This Abandoned and 'Unloved' Artist's Retreat Became a Serene Family Home

Photos by Sharyn Cairns
living room
credit: Sharyn Cairns

When someone says a house is "unloved," it tends to make us a bit verklempt. But that's exactly how designer Karine Szekeres of Templeton Architecture described an old artist's retreat in East Melbourne: unloved.

Built in 1862, the house had had no permanent dwellers for over four decades, and was in desperate need of improvement.

Before this renovation, the Georgian-influence home's last interior upgrade dated back to the 1950s. For a design untouched for nearly half a century, there were advantages, but they came with challenges. Because of its varied history, some elements of the home, like the heritage-protected wallpaper, were untouchable. In order to balance the historic wallpaper with the new interior, the firm worked to find furnishings that complemented the print. "The careful selection of materials, fabrics, and furniture either enhanced the best qualities of the existing wallpaper or distracted from the worst," Szekeres said.

living room
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credit: Sharyn Cairns

It was important to keep elements of historical integrity, so the architects chose to preserve the original fireplace, which features a blue stone hearth. A classic shaker dining table with a marble top works to blend the past with contemporary design.

living room
credit: Sharyn Cairns

In the living room, a diamond-shaped quilting in a Lipp armchair from Living Divani recalls 19th century style, while its partner, a brass side table, feels more midcentury. On the wall hangs a photograph by Brooke Holm.

living room
credit: Sharyn Cairns

Other furniture pairings also go for a past-present mashup, like this Italian-designed sofa placed next to a vintage side table. On the wall, a Trapeze sconce by Apparatus glows within two balancing hand-cast porcelain bowls.

living room
credit: Sharyn Cairns

A Roattino floor lamp by ClassiCon illuminates the details of the home's historic (and heritage-protected) wallpaper. A classic Moller chair complements a vintage bar.

kitchen
credit: Sharyn Cairns

The kitchen feels fantastically zen with its abundance of light, and pairing of white with textures that feel ultra-natural (tiles that mimic stone, marble, and an adorable wood built-in for the kids).

kitchen
credit: Sharyn Cairns

The minimalist kitchen also relies on a mixing of subtle metal elements — from the brass outlet covers to the drawer pulls — to create a timeless design.

dining area
credit: Sharyn Cairns

A custom-made wine rack provides the perfect storage place for the client's wine collection. Above the dining table, a chandelier by Apparatus is hand-cast in porcelain and echoes the sconces in the living room.

dining area
credit: Sharyn Cairns

A sharp departure from its darker Edwardian-influenced roots, Dulux's White Duck wall paint works to open up the space by reflecting natural light. Recycled baltic pine flooring with a lime wash brings a rustic feel to the space.

bedroom
credit: Sharyn Cairns

The home is heavy on architectural details, from curved entrances to the interior millwork. The white paint allows the eye to notice the variations in these historic details. In the bedroom, a work by Australian photographer Katie Carmichael picks up the room's purple accents.


Kate Santos

Kate Santos

Kate Santos is a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. After interning at Dwell magazine in San Francisco, she began writing for a variety of ... more