The colourful Abbotsford home of sisters Lucy and Alice Oehr. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy / The Design Files.
Alice and Lucy’s cottage kitchen! Painting above mantle by Jane Oehr (Lucy and Alice’s auntie), hanging meat doll by Nathalie L’ete from Ganim Store, various crockery from Ganim Store and Third Drawer Down and vintage. Olimpia Zagnoli plate behind coffee grinder. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy / The Design Files.
Living room. Kidney-shaped table from Ebay, Alice Oehr printed cushions, paper tiger head by French brand Petit Pan purchased from Ganim Store, faceted ceramic planter on table by Beneath the Sun. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy / The Design Files.
Living room detail. Artwork above fireplace (cropped) by Keiichi Tanaami, doll cushion by Nathalie L’ete from Ganim Store, cat & pot plant in fireplace, both from Alice and Lucy’s grandma, glass dish on table is Iittala. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy / The Design Files.
Alice (left) and Lucy (right) at their kitchen dining table. Artworks above by Alice Oehr, Marc Martin, Beci Orpin, Jane Oehr (Alice and Lucy’s auntie), enamel fruit bowl on table from Third Drawer Down. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy / The Design Files.
After last week’s spectacular sprawling family home in Monbulk, today we’re back in the gritty backstreets of Melbourne’s inner North, with a sweet Abbotsford cottage that has been lovingly renovated by two hardworking sisters. This quaint, colourful little pad is home to graphic designer / illustrator Alice Oehr and her sister, Lucy, who is completing her Masters in neuropsychology at Melbourne Uni.
Alice is 25 and Lucy is 23. They rent their home from their parents, who originally purchased the two bedroom property in late 2011, after discovering it by chance one day on an afternoon walk. ‘They convinced us to overlook its’ overwhelmingly derelict appearance, and after not much competition from other bidders, we were able to embrace its ‘potential’ and begin the renovation’ says Alice. Seems like a sweet deal for Mum and Dad Oehr, because these girls have worked SO HARD to turn a dilapidated shell of a house into a cheerful little home! Parents can be sneaky like that sometimes.
‘Our poor home was in a bit of a sorry state when we first came across it’ recalls Alice. Luckily, uni had just concluded for the summer at the time the property settled, so Lucy and Alice had three whole months up their sleeves to spend in Hard Yakka overalls, doing the hard yakka required to bring their future home to a liveable standard. ‘We spent 8.00am – 6.00pm (almost) every day that summer giving it a major overhaul’ says Alice. Amongst other things, this involved removing plasterboard with a crowbar, sugar soaping tobacco stained walls, replacing rotten floors and weatherboards, demolishing random unsightly outhouses in the concrete backyard, re-building walls and ceilings from scratch, and painting throughout. A carpenter friend was called in to rebuild a new floor in the kitchen and to move the toilet from the outhouse into the bathroom. All this and more is well documented in an amazing blog the girls made about the whole experience – scroll back to Day 1 for maximum effect (not for the faint hearted!).
With the help of friends and family, Alice and Lucy slowly but surely turned their home around. It’s pretty incredible just how much this industrous pair (plus a steady stream of handy assistants!) managed to achieve in just three months that summer. By January 2012, Alice and Lucy had laid out their favourite black and white checkerboard lino in the kitchen and bathroom, re-tiled the bathroom and installed a brand new kitchen. In early February, Alice painted the front door a carefully selected shade of deep forest green, whilst their Mum proudly hung handmade curtains in both bedrooms. In late February, finally, it was time to move in!
After the intense elbow grease required to renovate their home, since moving in, Alice and Lucy have taken great delight in personalising the space with art, trinkets and accessories made by clever creative friends, or picked up on their travels. ‘The word ‘cluttered’ comes to mind, but of course it could also be called ‘eclectic’ ‘ says Alice. The house is filled with Alice’s paintings, printed cushions and illustrations. For a future neuropsychologist (!!), Lucy is also very creative, and loves restoring old furniture. ‘The hoarding and collecting gene runs deep into the family, so there are so many pieces collected and inherited that have quite a lot of sentimental value’ says Alice.
Despite their immense efforts to stamp out the scungy former life of their house, there are also a couple of original elements the pair have fought hard to retain. One surprising favourite feature which they were adamant about salvaging was the green enamel bath. ‘When we first met it, it was filled with old nails and needles, and after having convinced our carpenter that ‘no, we will not be chucking that one out’, and with a hell of a lot of scrubbing, it is now a nice reminder of the house’s past life’ says Alice. She and Lucy are also very fond of the exposed brick walls, which give the kitchen and bathroom so much character.
It’s clear just how much love has been poured into this project, and after their incredible renovation efforts, the joy of playing ‘house’ has still not worn off for Alice and Lucy. ‘Having worked so hard on it ourselves, there’s a whole extra layer of satisfaction about hanging out here’ explains Alice. The house has become a great space for entertaining friends, ‘and let’s be honest – for displaying all the stuff we’ve both been collecting since we were teenagers’ says Alice.
Amazingly, despite undertaking a major renovation together, and now sharing a home, Alice and Lucy still really love living together. ‘Lucy and I have obviously lived together growing up, then a couple of years apart, and now we are able to live together pretty comfortably knowing our differences’. Whilst they have very different career paths, and a few polar opposite personality traits (neat vs messy..!) for the most part, Alice says it works out surprisingly well. ‘We both work quite hard and love cooking and entertaining, so that makes home a good place to be. After running around all week with our various jobs and activities, it’s nice to spend whatever time we can relaxing here’.
LOVE YOUR WORK LADIES, what a shining example of hard work, and sisterly co-operation!