Mid-century Melbourne inspired London home
July 16, 2021
After enjoying four years of living in Melbourne, Jane McCarthy and her husband, Ian Harman returned to London. However, having seen the ‘horror show’ their Victorian semi in Dulwich had become after so long away, the family made swift plans for renovations…
The house had been rented out during their time down under, and they had returned to a house with mould growing up the kitchen walls and a jungle of a garden,’ says Jane. ‘We’d got use to space and light and wanted to extend into the side return, so we contacted architect, Darren Oldfield, who was recommended by friends.’
The couple bought the Victorian semi in 2010 and lived here for four years before moving to Melbourne, Australia. They liked the four double bedrooms, the large bathroom (once a bedroom) and the sizable garden. The front living room had lovely bay windows and the middle room behind was ideal for a playroom. The kitchen, however, had been extended some forty-odd years before and felt all wrong.
‘The kitchen should have benefited from the morning sun, but we had a tiny back door so it always felt gloomy,’ Jane explains. ‘The layout was back-to-front with a table as you came into the room and cupboards closest to the garden, but no view.’
Jane and Ian were surprised when Darren discouraged them from building into the side return. ‘I had a vision for a kitchen with a sofa and a log burner, but he rightly pointed out we already had comfortable seating and log burners in the other downstairs rooms,’ she says. ‘Changing the layout has made the kitchen look bigger and saved us the expense of extending.’
High on the list in the kitchen brief was a need for more light. Darren showed Jane and Ian designs with floor-to-ceiling doors across the back, and a large roof light. A glass box window on the side, with a deep sill for a window seat, especially appealed to them. Once the building work had finished, Jane rolled out her vision for the kitchen, influenced by interior design in Melbourne’s many city centre coffee shops.
‘Coffee is like a religion there, everyone goes for breakfast, and coffee shops are beautifully styled with a great vibe,’ she says. ‘One of my favourite places had pink and brass fittings and an amazing terrazzo floor. I chose brushed gold taps, blonde wood furniture, handleless cupboards and sleek black appliances.’
Darren also came up with a solution to create space for a downstairs cloakroom by relocating the cellar steps beneath the staircase to an access hatch in the hall floor. ‘It was a great idea as was his solution for a laundry room,’ says Jane. ‘We weren’t sure what to do with the separate upstairs toilet next to the bathroom – which already had a loo – now this is where we have a stacked washer and dryer.’
The plans needed approval because the house is in a conservation area. Plus, the 1980s extended part of the kitchen had to be rebuilt and engineered for the structural glazing, resolving the damp problems in the process. Darren recommended builders, Daremix Construction, and in April 2019 he began project managing for the couple, who both work full-time.
However, the builders struck an unforeseen problem when they discovered a drain in an unexpected location, resulting in an expensive solution to re-route the pipes. ‘It was very frustrating because we had to scale back what we wanted to spend on the kitchen,’ says Jane. ‘Darren suggested we look at Howdens, which I was a bit unsure about at first, but at the showroom I was pleasantly surprised by the choice and the robust quality.’
Seeking interiors inspiration
Jane took inspiration for the family’s Melbourne-inspired home using interior designers, Emma Gurner and Sarah Sherman Samuels. ‘I love the way Emma decorates the ceiling, treating it like a fifth wall. I’ve done this in our bedroom with a pale pink,’ she says. ‘Sarah’s style is light and clean and I like the way she styles with mid-century furniture and marble.’
Stylish lighting and intriguing artwork bring depth to rooms where the couple like photography by Derek Swalwell and Gemma Booth, and are fans of lighting company, Spark & Bell. ‘There designs are beautiful and affordable,’ says Jane, ‘and I like to support small businesses.’
Light and warmth come together in Jane and Ian’s home, forming a comfortable and stylish setting that is appreciated by family and friends. ‘We’re really happy with the results of our Melbourne-inspired home,’ says Jane. ‘The house has a great feeling.’