WORDS Anja Kussler IMAGES Tom Roe
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more refined, sophisticated and elegant abode than this two-level Victorian conversion in Melbourne, made up of 4 bedrooms, 2 living areas 2.5 bathrooms, and spanning a generous surface area of 330 square metres. What sets this home apart is the clever amalgamation of period features and modern elements; resulting in a cohesive design that’s light, contemporary and practical yet has a true sense of substance and warmth.
The house aside, the location isn’t too shabby either – situated in the picturesque leafy inner city suburb of Albert Park, it’s a mere stone’s throw away from the beach, sought-after Albert Park Village, top schools, the CBD and a plethora of boutiques and restaurants. If you ask homeowners Kirsty and Alex Risteveski, being close to all these amenities definitely works a treat in keeping their family of five happily ensconced – including their two boys aged seven and ten, as well as six-month-old labradoodle Maisie.
What’s unique about this renovation is that Kirsty and Alex – both seasoned renovators – designed and completed the build off their own bat, with the help of a draughtsman to draw up the plans.
“I conceptualise and design our projects, and am constantly scouring the Internet for inspiration when sourcing finishes, fixtures and fittings,” enthuses Kirsty, a property and marketing design professional by trade. “As part of my day job I style and direct property photo shoots, which has a similar outcome to renovating; it is simply the most rewarding thing to transform a space and see your visions become a reality.”
Kirsty says her TV executive husband Alex, on the other hand, loves the challenge of making every centimetre count. “He has an innate knowledge of construction and engineering, and so oversees the building process. He has the patience of a saint, is very handy, and loves demolition!”
In the couple’s quest to pay tribute to the Victorian heritage of the property and its surrounds, the couple spent three years (and around AUSD 800,000) painstakingly renovating their home both inside and out, restoring key period features such as the facade, fireplaces, and the ornate ceiling in the formal living room. At the same time, they created a spacious modern extension at the back that brings the home into the 21st century.
“Our aim was to create a bright family home that links modern design to old world charm, merging elements of each so the home feels connected,” Kirsty explains. “We wanted a home that would accommodate our busy family needs, but also had soul."
One way of achieving this soulful connection was to add classic wall panelling and French Oak chevron parquetry to the expansive arched hallway. This Parisian influence is carried through into the state-of-the-art Miele kitchen, where the soft white-panelled 2pac (a modern finish for cabinet doors) that conceals the fridges and wall ovens balances out the sharp, modern lines of the black DEKTON bench top on the island, and the black ceiling.
Another prime example of merging old with new is the sitting room where a cosy open fireplace and window seat create a laid-back, warm ambience, whilst polished concrete floors and 3.6 metre high ceilings throughout the living and dining areas enhance the feeling of spaciousness and add to the home’s contemporary feel.
Also spanning the ground level are three gorgeous double bedrooms with built-in wardrobes and a lavish marble bathroom; as well as a smartly fitted study with plenty of ‘under cover’ storage. “We designed the kids’ bedrooms to accommodate them from pre-school right through to teen and beyond – that’s why we chose a timeless neutral colour scheme and opted for loads of storage, built-in desks and floor to ceiling sashless windows, which would provide ample natural light but had blackout curtains to help them sleep easy.
“When you’re seated in the powder room, the view of the Japanese maple in the light well is just perfect. When you stand up, you see yourself in the mirror. I’m not particularly spiritual, but I’d describe this space as Zen”
On the upper level, a tranquil parents’ zone where Kirsty and Alex can retreat to if they need time out from their sprogs, complete the scene. The ‘retreat’ comprises a bedroom, gym area, debonair en-suite (and freestanding stone bath) as well as a walk-in wardrobe.
Kirsty says the ensuite will have to be her favourite room in the house. “The large 1mx1m Italian tiles from Signorino are incredible. They are the softest warm grey, non-slip in the walk-through shower, don’t show any dirt, and they’re ridiculously easy to clean as there’s barely any grout. And the bronzed mirror extends the sense of space whilst retaining its warmth, carrying through to the walk-in wardrobe and marrying the spaces.”
What’s more, the home also boasts energy-efficient hydronic heating, where heat is evenly distributed throughout rooms wall to wall and from floor to ceiling, as well as air-conditioning, a powder-room, automatic blinds, and an outdoor shower to boot – all practical mod cons designed to make life easy and comfortable for the Risteveski clan.
One of the biggest challenges the family faced during the renovation was to live in the same house throughout the entire process, which they completed in three stages over three years. “We completed the front half before moving in, but had to make do with a temporary kitchen in one of the bedrooms,” Kirsty reminisces. “I had an electric cooktop and a microwave to cook with; and we had a temporary sink plumbed in. We lived in it like this for a whole year (read: dirt and dust, fence down between us and the neighbours, tradies on site every day and corrugated iron sheeting nailed to the end of the hallway as our security). We didn’t know ourselves when the back half was complete – let alone the upstairs retreat, which we’ve only just finished!”
Kirsty is quick to wax lyrical about how the renovations have improved her family’s lifestyle. “This home is simply amazing to live in,” she says. “Morning light streams in the large framed living room windows and the seamless indoor-outdoor transition gives the whole family freedom and a sense of space. DEKTON is the best bench surface we have ever lived with – that, ample bench space and concealed drawers make the kitchen extremely easy to appear like a flawless entertainer.”
Another huge plus, according to Kirsty, is the hydronic heating and double glazing, which means the home is beautifully warm during the cooler months, while warm evening swims at the beach followed by an outdoor shower define summer nights. “We love this home – thinking through exactly how we wanted to live at different times of the year has meant we’re not only surrounded by beauty, but life is easy.”