Ten years ago, couple Dave and Milli were walking by a river near their home in the Melbourne suburb of Warrandyte when they met Hamish White, director of local building firm Sanctum Homes, and his wife. "Within about 15 minutes of meeting them, we were sitting on their porch drinking beer," recalls White. "And, the rest is history." When Dave and Milli decided to renovate their home recently, they turned to their good friend to manage the project.
Situated on the Yarra River and surrounded by a state park, the village of Warrandyte is a popular destination known for galleries, boutique craft shops, and a thriving cafe scene. The couple’s home is situated in the midst of native bushland, with views over the surrounding eucalyptus trees—and they sought to strengthen this connection to nature through the renovation.
"Although the existing house ‘worked,’ it definitely had some shortfalls," says White. "Namely, no connection between the living space, kitchen, and back deck—and a dirty, big staircase bang-smack in the middle of the living area."
The couple wanted to open up the ground floor, move the stairs so the primary suite upstairs would have more usable space, and improve the indoor/outdoor connection with new exterior dining area that could be used all year round.
The project was managed by White, who brought in architects Entwine Design to draw up the plans and local interior design firm Open Door Design. "The initial brief was to create a shared living space for the young family to inhabit," says Kate Lucas, founder of Open Door Design. "The existing kitchen was small, dark, and separated from the rest of the house. The clients wanted the new kitchen to be open, filled with natural light, and to connect with the outdoor entertaining area."
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The house is reached via a meandering path from the carport that winds through a garden filled with native plants, vegetables, and fruit trees. It leads to the new deck, which wraps around the side of the home, and to the front door. The entryway opens directly into the light-filled kitchen, which leads to an open living and dining area with a built-in study nook.
The renovation focused on this front part of the home, while the rear of the house—which features three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room—remained essentially the same.
The couple love to entertain, and the kitchen, which opens out to the new blackbutt timber deck, is the heart of the home. One of the defining features of the new kitchen is a planter box with integrated lighting suspended over the island, which was inspired by Milli’s request to have space allocated to her collection of indoor plants.
One of the key elements of the renovation was the relocation of the stair connecting the ground floor with the master bedroom on the first floor. The original stair separated the living and dining spaces and emerged in the center of the master bedroom, taking up a large part of the usable space. The new timber stair wraps around the rear of the dining area and leads to a corner of the bedroom, creating a larger continuous floor area on both levels.
The interior features a material palette inspired by the connection to the garden and the eucalyptus trees in the surrounding bushland. It was also important to reference the original raked timber ceiling and tongue-and-groove wall panelling, which was retained during the renovation. "We were fortunate enough to discover additional panelling underneath the house, which was used as feature panelling wrapping around the kitchen island," says Lucas.
"My favorite part of the project is the fact that I get to enjoy it on a regular basis," says White. "Dave and Milli love to socialize and entertain, and their home is such an awesome place to go and enjoy a barbecue on the new deck. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my friends happy—and the fact that I could be a part of the happiness is pretty bloody awesome!"