Today’s very special home is in Croydon, where I must admit I had never visited prior to this shoot, but which I was delighted to learn is only 35 mins from the CBD – basically a hop, skip and jump from the end of the Eastern Freeway, halfway to the Yarra Valley. It’s a slightly surprising place to find fashion designer Christopher Graf and his partner Glenn Francis, an IT analyst, who previously lived in St Kilda, but when they saw this house, their decision was made.
‘We found the house for sale online’ says Christopher. ‘We’d been looking to move for several years, and looked at many properties. It was love at first sight – we bought the property within 5 days’. Christopher and Glenn purchased the property they now affectionately call ‘The Hamptons’ (!) in April 201, and by August the pair had packed up their city life and moved in.
Amazingly, there were very few renovations or structural changes necessary here. The pair made minor cosmetic changes, including painting the dining room (Dulux ‘Grassy Knoll’), and giving Christopher’s downstairs office a lift with multiple pastel hues to complement his design aesthetic and business branding. Though he had a high profile store on Chapel st in South Yarra in the late nineties (I remember it well!), these days Christopher works from this colourful home office, where he designs a range of beautiful limited edition silk scarves, (currently sold at famed local fashion boutique Christine, in Melbourne’s CBD, and at MONA Museum, in Hobart Tasmania).
With an unmistakably quirky, almost cartoon-like aesthetic, Christopher has delighted in decorating this beautiful, rambling Edwardian home in his distinctive style. His collections of vintage toys, including over 30 somewhat creepy ventriloquist dolls are totally mesmerising! Sentimentally, he is also very fond of the handmade signage from his old store on Chapel Street. Now displayed in the main bedroom, these cheerful illuminated signs are on remote control, and with the flick of a switch light up with almost a thousand little light globes. Also from Christopher’s old Chapel Street boutique is a beautiful hand blown coloured glass chandelier, which now hangs in the dining room.
Other unexpected treasures have been more recently acquired. ‘My most recent Trash and Treasure ‘find of the century’ is a huge retro dairy cow’s full head mask made of fibreglass, paper-mache and cloth’ says Christopher gleefully! ‘All I can imagine is that this was made to advertise milk or butter at country show grounds back in the 1960’s. A total gem’.
Despite the generous proportions of this home and it’s joyfully decorated interior, what really is the most defining feature of this house is it’s position – sitting on top of the highest hill in metropolitan Melbourne (approx 210 metres high, Christoper tells us), with amazing views out towards the Yarra Valley and mountains beyond.
‘The house was built in 1910, and at the time was the only house on the hill’ says Christopher. ‘What we love most is the totally serenity. With half an acre of sloped beautiful, old & historical gardens, it’s a peaceful and private retreat’ he continues. Indeed, the gardens here are truly remarkable – sprawling both above and below the house, they are lush, leafy and beautifully kept, navigated via a sweet zig-zagging garden path which winds from very the top of the property, above the house, to the lowest point at the bottom of the garden.
Above all, this is a home that surprises. From the lolly-coloured walls of Christopher’s study, to the quirky collection of vintage toys and ephemera, to handmade props and signage, it’s a cheerful space that perfectly reflects the creativity and eccentricities of its owners. ‘I guess our aesthetic is best described as ‘layered memories’ but with a twist and a kick’ says Christopher. ‘At the end of the day our style all about juxtaposition – mixing the eclectic with the sentimental, the practical with the unpredictable’. Couldn’t have put it better myself!