Zoe and Ben Murphy felt like they had travelled back in time when they first went to view their 19th-century house in Melbourne, Australia.
The owner of the property had lived there for the last 70 years, ‘and it looked as though he hadn’t made any improvements since moving in,’ says Zoe. ‘There was one bathroom and an outside loo,’ she adds. ‘All of which meant a massive amount of work was required to turn it back into a single home.’
Luckily, the couple had family they could call on for help. ‘My brother’s an architect and he guided us along the way,’ says Zoe. Meanwhile, Ben undertook most of the practical work with his father Brian, who is a builder. Such was the scale of the project that the pair couldn’t move in until work was completed over a year later. They rebuilt the back half of the house adding two bathrooms and a laundry room, and removing internal walls downstairs to create a spacious kitchen and bright living area. Large steel sliding doors were then installed to open onto the garden. ‘We raised the floor to be in line with the rest of the ground level and created the decking at the same elevation to give us views to the botanical gardens beyond,’ says Zoe.
When the heavy-duty work was finished, decorating could begin in earnest. ‘We wanted to give every room its own function and feeling,’ says Zoe. ‘With each space we asked ourselves; “How do we want to feel when we use this area?”. This helped us enormously as the rooms immediately began to take on their own unique character.’ Nowhere more so than in the kitchen-cum-living area, where the abundance of green blurs the distinction between indoors and out.
Zoe, who runs her own creative studio, designed the kitchen units and is particularly pleased with the daring colour scheme. ‘Chartreuse and emerald green make a vibrant combination but, surprisingly, the overall effect is calming,’ she says. ‘And we introduced natural elements with the timber cabinet doors, marble work surface and wooden floorboards.’ The bedroom, meanwhile, couldn’t be more different. ‘It had to be warm, dark and cosy,’ says Zoe, ‘so we painted the walls and ceiling in deep grey/green and covered the cabinetry with black melamine.’ When asked to reveal the secret behind her wonderfully distinctive home, Zoe explains that she likes to play with colour, juxtaposing bold shapes with clean lines and natural materials with striking prints. ‘I love pattern.