Rebecca McJannett, Fatima Bertolini + Family

Today’s gorgeous little home in Sydney’s Marrickville is a testament to what can be achieved with a bit of creative ingenuity, a ‘can-do’ attitude, and a lot of elbow grease!  This happy little home belongs to Rebecca McJannett and Fatima Bertolini and their two young sons – and let me tell you, these ladies are impressive in more ways than one!  If their epic DIY renovation efforts aren’t enough to convince you… how about the fact they let us shoot their house just a day after little Bowie was born, without even a hint of stress!? Superwomen, I tell you!

Lucy Feagins
Supported by Dulux

The beautiful Marrickville home of Rebecca McJannett, Fatima Bertolini their young sons Sid and Bowie.  Above – dining room, with a vintage dining table sanded and painted by Fatima (who is a plumber by trade, and very handy to have around!).  Limited edition TRENDIG chairs from IKEA and the yellow IKEA PS 2012 stacking dining chair. (Rebecca works at IKEA!).  Pendants from IKEA, Silk footstool from Apache RosE, felt pom pom from Megan Morton’s garage sale. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen recycled from an IKEA room set (ex-store display).  Copper pendants from Apache Rose.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen detail. Solid concrete kitchen bench poured by Fatima. Kitchen recycled from an IKEA room set (ex-store display). Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen recycled from an IKEA room set (ex-store display).  Copper pendants from Apache Rose.  Painted timber ceiling panels.  Bec says she’s so glad these were retained in the living room and kitchen – ‘leaving these raw fits the house, and is so much cooler than the front part of the house’.  These windows were rescued by Fatima from a building site she was working on… They were set to go in a skip! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


Living room (sweet one-day-old Bowie was sleeping soundly in the ‘Miyo’ baby hammock whilst we took this shot!).  Vintage leather chair bought from an antique dealer in London. Industrial cages found in London, the ‘Open’ sign is also a flea market find from the UK.  Framed limited release wrapping paper by James Daw. And those beautiful painted timber roof panels! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Lounge room.  ‘The abstract painting was a gift from illustrator James Daw, who has been my friend for over 15 years and is also our sons’ Daddy’ says Rebecca. Sofa bed from IKEA sleeps all Rebecca and Fatima’s international family and friends! TV unit is actually 3 chest of drawers side by side – ‘they are the perfect height and we love the depth of the drawers… all the guest bedding, as well as music, dvd’s, craft and electronics all live in there!’ says Rebecca. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Detail from master bedroom.   Vintage Norman Cherner chair.  Artwork by Sid, vintage maps and illustrations by Rebecca’s friend James Daw.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom details. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Portraits of Rebecca and Fatima in the master bedroom by their friend, photographer Brock Elbank for his ‘Freckles’ series. ‘This is the only girly room in the house given we knew we were going to have 2 boys… love our pink walls!’ says Rebecca.   Vintage bassinet for little Bowie. IKEA STOCKHOLM chandelier just seen.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Sid and Bowie’s room, with artwork by Alena Smith, vintage maps, a piñata picked up in Mexico… (‘I haven’t told sid it has sweets inside!’ says Rebecca!) Bookshelf made from scrap plywood on top of the IKEA storage, Sid’s bedding from Pottery Barn Kids. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bathrom – almost entirely built by Fatima and Bec!  ‘I designed the tapware, which Fatima made’ says Rebecca. The sink is a storm water pit, usually used for street drainage.  Rebecca made the shelves out of bits of scrap wood and dowel. Quarantine sign from the old warehouse that Rebecca  and her old friend James Daw converted and lived in back in London.  Tord Boontje garland – ‘this has never actually been used as a light but I cannot get rid of it, I’ve always loved how ethereal it is!’ says Bec.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


Beautiful bathroom!  ‘The tilers bill was well worth it’ says Rebecca. ‘We didn’t buy expensive tiles, but I planned the tiling for weeks to ensure all the tile sizes worked together. Then we hired the best tiler we knew. I had seen his work and he made our inexpensive tiles look amazing. They are the most commented on feature of the bathroom’. Wall panels and dowel towel pegs, made by Rebecca, pendant light is the ‘VANADIN’ from IKEA. Tap ware designed by Bec, made by Fatima out of copper. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
17th of December 2014

Rebecca (Bec) McJannett and Fatima (‘Fatty’!) Bertolini live in Marrickville with their two young sons, Sid and newborn Bowie (plus pets Sookie the Labrador Retriever, and Tazer the little black cat!).  Fatima is Brazilian, and the pair lived together for many years in the UK before moving to Sydney together.  They purchased their run down weatherboard cottage three years ago, after shifting through various rentals across Sydney, trying to find the area that suited them best.

Impressively, almost all the extensive renovations here have been done by Rebecca and Fatima themselves – aided by the fact that Rebecca works at IKEA  (handy!) and Fatima is a licensed plumber (even more handy!?).  ‘I planned the redesign and interiors, and Fatty regularly has to build/demolish and work closely with other trades so we have a pretty lucky skill set between us’ says Rebecca. Along the way, this industrious pair have sought the help of professionals where necessary – such as an excellent tiler, and an electrician.

‘We have almost completely rebuilt the house’ explains Bec.  ‘We started slowly by gutting the old bedroom/study/walk in robe that is now Sid and Bowie’s room, and reworking the bathroom, and it escalated from there!’.  The real work started in earnest when the pair  soon realised the kitchen ceiling was bulging because of the old leaky roof… at that point, it was on!  While renovating, the pair uncovered beautiful wood panelled ceilings and walls, some of which they were able to repair and retain.  (Much of their impressive renovation work has been documented on instagram using the hashtag #thelittleblackhouse – worth checking out for progress shots!)

‘We ripped up the old slate floors, reworked the kitchen living and dining to create an open plan room that opens onto the back deck and replaced horrid brown aluminium windows and doors’ says Bec.  The kitchen was recycled from an IKEA ex-display room set, with Bec planning the cabinet configuration perfectly to suit the space. The biggest job was the kitchen roof / ceiling.   ‘We removed the old roof and structure ourselves – my dad and brother came round to lend a hand because I was 3 months pregnant and suffering with morning sickness at the time!’ Bec recalls.

Though they’ve been here just three years, according to Bec, with its layers of history and nostalgia, this house has really been 15 years in the making.  ‘All the furniture and art is a reflection of mine and Fatty’s life together’ says Bec. The Cherner chair was Bec’s gift to herself for her 30th (‘I did have help to fund the purchase from friends and family!’ she says). The 100 year old battered leather armchair in the lounge room was a gift from Bec to Fatty for an early anniversary – they’ve been together 12 years.

The house is also full to the brim with art by creative friends – the large abstract painting in the living room is by British artist and illustrator James Daw, who is a dear friend, and Dad to Bec and Fatima’s two sons. There are portraits of Bec, Fatty and Sid are by another UK creative, Bec’s old friend and flat mate, photographer Brock Elbank.  Many more treasured pieces have been gifted/swapped/collected/found/repurposed and made by Bec or Fatima and their friends.

After nearly two years of weekend and evening renovating, Bec and Fatty are happy to finally lay down their tools and just enjoy the space they have created.  ‘Mostly we love that we have a relaxed, functional a family home’ says Bec. ‘But I think rather than an aesthetic, our home has a feel. A feeling of familiarity, and of love because of the collection of memories throughout. The stuff that fills our house reflects the days Fatty and I have shared. There are memories attached to most of the bric a brac… and while it’s a challenge keeping it dusted (!!), we walk into the house and we ‘feel’ home’.

Sweet hallway detail.  Love the ‘BABY DUE’ reminder (little Bowie arrived the day before this shoot!).  Just visible in kitchen, what Bec says is an ‘Iconic’ IKEA ‘BEKVAM’ stool – ‘Every home should have one of these stools – we have 2!’ she says! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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