I’m a sucker for Victorian renovators, so when I was contacted about this house in Melbourne I had to feature it, even though I didn’t get a chance to fly down there and scope it out. Fortunately, the owners were willing to do an interview with me, and their words pair well with the images in presenting the from-heritage-to-modern story of this abode.
It’s a pretty, renovated place that has a bit of a Sydney vibe to it (or is that just my Sydney bias coming into the frame?). The void in the living area, seen above, draws me in – light and airiness are essential elements of spaces, for me. It has a dash of Victorian charm with some contemporary-industrial sleekness from a new extension.
The owners, Cathy and Matt De Carolis (a builder who managed the extension himself), were keen to shape the property to their young family without detracting from its character. The house was built in the nineteenth century and still has some awesome original features, including servants’ quarters (major lust!). It was bought unrenovated in 2006. “The house was very rundown when we bought it and it was in need of much TLC,” the couple say.
“The first challenge came when … the whole back of the house had fallen in!”
Due perhaps to their expertise in the construction industry, the couple has the presence of mind to preserve what they could of the house’s charm, while still adapting it to their present-day needs. “Although we wanted to keep as much of the original house as possible, we also wanted room to grow and therefore decided to put a very modern extension on the back, only taking out the original kitchen and bathrooms, and putting the children’s living area up in the roof.” This fits in nicely with the current trend of building into roof spaces, which seems to be a pretty happening idea in apartment blocks and terraces where the owners are seeking more room to breathe.
The extension took twelve months – which, in the scheme of things, and given how complex renovations can be, seems like a good timeline. “The first challenge came when Matt sent me away for a week with the children to knock out the kitchen … only to ring me to let me know that I needed to find a rental quick as the whole back of the house had fallen in!” Cathy says.
The couple were very selective in the materials chosen, which is crucial to a good quality renovation; too many renovators try to save cash by using cheap materials, with the result often being that the end result looks poorly executed and kind of pointless. Their search for materials included sourcing marble from Ottario De Carolis’ village in Rome.
The couple capture one of the most rewarding aspects of renovating a stately, historic home; “I think the most satisfying part of the renovation is seeing the house come to life again … since renovating the house, there is a real sense of old meets new.”
But there’s always more to do. Thankfully, Cathy only has one small remaining niggle; “The laundry! At the time the house [extension] was designed I had just had baby number four and was not paying too much attention to the interiors of the house. Our laundry cupboards are very narrow so to fold up a sheet and fit it in there is a nightmare. I would actually like to totally gut the laundry in a couple of years and put really big, deep floor-to-ceiling cupboards in there.”