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Ally Oliver-Perham and Harry Dickson


When you drive past a giant cream brick 1960s house in Brunswick, replete with white swirly wrought iron railings and a concrete front garden, you immediately get a sense of who might live behind the lace curtains. You might, perhaps, picture an elderly little Italian lady, the kind of house-proud local who sweeps the footpath outside her front door every morning.

You don’t imagine the residents of a house like this would be a cool young couple and their cute little dog. Well, appearances can be deceiving! This is the home of fine arts graduate / graphic designer Ally Oliver-Perham and her partner, musician and maker Harry Dickson. They are not elderly (or Italian).

14th October, 2015
Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 14th October 2015

I bloody love this house. I love it because, well, it’s a bit mad. It’s a rental, but it’s been embraced with all its quirks by the young couple who live here, Ally Oliver-Perham and Harry Dickson.

Ally and Harry lease the house from an elderly Italian lady, who has since moved into an aged care facility. After house hunting for a long time, Ally and Harry were thrilled when they inspected this sprawling 3 bedroom house in Brunswick.

‘It’s funny, on the day of the inspection, we saw so many people walking around with a puzzled look on their face, so unable to reconcile the different shades of 70s tiles, the pebble mix covered lounge room walls, the bidet and so on – whereas we saw it as this really charming place’ says Ally. ‘This house lets us each do our own thing, without encroaching on each other’s space.’

Though the house was in excellent condition, there was one challenge – it came fully furnished. ’Our landlady’s family were a bit overwhelmed by the notion of finding a new home for all her furniture, so we agreed to look after it’ says Ally.

Ally and Harry are storing the majority of their landlady’s furniture in the garage, but there are a few rooms that have remained very close to their original state – such as the dining room (with huge antique cabinet and 8 seater dining table), and most of the furniture in the master bedroom.

Somehow, the kooky aesthetic here works perfectly with Ally and Harry’s own sense of style. ‘We both love the kitsch Italian vibe!’ says Ally, whose own collection of furniture, artwork and trinkets is characterised by amazing op shop and vintage market finds. In fact, almost everything in their home is secondhand.

‘We are particularly fond of our 1973 Elvis clock-print in the lounge room’ says Ally, who has set the clock to the hour of Elvis’ passing. ‘It’s from a second-hand store and features Elvis live in concert in Hawaii, wearing his trademark white jumpsuit. What a dude.’

What Ally and Harry love most about their home is that it really suits their lifestyle. For the mild inconvenience of having to store their landlady’s furniture (!), they’ve ended up with a unique rental which really affords them the space to do their own thing.

‘Our house is so spacious and comfortable, which is such a rare thing to find this close to the city’ says Ally. ‘Harry’s a drummer and needs his practice space, and as a small business owner, I really wanted to be able to work from home. This house has enabled us to do both of those things. We would buy it in a heartbeat if we could!’

Kitchen. Most things in the kitchen are op shop and hard rubbish finds, which perfectly complement the original owner’s decor. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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