OK here I go again. We photograph incredible homes every single week (usually more than one a week actually). Inevitably, in our relentless search we see so many amazing, beautiful, creative and inspiring spaces... and yet, sometimes one comes along that literally knocks my socks off. We have another such beauty to share today. It is truly something special.
This incredible home in Prahran belongs to stylist Fiona Richardson and her family. Fiona lives here with her husband and three boys aged 8, 7 and 3. The family have been here about 12 years, but as is often the case, it wasn't always quite so photogenic! During the '50s, the original Edwardian house had been divided in half, with two bedsits tacked on to the back creating four different addresses. 'What we bought was essentially student digs with incredibly high ceilings' recalls Fiona. 'It was a rabbit warren, with bathrooms divided into small cubicles with partitions. I remember feeling mildly horrified when my friend commented that it reminded her of her school!' However, Fiona was drawn to its generous proportions and farmhouse feel, and could see the grand potential of this rambling, unloved property.
Initially, Fiona and her husband worked with designer Stephen Akehurst to draw up a master plan for the homes renovation, with a view to restoring the house to a single residence over a number of years. Once the plans were done, the family moved into flat number two and did up the front part of the house - 'mainly cosmetic and a big revamp of the scary bathrooms' says Fiona. When this stage was complete, the family shifted back into the front part of the house, and rented out the back flats. 'Two children later and bursting at the seams, we put a hole through the back wall into flat number two, and let the children basically draw on the walls!' says Fiona. And then finally, three years ago, when the rising damp and perilous nature of the fifties additions had finally taken their toll on this family of five, the last tenants out the back were let go to allow the final stage of Stephen's master plan to be completed. 'We pulled off the back of the house and rebuilt an open plan living area, and extended into the roof to create bedrooms for the children' says Fiona. Fiona worked with her sister Sally Richardson on the interiors for these final rooms.
Fiona's decorating approach is measured, thoughtful and perfectly executed. She has styled her home with a respectful nod to its Edwardian heritage, and an intuitive sense for how contemporary colour and pattern can be introduced in a period home. The result is a residence that is grand in scale, yet feels understated, intimate and unmistakably 'real', with just enough eclectic detail to keep things interesting! Fiona's chosen colour palette of deep blue greys with blonde timbers and accents of yellow and mustard is just so spot on - she has an incredible way with colour and pattern. With three young boys to consider, Fiona is also refreshingly utilitarian in many ways - dark grey walls have proven the perfect resilient hue for six eternally grubby hands!
Aside from it's great bones and strong foundation of brave colour and pattern, the real magic here really comes from Fiona's careful layering of inherited furniture and art pieces, museum-like auction finds and hand-me-downs, new pieces and treasured hard rubbish finds! Almost everything here tells a story, or harks back to some nostalgic tale, and it shows. 'If we had to choose a favourite piece it would be the portraits of my husband's grandfather, who died suddenly a matter of weeks before my husband was born' says Fiona 'He was an orphan who was mysterious about his past, and has always been a source of fascination in a Don Draper-esque way – every now and again we learn something new about him'.
Another key focal point of this home is the impressive Aga stove in the kitchen (we seem to be seeing more and more of these beautiful cast iron cookers in the homes we shoot these days!). 'I am fascinated by the power of childhood memories and how they influence design' says Fiona. 'I grew up on a farm and my grandparents had an Aga, and I have very happy memories of huddling around it first thing on a winter's morning. Now my new Aga (same colour!) takes me back to a place of great comfort in my life, and I love seeing my own children sprawled in front of it'
'I think what I love most about our home is being surrounded by our things - so much of it would have little or no value to anybody else but it seems to tell our story' says Fiona thoughtfully when asked what she loves most about living here. 'Most of our pieces are a reference to a trip, a Grandparent, or even a confrontation, like the deer head my better half bought at an auction – I stormed out, he walked home!'.
Fiona has her own fledgling styling business with friend and creative collaborator Belinda Hall, called Richard Hall & Son. Under this name Fiona and Belinda assist residential clients to give personality and meaning to their own spaces through careful editing and layering of colours, pattern, textile and carefully sourced objects - if you love this home, do check out Fiona's website for a little more about her business and passion for interiors!
OH AND ONE MORE THING. We've been planning experiment with video for some time... and quite coincidentally, Fiona has also been thinking about a way to capture the spirit and energy of her family home on video. In an unexpected turn of events, this amazing young filmmaker called Paris Thomson entered the scene and made this very short little film which documents Fiona's home in a new way which I think really complements our photos... and so... here it is, a new collaboration - an 'Australian Home' video, by Paris Thomson aka SIRAP for The Design Files. It only goes for 1.5 minutes, would love to know what you think!