A Plant-Filled Melbourne Home Embraces the Great Outdoors

A nature-loving couple turn their home into a light-filled sanctuary with a sweeping timber deck.

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.

The renovation introduced a new deck, and opened up the living and kitchen areas. "The home is ‘so Warrandyte,’" says builder Hamish White. "It has a great connection with the outdoors, views of trees from most windows, and a homely and familiar feel which makes it really comfortable to be in." 

The family have a love for the outdoors and the beautiful Yarra river that runs through Warrandyte. "It was important for them to increase their home’s connection to the outdoor environment and bring the outdoors in," says interior designer Kate Lucas.

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.

The new blackbutt timber deck is designed for entertaining, al fresco dining, and enjoying views of the garden and surrounding bushland. It features a large dining table, a hanging egg chair, and a barbecue. 

The decking wraps around the home and can be accessed from both the kitchen and the living/dining room. Native cockatoos often visit the garden. 

"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 garden path, lined with potted citrus and towering eucalyptus trees, leads from the carport to the deck and front door.

The existing house was leaky and cold, and it was hard to maintain the internal temperature. So, during the renovation most of the windows and doors were replaced with double-glazed units and the home was insulated wherever possible. 

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."

From the central kitchen island, there is a continuous line of sight to the garden. "Milli loves her indoor plants," says builder Hamish White. "The tree views from most windows, and all the indoor plants makes you feel as if nature is never far away." 

The kitchen opens into the living/dining space. Sight lines continue from the wraparound deck and garden, through the kitchen to the dining table. 

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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 herringbone flooring—which complements the timber ceiling and shelving—is from Australian flooring company Tongue n Groove, and features the brand’s warm, natural Graupa finish. 

The corner of the dining space features a built-in study nook with integrated lighting and storage. The bespoke joinery, along with the new windows and doors, was one of the most costly parts of the project. The newly located stair wraps around the back of the dining room.

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.

"My favorite aspect of the project would have to be the custom-built planter/light box suspended over the island bench," says interior designer Kate Lucas. "The cascading plants bring a gorgeous green accent to the interiors. I also have a soft spot for the herringbone floor." The custom planter box was built by local furniture maker and friend Lee Gratton of Gratton Design. 

A coffee nook (featuring the same teal-blue tiles as the backsplash) is built into a corner of the kitchen next to the pantry, with a framed view of the eucalyptus trees that surround the home. 

The pantry features black-stained timber doors that conceal appliances, keeping the kitchen surfaces clear.

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 new timber stairs wrap around the outer walls of the home, replacing the original staircase which divided the living and dining spaces on the ground floor. The new stairs allow the two spaces to be connected via an open plan.

The master bedroom is located on the first floor and features a balcony overlooking a leafy canopy. The timber ceiling mirrors the one on the ground floor.

The master bedroom has a hanging egg chair identical to the one on the deck. 

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.

The family share a love for the color teal, which was already featured in the home. So, when selecting a backsplash tile, teal was the obvious choice. The tiles are locally sourced from Yeomans Bagno & Ceramiche in Eltham.

Creating a natural flow from the interior to the exterior gardens was an important factor in the design. As a result of this approach, the kitchen opens out to the new deck through a large, floor-to-ceiling glazed door—one of the most expensive features of the renovation. The kitchen island is wrapped in the same tongue-and-groove timber panelling as the walls. 

The kitchen countertops are CaesarStone Sleek Concrete from the Metropolitan worktops collection. The cool gray color is a nod to the silver-green leaves of the eucalyptus trees around the property.

The kitchen tap is a Pegasi M pulldown sink mixer from Faucet Strommen.  The brass detail brings a sense of warmth to the kitchen island.

"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!"

Dave and Milli met builder Hamish White just before they had their first child. Today, they have three children and often spend weekends bush walking, bike riding, and swimming in the local river. 

Site plan of Blair Street Residence by Sanctum Homes, Open Door Design, and Entwine Designs

Ground floor plan of Blair Street Residence by Sanctum Homes, Open Door Design, and Entwine Designs

Upper-level floor plan of Blair Street Residence by Sanctum Homes, Open Door Design, and Entwine Designs

Related Reading:

A Melbourne Home Decreases in Size to Amp Up Its Outdoor Connection

A Renovated Melbourne Bungalow Keeps its Clapboard Character

Project Credits:

Architect of Credit: Entwine Designs

Builder: Sanctum Homes

Interior Design: Open Door Design

Cabinetry Design & Installation: Skyline Kitchens

Floors: Tongue n Groove

Windows and doors: Rylock

Timber planter, shelves and timber features: Gratton Design

Photography: Marnie Hawson

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