had always lived in old homes and amassed quite a collection over the years,” says Ali. “I was uncertain if it would all work in our new space but I’ve now come to know the house better and it knows me, and we are finding a place to meet in the middle. For instance, my grandmother’s plates happily coexist alongside a linear contemporary piece of Murano glass. Having said that, there was a giant cull before we moved!”
An impressive collection of Ali’s artwork adorns the walls, whilst her beloved boho boucherouite rug collection sings of her unabashed love for colour and texture. Books and greenery are found in most rooms, layering the home with life and personality.
Floor-to-ceiling glass windows allow the outside into the home, meaning this family can enjoy all of the seasons that Melbourne has on offer. “We love stoking the fire and pouring a gin and tonic, but also find as much joy in seeing the children screaming with laughter in the pool and frolicking with crazy giant inflatable swans at the height of summer,” says Ali.
This family has found their flexible floorplan to be a winner all round and, although Ali misses her British homeland, she is the first to admit that it would be hard to leave it all behind now that they are truly living the Australian dream. “It’s not our forever home, but for now, we are going to take stock and be grateful for what we have right here on our doorstep.”