OH MY. This one, my friends, is SO GOOD. I know you’re gonna LOVE IT.
Welcome to the tiniest home we have ever featured, the self contained Carlton studio apartment of Alex Kennedy, who works in international development. Despite having serious left brain leanings (she studied Behavioural Science, with majors in Neuropsychology and Anthropology), Alex is also very creative, and has always been surrounded by a posse of talented creative friends and colleagues. One such friend is the clever local interior architect Sarah Trotter of Hearth Studio, who designed Alex’s beautiful little home within what was previously a double garage! (I must admit I didn’t measure it… but I’d estimate that we’re looking at a footprint of approximately 6×6 metres!).
The site, in fact, is the garage of Alex’s childhood home. ‘After realising I couldn’t afford to buy a house, I decided to renovate the old garage’ Alex says, matter of factly. ‘My family home was built by Merchant Builders in the ’80s, and the original garage had many of Merchant Builders signature features which I kept – including the oregon beams and sandbagged brick walls’.
Alex’s challenge was to turn this cold, run down garage into a comfortable little home, on a super tight budget. It meant demolishing the whole garden-side wall, replacing the roof, and installing plumbing and running electricity to the site. Alex’s architect Sarah Trotter of Hearth Studio (who we will learn more about very soon!) was not fussed by the limitations of this tiny footprint or indeed, the budget, instead seizing the opportunity to create a unique home for her friend. ‘Sarah was incredible at capturing my aesthetic influences and considering light’ says Alex. The pair worked together for a over a year scouring Ebay, visiting recycling centres and demolition yards in outer suburbs and country towns to collect and hunt down all the fittings, almost all of which are second hand.
The build itself was completed by local builder and cabinetmaker Scott McCormack. ‘He loves doing interesting things with wood and that’s why I wanted to work with him’ says Alex, who worked alongside Scott as a labourer during the build! ‘He would set me up to do jobs over the weekend. I learnt a lot working alongside Scott’. Alex’s friends also lent their muscle where required, helping out with demolition, painting and staining, and often just hanging out with Alex to keep her company on some of the long tiring days. ‘I was really lucky to have so many people happy to help out’ Alex says.
Alex home has been a labour of love, inspired by many factors. After spending some time in a commune in New Zealand, where she was introduced to the hand made houses movement of the 1970’s, Alex knew she wanted to build something that utilised space and recycled materials in creative ways. She was also heavily influenced by Japanese and Swedish design. ‘After traveling to Japan, I knew I could create a home here’ she says, intuitively understanding that a connection to the garden, and careful consideration of light and texture would be paramount in the design of her home.
Japanese influences are also very clear in the way Alex has decorated her home. This is evident in the use of various timbers, from recycled floorboards to raw plywood on the ceiling, and the presence of lush indoor plants which give the space a distinct sense of calm. Every detail has been considered, from the space saving lab-style kitchen sink, right down to the sweet leather handles on the kitchen cabinetry. Alex loves her collection of artwork and prints on the wall, and is especially fond of a naive picture of a boat picked up second hand. ‘It’s kind of wild and calm all at the same time’ she explains… ‘I got it from an adorable old man in Richmond, he is one of those guys that have all sorts of trinkets and bits and pieces displayed in the window of his sometime shop and most of the time home. I asked him if he drew it, and he got all funny. A couple a weeks later I walked past and there were lots of different versions of the same picture. He must have been on to something!’.
Aside from her very grown up day job, Alex nourishes her creative side with a number of inspired side projects. She currently sub edits a bi-annual art and fashion magazine called Doingbird, and she is also currently working on a series of short stories, which she hopes to have published later this year.
HUGE THANKS To Alex (and to Sarah Trotter) for sharing this very special Melbourne home with us today. What an absolute gem!