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!