Until recently, I was under the false assumption that my own little home in Brunswick was quite probably the narrowest house in Australia (measuring just 3.5m wide internally) but I have to say, I think the Kramer / Morris family home in Sydney’s Camperdown might have just pipped me at the post! Their super cute two-up, two-down Victorian house is seriously tiny, and though I’ll admit I didn’t get out a tape measure during our shoot, I’m sure we’re looking at between 3m – 3.5m wide here..!? However, its modest proportions were no deterrent for this creative couple, who happily took on the challenge of this quirky ‘do-er upper’ in exchange for an opportunity to fulfill their dream of ‘actually owning a house’. Nice one!
Accessories and fashion designer Elke Kramer and her partner, photographer Christopher Morris bought their home in May 2011, so have been here just 3 years. As is so often the case, the first significant improvements involved the ripping up of ‘hideous carpet’ throughout the home, which uncovered what Elke calls an ‘interesting hodgepodge’ of flooring from room to room, with a jumble of floorboards from different eras patchworked throughout the house. ‘There were manholes, a rotten floor patched with metal, and one room was chipboard’ she recalls. Oh yes. A familiar tale for many renovators I’m sure! Though they initially planned to polish up all the mismatched floorboards throughout the house (the idea being to preserve the ‘story of the house’) in the end, a more consistent approach was necessary, and a slick Black Japan finish was selected for the key living and dining spaces.
After living in the home for a year, Elke and Christopher decided to tackle the next stage of the renovations. Elke was 6 months pregnant by this stage, and what she and Christopher initially thought would be 1 month of building works dragged on until Elke went into labour. Nevertheless, they got a lot done in that final trimester! A wall between the front living and dining rooms was removed, dramatically increasing the natural light and feeling of openness downstairs, whilst all the architraves, window fames and ceilings were carefully patched up and restored throughout. Cement skirting boards were jackhammered off and replaced with classic timber ones, and the whole house was given a fresh lick of paint. ‘We aimed to stay true to the buildings original character, and chose to restore, rather then replace whenever possible’ says Elke.
‘The narrowness was a challenge to furnish, but we’ve been successful with very carefully chosen furniture, and a classic white wall / black floor interior’ says Elke. She and Christopher have added their own character with more eclectic and contemporary furniture, as well as beautifully patterned asian textiles and rugs. Christopher is a champion of clean surfaces, whilst Elke is a self-confessed collector (hoarder) of objects, so, in Elke’s own words, ‘we work hard to meet in the middle!’ The pair find common ground in their shared love of art and colour, and their home is a creative collaboration in the truest sense of the word.
The family’s favourite part of their sweet little home is the fireplace, into which they installed an old fashioned wood burning oven soon after moving in. ‘We love the way it becomes the centre of our home in the cooler months’ says Elke. ‘It also warms the entire house as it heats the brickwork – even our neighbours have thanked us for warming their house through the shared wall!’
All the artworks in the house also have their own significance, such as works by close friends including Greedy Hen, prints by We Buy Your Kids, a Rhys Lee painting, a Tara Marynowsky watercolour, Mike Mills prints from Elke’s brother who has an art/book store in LA, and paintings by Elke’s mother, Marion Kramer. ‘We also have loads of Christopher’s large scale photographs throughout the place, which transport us back to the many places we visited together’ says Elke. A favourite is the colossal, endless view over the Copper Canyon in Mexico, which hangs in at the end of Elke and Christopher’s bed, and adds a sense of peace, as well as grandness, to the bedroom.
There’s a lot to love about the very special little home Elke and Christopher have created here. There’s something comforting about its modest scale, and a sense of calm is apparent in the laid back styling and lack of unnecessary ‘stuff’. For the Kramer / Morris family, the contained footprint of their house is balanced by a heartfelt affection for their local neighbourhood, which has really become a functional extension of their home. ‘Our neighbourhood is really refreshing, neither of us had lived in Sydney’s Inner West before we moved here, and its opened our eyes up to the colour, authenticity and diversity of this area’ says Elke. The park opposite their house has become an extended backyard for little Cedar, and nearby markets and restaurants keep everyone well fed. ‘We love the cultural buzz, the food and unpretentiousness!’ says Elke.