Who lives here: Bec Udvary, a food stylist; Tim Udvary, a mechanical engineer; their twin daughters Saskia and Erzsike, 12; and son Woody, 7. Plus, there’s Rex, a three-year-old Cairn Terrier; Clancy, a two-year-old cat; and various chickens.
Style of house: A four-bedroom single-storey red brick Californian bungalow in Melbourne, Victoria.
Timeline: After a year of planning, the first renovation took eight months and the second stage six months. The pool took 10 weeks.
They say timing is everything. So Bec and Tim Udvary knew their builder was pretty special when he completed not one, but two major renovations ahead of schedule to accommodate their expanding family. “Steve Bourke [of Bourke & Sons Constructions] finished our previous home in St Kilda West just before our twins Erzsike and Saskia were born – then, five years later, he did it again, completing this house so we could settle in before Woody arrived,” says Bec. “He was terrific – I mean, how often do you hear of a renovation finishing two months early?”
The couple bought the red-brick Californian bungalow in Melbourne’s south-east in 2006. It had been partially renovated in the ’70s, and bore many hallmarks of the era: “Think lots of beige, gas wall heaters and even wardrobes installed in the entrance,” says Bec. As the front of the house was in a livable state, they tackled the overall project in two parts. “We engaged our friend, architect Clare Cousins, to design the first stage, which included a new kitchen, living and dining space, as well as bedrooms and a play area for Saskia and Erzsike,” says Bec.
The rear of the home was demolished and replaced with a U-shaped addition, designed to make the most of the north-facing corner block. “We chose glossy, glazed bricks, which look great inside and out, and black steel-framed Skyrange windows that slide open to give us that connection with the backyard,” says Bec. A curved deck softened the rear space, leaving ample room for the ’70s inspired kidney-shaped pool that was to come later on.
Not shy when it comes to colour, nor short of talented friends who could advise her on punchy furniture choices, Bec set about creating “a house that didn’t look like everyone else’s”.
“My good friend, furniture designer Grazia Materia, helped me select lots of the furniture and, when we couldn’t find the right piece, designed it for me herself,” says Bec. “I started with the grass-green carpet in the living area, then came the orange sofa, the yellow dining chairs, and then I added all the artwork and accessories I had been gradually buying over the years.”
As a professional cook and food stylist (her stunning pink pavlova was in Inside Out’s November 2014 Christmas issue), Bec wanted a hardy and practical kitchen with great storage for her many cookbooks and props. Clare designed a central kitchen with a large walnut veneer island bench, as well as open wall shelves and a generous walk-in pantry. “Open-plan kitchens work so well when you cook professionally at home, and when you entertain a lot, as we do. I can be busy in the kitchen but still keep an eye on the kids, or be chatting to guests,” she says.
In 2013, Bec and Tim called on Clare again to take on the next stage of the reno. This time they wanted to revamp the front rooms to bring them into line with the contemporary rear of the home.
“Clare has her own young family, so she understands how important it is to have a place for everything. Her dedication knew no bounds when it came to my laundry – there is even a drawer that’s designed specifically to fit the pet food,” says Bec with a laugh. “We also installed steel doors in our master bedroom to open it up to the front yard, and created a very glamorous peach and copper ensuite from the original family bathroom – it’s very grown-up,”
Bec’s home is definitely “not like everybody else’s – it’s really colourful and relaxed. I’ve been collecting food props and other beautiful pieces since I was a teenager, so it feels as if it has all finally come together in this home.”
“It’s much better to work with someone who’s actually there on the tools” Bec Udvary, homeowner.
“Our wonderful builder had moved onto commercial jobs, and the builder we contracted for the second part of the reno was overcommitted, so he doled the work out to subcontractors. We weren’t aware that this was how the job would be done. It’s much better to work with someone who’s actually there on the tools, so you can speak to them if there’s an issue. It took five phone calls and a week to get the plumber/electrician/painter back on site. Then we had to book a time to fix it. It was all very time consuming!”
What has worked well? “Having two distinct gardens has been great. The front garden is very separate – it’s the perfect place for my vegie garden and for letting the chickens roam. The open-plan extension overlooks the backyard so I can watch the kids.”
To contact Bourke & Sons Constructions call, (03) 9876 4322
For more on architect Clare Cousins, visit clarecousins.com.au.