I don’t know about you, but my curiosity always gets the better of me when I meet someone seemingly quite young (I’m talking mid-to-late twenties), who has managed to enter the elusive Melbourne property market. Especially in a tightly held suburb like Fitzroy North. In the case of today’s super cute little renovated Victorian cottage belonging to landscape gardener Daniel Stray and his partner, coffee roaster and Seven Seeds cafe manager Kc Reynolds, the answer is more straightforward than you might expect. It’s all about starting early! Whilst his peers were gliding through the early years of university, or spending a gap year overseas, Daniel bought this then dilapidated little house when he was just 20 years old! Top effort.
Actually, an early start in the property market was never Daniel’s master plan. Initially saving to go overseas, it was Daniel’s Dad who spotted the house and encouraged him to buy it. ‘There is a house you should look at in North Fitzroy, its pretty rundown but it’s a good place to start’ were his words. And so, without too much forward planning, Daniel went to auction – and suddenly become a homeowner! ‘I think I was crazy, and it has been tough, but its been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made’ says Daniel in hindsight. ‘It’s been a real journey buying, living and renovating with Kc, but one I’ll never forget’.
Daniel purchased his house as a mouldy, un-renovated weatherboard 7 years ago, and has been living here with Kc and Poppy, their Staffordshire terrier for the past 5 years. It wasn’t until 2 years ago, though, that the pair decided to undertake major renovations. They engaged local architects Pleysier Perkins to essentially design a new home behind the Victorian facade of the property, also adding a modest second level addition, comprising master bedroom, bathroom and adjoining outdoor deck. ‘We kept the front facade and boundary wall of the original home, and from there we built a light filled modern industrial home within’ says Daniel, whose brief to the architects was ‘to be able to see outside greenery from every window’. Pleysier Perkins designed the exterior, and together with Daniel they collaborated on the interior layout.
The build itself was a family affair, undertaken with Daniel’s brother Ben Stray and his business partner Tim Harman of Deco Carpentry. With Daniel doing much of the work himself, and other family members pitching in, all up, the build took approximately 10 months to complete. Daniel is modest but noticeably chuffed with the results – and I would be too! Building your own home is a pretty epic achievement for a bloke who’s yet to turn 30.
Daniel’s favourite part of the house is the ceiling in the kitchen / living space, which was inspired by old factory ceilings, and created using recycled Australian hardwood beams and recycled flooring. He and Kc also love their little garden, where they grow their own herbs and veggies (limes, oranges, lemons, kale, spinach, rockets and lots more!). At a more basic level, and with their pre-renovation days still in clear memory, Daniel and Kc are also still very thankful to have a draught-free, warm house – and no more mould!
When the build was complete, Daniel and Kc found themselves compelled to pare back their belongings, to achieve a more considered, minimal look. ‘Our old house was full of old vintage industrial knick knacks and collectables, so moving in to the newly renovated house was a good chance for us to cull a lot of our things’ says Kc. Shelving in the house was kept to to a minimum – ‘because we know that the more shelves we have, the more we want to fill them’ the pair confess!
‘At the moment I think we are going through a style change’ says Daniel. ‘We used to buy a lot of stuff from op shops and auctions, only to change our minds and try and get rid of it a year later’ he explains. ‘These days we are trying to be a bit more restrained, and focus on more of a Danish / Industrial look, with pieces that are timeless and we know we’ll love forever’. Favourite acquisitions include the Danish Parker style kitchen table – which, unbelievably, Kc won over a coin flip! Other much loved treasures include Daniel’s collection of original French vintage posters, purchased from Tarlo and Graham and Galerie Montmartre.
Huge thanks to Daniel and Kc for sharing their sweet little pad with us today!