Bright colour punctuates the minimalist makeover of a family’s unique period home in Melbourne.
Who lives here: Stay-at-home mum Tam Lasky; her husband, Wayne, who works at a funds management firm; their children, Zoe, 8; Frankie, 7; and Halle, 16 months; and schnoodle, Jess.
Style of house: A 1930s Spanish Mission-style house in Prahran
East with a renovated interior, rear extension and upstairs addition.
Timing: The build spanned 18 months.
For years, Tam Lasky would drive by this Spanish Mission-style house in Prahran East. “I always cut through the street,” she says of the 1930s property in a quiet, leafy backstreet. She loved the humble facade and could see the potential past its salmon-pink front. Tam and her family weren’t looking to move, but when she chanced upon a tiny ad in the neighbourhood magazine announcing that the deceased estate was for sale, serendipity stepped in. “We looked at it, loved it, and bought it,” she says. The whole street has a heritage overlay and the same elderly Italian couple had owned the house for more than 40 years, cultivating a beautiful garden full of fruit trees. The interior was a different story though, and while the bones were strong, it was damp, musty and covered in flowered carpet.
Nevertheless, Tam set about making it livable until the time was right to renovate. The carpet was ripped up, the floor stained, walls painted white and a flat-pack kitchen installed as a temporary measure. The family lived there for three years before demolition and refurbishment began in early 2012. As the unofficial project manager, Tam worked closely with the builder, Team Building, and interior designer Davina Shinewell. Fresh from a stint in New York with design firm Yabu Pushelberg, Davina was Tam’s first pick for reviewing the space planning, joinery and furniture scheme. Close friends for more than 15 years, the two had shared bridesmaid duties, babysitting roles and even lived in the same street until Davina moved to Sydney mid-renovation. “We had a similar vision. She knows my colours and we had a lot of fun,” says Tam. The pair continued to send pictures to one another and met up for showroom visits in Sydney.
“Tam is firm and knows what she wants, but was open to new ideas,” says Davina. “The brief was for a minimal look with a comfortable feel. Tam and Wayne didn’t want to have a pretty picture of a home; they wanted it to be livable.” This involved choosing textures like Patricia Urquiola’s slouchy ‘Gentry’ sofa from Hub Furniture in a pacific blue and the big quilted B&B Italia ‘Tufty’ sofa in the living area. While white and children don’t normally go hand-in-hand, a paler palette didn’t concern Tam – she’d lived with “dreary, dark floors” in the past and wanted a lighter environment for her three girls. “So many people tried to talk me out of getting that light Elba marble on the kitchen island. They said ‘It’s the softest marble, it will stain, don’t do it,’ but we did and I’m so glad!” So far, Tam says that it has been surprisingly easy to keep clean. Throughout the house, storage is hidden behind seamless cabinetry and in the den and living areas, masterfully planned joinery ensures that all games and cords are neatly contained. In the dining room, a bespoke unit opens up to reveal a drinks cabinet with smoky glass and an internal mirror positioned to reflect the garden through the windows. “There’s a place for everything,” says Tam.
“The brief for a ‘light-filled blank canvas’ meant that colour could be introduced by way of homewares and art,” says Davina of the cushions, accent pieces and vivid paintings, such as the work by Jacqueline Tiepermann in the living area. “The custom bed in the master bedroom was designed in a soft grey velvet to work with the subtle palette, which means that Tam can dress the bed in an array of coloured linens,” says Davina. Upstairs, the rumpus room and girls’ bedrooms are sweet and soft with powder-coated lavender furniture and in Frankie’s room, a green upholstered bedhead.
When an astronomical quote seemed to quash Tam’s plans for internal panelling, Davina came up with a more economical idea. “There was all this leftover external cladding so we asked the builders why we couldn’t use it inside and just paint it white. It had already been custom sized with a shadow so they were cutting it to size for weeks – needless to say, they weren’t very happy. It was a nightmare, but worth it!” Wrapping the downstairs bathroom and linen closet, the panelling creates a seamless wall so doors sit flush from floor to ceiling. “The idea was to create depth that was flat walled throughout but also anchors the central core of the house,” says Davina. “I think it works really well.”
“Not everything goes to plan. you have to accept that things will change – just don’t compromise on quality!” says Tam Lasky.
The biggest challenge? “The company we bought our floorboards from was sold during construction and nobody was getting back to us. It was very stressful – especially as we had already paid for them. We were left without part of the floor for a while!”
Anything you’d change? “Nothing major. We lived in the house before the renovation, which helped us determine the light and space needed for our family.”
Best surprise? “We tried to keep the pressed-metal ceiling and cornices in the entryway, but to transition seamlessly to the hall something had to give. In the end we gained 3.2 metre-high ceilings and kept the details in the front two rooms.”