The beautiful home of Mebourne designer Emily Wright of Nancybird, and her partner, Robert Dabal, an ecologist. Above – Emily and Robert’s light-filled living room at the rear of their Northcote home. Artwork clockwise from top – Emily’s grandmother’s painting of a country horse race, Vietnamese propaganda poster, bottom left painting by Mitjili Napurrula. Rug from India, leather footstool from Marrakech, basket from Ceres Nursery. Photo - Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
Light streaming into the living space from the internal light well. Macrame plant hanger by Stampel Studio, glass buoys from Kyo in Ocean Grove. Top painting by Colleen Kantawarra, bottom painting by Gaye Coyne. Photo - Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
Master bedroom. Chair and bed from Ikea, framed photograph by Gray Malin, bedside table homemade by Emily and her Dad, bedcover and pillows designed by Emily for her label, Nancybird. Photo - Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
Pretty master bedroom details. Photo of Emily’s grandmother Muriel (aged 18!), tambourine from Camberwell Market, vintage ball light from Grandfather’s Axe, Ski image from Chamonix from Rob, jewellery from Emily’s friends at Polli, lovehate, Rubyteva Design, and Kate Rodhe. Photo - Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
Today’s supremely photogenic home is nestled in a leafy Eucalyptus-lined street in Northcote, in Melbourne’s inner North. Full of eclectic details and beautiful textiles, it’s home to Emily Wright, designer and founder of local accessories and homewares label Nancybird, and her partner Robert Dabal, an ecologist who works in waterway projects and restoration. The pair have lived here for about four years, and have undertaken a major renovation / extension which was completed about a year ago, resulting in the stunning, light-drenched spaces we’ve captured here!
‘When we first moved in there was an outside toilet, no real bathroom and a shower off the kitchen – it needed quite a bit of work to say the least!’ says Emily. The previous owner had lived in the house for almost 50 years, and according to Emily, he was a lovely guy who won Neighbour of the Year! ’He used to deck the ENTIRE house inside and out with lights and Christmas decorations every year, to the point that it was a neighbourhood attraction!’ she recalls. ’It was a well loved family home. So we had a lot to live up to moving into the house!’
Nevertheless, after a couple of years here, it was clear to Emily and Rob that their home was in need of a significant update. They decided to leave the front section of the house relatively untouched, and to concentrate on extending the home at the rear and side boundary. They worked closely with local architect Olivia Van Dijk to create a unique space, striking a delicate balance between the existing old parts of the house, and the new additions. ’Liv did an amazing job of fitting old with new’ says Emily. ‘I didn’t want a totally modern exterior on the extension – they can be great, but I wanted it to fit harmoniously with the ‘old’ materials on the front of the house’.
Another key part of Emily and Rob’s architectural brief was to bring more natural light into the home. ’The house used to be really dark – the back of the house faces south – so we wanted to open it up to the North and get the lovely winter sun in’ says Emily. This was achieved by introducing a large lightwell between the kitchen and dining areas, which allows warming sun rays to stream in, and has allowed Emily to cultivate an impressive collection of lush indoor plants!
Internally, Emily and Rob were keen to include lots of natural materials like timber and stone. Emily approached Nancybird HQ neighbour Damien Wright of Wright Studios to make their new kitchen. ‘It is a very special, beautifully crafted area and our favourite part of the house’ she says. Damien sourced Yellow Stringy Bark from rafters in an old Footscray factory for the table and cabinetry, and old Mountain Ash floorboards from a house demolition in Kew. Emily and Rob were very intent on creating an open, ‘non streamlined’ kitchen. ‘I like seeing things like plates and cups out in the open, a little bit uneven, different materials, a little bit of chaos’ says Emily.
Both Rob and Emily are garden enthusiasts, and being an ecologist, Rob was especially keen to create a water-efficient garden. With a rainwater tank and a rain garden, the pair have vastly reduced the stormwater runoff on their property. The plantings are a luscious mix of vege garden, raspberries, and indigenous plants, landscaped and planted by Rob and Emily. The paving was (impressively!) done by Rob, using bricks salvaged from the home’s original fireplace.
There is something so warm, inviting and just refreshingly relaxed about this home! It’s so great to see a sensitive, thoughtful reno and extension that doesn’t overwhelm the existing house, and which has a unique character that really reflects the aesthetics and values of its owners. I also love the ‘layers’ of texture, detail and and personal flourishes Emily and Rob have added here, creating a rich, eclectic space which really tells the story of its occupants, and ensures a seamless link between old and new.
For their part, Emily and Rob are still very appreciative of the basic creature comforts here! ’I love the light, airy feeling that the living area of the house has, even in winter’ says Emily, adding that ‘after living in the unrenovated version of this house for a couple of years, it’s still amazing to have a functional (and inside) bathroom and kitchen!’
Huge thanks to Emily and Rob for sharing their home with us today!