How does one pinpoint a ‘British’ kind of home, you might quite reasonably ask. Well, for one thing, unlike Australian homes, homes in the UK often feel charmingly compartmentalised – there’s much less emphasis on ‘open plan’ spaces, and I must say, it’s quite a nice change. Having some separation between key rooms allows for quite distinct decorating and colour choices from one room to the next, as Trudy and Seamus have done here to maximum effect (I love the deep hues in the upstairs rooms!). Secondly, unlike Australian homes, UK homes more often than not are built over at least 2 levels (in this case, 3) – Europeans are not afraid of a few flights of stairs! And lastly, really, it’s all about the styling. UK homes often employ a relaxed, eclectic and almost ‘ad hoc’ furnishing approach. Enormous kitchen dressers and freestanding wardrobes are rarely seen in Australian homes, but are a common centrepiece in European homes, often favoured over fixed cabinetry. Trudy has a particular affection for large freestanding pieces like this, as seen in her bedroom, where she’s eschewed built-in storage in favour of two stunning vintage Hungarian wardrobes, which stand alongside a large vintage haberdashery unit – so beautiful!
Trudy and Seamus’ house occupies one quarter of the Bayview Hotel in Kensington, an impressive Victorian building, built in 1890. It was converted in the 1990’s to four large townhouses, each over 3 levels. When Trudy and Seamus took over the property it was a mish mash or two or three previous fit outs, sadly leaving virtually none of the original features or feel of the original hotel. With backgrounds in architecture and property development, Trudy and Seamus were keen to restore their new home to its former glory, and make better use of the space. They commenced renovations immediately upon moving back to Melbourne from the UK in December 2012, and moved in in Jan 2013 – after an eight week reno over Christmas! (Trudy and Seamus would like to credit their builder who they highly recommend, Dan Lucas of ‘Built By Dan’ – no website supplied I’m afraid).
‘The renovation and design was an intuitive process, peeling back layers of previous cover ups to rediscover original historical details’ says Trudy. The house required an almost complete internal refurbishment, including the removal of various internal walls to reinstate the original proportions of the building. The kitchen was redesigned and relocated from the middle level to the ground floor and two new bathrooms were built. Whilst demolishing some of the previous renovation work, Trudy and Seamus were thrilled to uncover a few untouched original features, such as the little arches and fireplace on the ground floor, which had been hidden behind plaster sheets.
Aside from re-designing the internal spaces, Trudy also significantly re-worked the courtyard garden, creating a lush, child friendly outdoor space and planting pretty foliage to soften the footpath at the front entrance. Another sweet detail which feels so very European! ‘I love the connection to the street, and the way we have been able to claim the footpath using these simple planters and greenery’ says Trudy. ‘The neighbours love how we have converted this to a garden to be enjoyed by all – the girls are always out here drawings on the footpath’.
Trudy and Seamus have relished the opportunity to use their combined creative skills to personalise their new surroundings, and along the way have also loved learning a little more about the history of the distinctive building they call home. ‘Rumour has it the original timber bar of the hotel that was within our kitchen/living space was salvaged in the 1990’s, and is now in use in The European on Spring Street!’ says Trudy. ‘We’ve also heard that the upper floor bedrooms saw a colourful past for many years…!’
Though her background is in large scale architecture and urban planning, designing and furnishing her own home with pieces sourced from Europe has also sparked Trudy’s newfound passion for sourcing antique furniture, and realising smaller scale residential design projects. Retrouve is the result – Trudy’s own creative consultancy, focusing on a very personal approach to designing interiors, sourcing furniture, creating courtyards and city gardens, and residential architecture.