Australian Homes

Andy Portokallis, Priscilla Blake and Family

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 9th July 2014

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The Fitzroy home of Andy Portokallis, Priscilla Blake and their family.  Above – dining and living area details. ‘The windows in the back wall came out of a skip! A cabinet maker gave Andy the ‘Kismet Lodge’ sign years ago and we put it up above his workshop out the back, then discovered Kismet is a word used in Turkish, Urdu, Hindi and Arabic meaning ‘fate’,’ mentions Priscilla. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Kitchen details. The work bench in the kitchen was from Kew Cottages, while the kitchen itself was bought on eBay. Priscilla says it was originally lavender coloured, but she stayed up all night one night and painted it white. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Dining room details. Vase from Cochin in India and the map is from Tussock in Queenscliff. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Living room details. Wallpaper found on Ebay, various furniture found in trash and treasure shops. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Hallway looking from bedrooms down towards living / dining room and back door to Andy’s workshop. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Fitzroy Warehouse, an ‘Australian Homes’ film made by Paris Thomson aka SIRAP for The Design Files.

We shoot all kinds of houses. Big expensive houses, teeny tiny shoebox apartments, cute and crafty houses, minimalist masterpieces and artfully cluttered, eclectic spaces.  If I’m honest, we really like the imperfect ones best – you know, the ones which seem to have been thrown together intuitively, without too much thought, and which, in their layers of detail, quietly tell the stories of the people who have lived here or spent time between their walls.  Today’s very special Melbourne home is one of these.  Of all the homes we’ve ever shared, this is definitely one with a few stories to tell!  (And one of those stories involves Beyonce… not even joking!).

With it’s rough and ready exterior, at first glance you probably wouldn’t imagine a family live in this disused factory in the backstreets of Fitzroy.  In fact, this unlikely industrial building and its surrounding compound is home to Andy Portokallis (an engineer by trade who now runs live music venues The Tote & Bar Open), his partner Priscilla Blake, their toddlers Mabel and Barnaby and Andy’s two eldest kids, teenagers Jack and Dharma.  It’s a busy, creative and at times slightly chaotic household – and that’s just the way they like it!

The family have been here since early 2010, when Andy and Priscilla decided to build a temporary home inside the old warehouse, which Andy had purchased 6 years prior with plans to develop into apartments ‘sometime down the track’.  ‘At the time, searching for rental properties in the area that would accommodate almost teenagers and our new baby was proving a challenge’ says Priscilla. So, one night, she and Andy drew up some simple plans for what was then a very unloved old industrial building, found a ragtag team of local blokes, and started building their ad-hoc house within the factory walls.  10 weeks later, they moved in.

Andy and Priscilla’s whole ‘house inside the warehouse’ was built using recycled materials, with the idea that it would always be something of a temporary home, using materials which could be pulled down and re used again at some point.  They didn’t know then that they’d end up here for over four years!  ‘Someone donated the floorboards, the carpet came out of an old office, and we bought the kitchen on e-bay for $400’ says Priscilla. The back wall was built from windows found in a skip, and Andy swapped some steel for the claw foot bath which now takes pride of place in the bathroom. It was the ultimate ‘make do and mend’ project, bringing together a variety of materials and finishes for an unmistakeably eclectic, frugally efficient family home.

‘Because we knew it was temporary, we built and fitted out using only what we already had, or were given or found’ explains Priscilla. ‘So in some ways every single part of the design and build and interior aesthetic is a compromise. The furniture and art are mismatched bits and bobs that found their way there from all over to share the space! I can’t label it! But over time it all married and became kind of cohesive!’

The house is full of treasured second hand pieces, artwork and posters, books, textiles and bits and pieces collected on overseas travels. But beyond the furniture, artwork and textiles, it really is the warehouse itself, with its recycled materials and salvaged details, that bears a distinct, larger than life personality.

‘Our original intent was to create a place that first and foremost accommodated a diverse range of family needs’ says Priscilla. The luxury of space has not been wasted on this busy household – the younger kids love riding their little bikes here (both outdoors and in!), Andy appreciates his workshop and adjacent carport where he tinkers with his much loved old cars, and when not playing soccer in the hallway, the teenagers occupy their own versatile living space / TV room at the front of the warehouse.

‘To have so much space tucked away in here behind an unassuming exterior has been pretty special and unique’ says Priscilla, whose unusual home has also been used as a location for a number of television commercials & shoots over the years.  In October last year Beyoncé filmed here for her visual album released in December – you can see the kitchen, bathroom, lounge and bedroom as well as Andy’s car in both Rocket and No Angel!  (SO IMPRESSED, you have no idea!).

I’m so glad we’ve been able to document this amazing Melbourne home, because the Portokallis / Blake family’s time here has recently drawn to a close.  More than 10 years after he first purchased the warehouse, Andy has finally commenced the development of the site, and his family have recently moved to a new home not far away.  End of an era!  So glad we snapped it just in time!

Huge thanks to Priscilla and Andy for sharing their home, and to the whole family for participating in the beautiful short film captured for us by local filmmaker Paris Thomson aka SIRAP!  Whilst we can’t do it for every single home, we do love to share a little motion snapshot of the most interesting homes when we can, and we are so grateful to amazing Paris for bringing these to life.  Do check out the vid above – it only goes for 1 minute, would love to know what you think!

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Barnaby’s room. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Detail from Mabel’s room. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Mabel’s room, including Priscilla’s childhood bed which is now her daughter’s, and doll house from the Mill Market in Geelong. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Bedroom details. Bed linen by lazybones, ‘Wild Forever’ artwork by Canadian artist Gary Taxali. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


Bedroom details.  Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Bathroom. ‘Andy came home with the bath during the build, he’d swapped some steel and old sinks for it at Elgin scrap metal in Carlton,’ recalls Priscilla. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Bathroom details. ‘I picked up the lady in the red dress painting out of hard rubbish and it’s hung on the bathroom wall since!’ says Priscilla. Bathroom cabinetry left over from the kitchen, and all prints and small shelf on the wall are from flea markets. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Older siblings Jack and Dharma’s hang out space. ‘This was the original office at the front of the warehouse which has since become a separate living space for the older kids. We decided not to fight the mission brown faux wood panelling, and added a shaggy brown corner couch a friend was getting rid of into the mix instead. The picture on the wall was left behind by a stylist after a recent shoot,’ says Priscilla. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Backyard details. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


Exterior facade of warehouse. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 9th July 2014


  • CC 2 years ago

    Such love and life in that home.
    I esp like the backyard area.

  • Honeysuckle 2 years ago

    possibly one of the most interesting , least tricked up, formulaic posts I’ve seen in DF!

  • vanessa 2 years ago

    Finally a house with character and personality. I don’t think I saw one thing in it which you could buy from a trendy shop!


  • isabelle 2 years ago

    Proof it’s not so much how much money you have but what you can find and the amount of ingenuity you have.

  • Jo Foster 2 years ago

    A perfect example of how recycling and finding beauty in other people’s throwaways makes for truly beautiful and unique home. Can’t beat those dear (sic) doors! Just lovely.

  • Margot 2 years ago

    You are so right Lucy, it’s the imperfect ones that draw us in. I’m a sucker for a warehouse (most of my favourite Design Files Australian Homes are warehouse conversions). I loved the character of this space especially the back garden, hills hoist and all! I will be very interested to see the development. I hope it will retain some of the original details (I’m sure it will) especially the facade and windows – perhaps even including some of that graffiti!

  • Jules 2 years ago

    Love it!!! How wonderfully creative and resourceful!

  • wanda 2 years ago

    love the vid. complements the post superbly and shows us the humans who live inside (or did)

  • Christy 2 years ago

    How I’ve loved looking at these pics. I can just imagine how much fun it would be to live in this house, aspects of it remind me of various inner north student houses I’ve lived in over the years. Don’t think I could live there myself now, but it’s got soul seeping from every nook and cranny, brilliant. I’d love to see what priscilla and andy do with their new place. Great vid too ;-)

  • Helen Edwards 2 years ago

    totally delicious

  • Kath W 2 years ago

    Such a welcome relief from perfectly coiffed homes. Best TDF Wednesday interiors-porn in a long time: Bravo!

  • Catherine 2 years ago

    Oh yes, a place to call home. No tricks, not styled but individual. What a luxury to have such a space in which to live, work and play.

  • Sophie 2 years ago

    Love this! So raw and lived in. Gives off a beautiful family vibe!

  • Sonia 2 years ago

    Thank lucy! You’ve nailed it…. I’ve been reading TDF for ages and its gems like these that keep me coming back. I know its not possible but the Video is a wonderful touch – not possible to have more of these in future posts?

  • RattyClare 2 years ago

    Ahhh!! What an inspiring and delightful lviing space. Gotta love Lucy’s description of an “unmistakeably eclectic, fruugally efficient family home” – in a nutshell!
    But hey, there is nothing “compromising” about Priscilla’s found treasures and mismatched beauties. And Mabel’s artwork, oh so wonderful – each one a masterpiece, worthy of framing.

  • Mel 2 years ago

    What a fabulously interesting house, I imagine the people that live here are some super cool cats indeed…… I love that fact that nearly everything was salvaged from garage sales or junk shops – great inspiration to those looking to create a home with character without having to spend a fortune. The backyard is so cute, reminds me of a something that would belong to a little old nonna in the 60’s…

  • Pamela 2 years ago

    Absolutely love this home!! So glad you showed it to us. The addition of the video is a fantastic idea!! I really love the use of colour in Mabel’s room. Any chance you could tell me what colours were used on the wall behind the bed?

  • Trina 2 years ago

    An awesome tribute to an awesome lady. Looks great P (and Andy too of course!)

  • Kylie 2 years ago

    All of the homes you show us are beautiful Lucy, but this one is hands-down my favorite in a long time.

  • Melissa 2 years ago

    Love it! SO real and the kids rooms are full of colour!! Fitzroy is one of my favourite Melbourne suburbs.

  • Judy 2 years ago

    I just want to feel what it feels like to be in this home. It has such warmth and love in there. May be I can buy one of the apartments and get a bit of that love inside my own little patch in there. Such a delightful home. Where can I find out more about buying one of these?

  • sandra 2 years ago

    This is so much more inspiring than the expensive, sterile homes. Some of which you can’t imagine anyone living in. Please lets see more real houses.

  • Anna 2 years ago

    YES!!! Every Wednesday I cross my fingers for a some of this action. The bestest and most interesting since Ozzy Wright and Mylee Grace’s pad of pure inspiration, love and fun. This is living with joy!
    Thanks Lucy!

  • lucy 2 years ago

    LOVE the video! Beautiful home. The film gives such a different perspective beyond the images. Can we please see more of these in the future?

  • Gillian 2 years ago

    Yes yes! The video is amazing. Definitely would love more videos to give even more insight into the personality of the homes and the families who live in them! Love it.

  • anya 2 years ago

    One of the best houses this year! Warmth, style and personality! Wouldn,t want to move from there myself!

  • krissi 2 years ago

    Just gorgeous. Absolutely fell head over heels in love with this much loved family home. Just proves we can make the most interesting, fun homes from recycled goods & wares. Reminded me of Nina’s home in Offspring. Love it & Love the Kismet Lodge sign. This home has my brain ticking full of new or not so new ideas & inspiration. Thank you for allowing us a glimpse of this much loved space. Shame it has to go but I eagerly await to see what they come up with next.

  • Big Space Big Ideas 2 years ago

    Hi Lucy, Adore the warehouse and the creative family behind it. Loved the video, it’s great that it’s only one minute but it captures the character of the place and the people beautifully. Please make more of those!! Fantastic!

  • michelle 2 years ago

    just catching up on my tdf reading …. and couldn’t not say that I absolutely love these little films. so clever and beautiful. they give the perfect little insight into the family that lives in this stunning space. more vids please team tdf…. love what you do :)

  • Angela Neylon 2 years ago

    The work bench in the kitchen is a great hero piece, brings such strength and warmth to the space.

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