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Madeleine and Karl Stamer and Family


This creative, cheerful little house in Caulfield is home to Madeleine Stamer, Karl Stamer and their two daughters Wilhelmina (8 yrs) and Ada (6 yrs), and Hug the cat!

Having photographed their previous home (a rented apartment) over four years ago, it was extra special to check out the Stamer family’s new(ish) house – a sweet little red brick cottage, which they moved into just over 2 years ago after lovingly renovating the place on a shoestring budget.  It’s a beauty!


18th February, 2015
Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 18th February 2015

Many, many moons ago, when I had just started running stories about Australian homes, I visited the apartment of Melbourne illustrator / designer Madeleine Stamer and her family.  It was such a beautiful creative home, a rambling apartment of generous proportions, decorated with Madeleine’s distinctive handcrafted aesthetic, and embellished with all her beautiful trinkets.  I ran around photographing the home by myself (very badly!) and chatting to Maddy, and the story was so popular (even though my photos were shocking – I’m so glad we work with professional photographers now!).

SO, it was extra special when I recently visited the Stamer family’s new(ish!) home – the sweetest little late Edwardian red brick cottage in Caulfield North, which they moved into just over 2 years ago.  Karl and Madeleine purchased the home 10 years ago, but rented it out for 8 years whilst getting their ducks in a row.  The family eventually moved in, after renovating, at the end of 2012.  It’s a beauty!  It was amazing to see how Madeleine’s decorating style has evolved whilst staying true to her long standing passion for colour, pattern, folk art, mexican-inspired motifs and religious iconography.

Constrained what Madeleine says was a ‘VERY tight budget’ (her CAPS, not mine!), the pair worked within the existing footprint of the home, updating the home room by room, whilst also reinstating many of the long lost period fixtures. ‘The previous owner had stripped the house of all original features, so we painstakingly re-instated cornices, ceiling roses, internal fretwork and a sweet fireplace sympathetic to the era’ Madeleine explains.

With their builder, Madeleine and Karl created a better flowing floor plan, which incorporated wider entrances and an abundance of natural light. They installed four roof windows which flood the house with natural light, and which Madeleine says have lowered the family’s energy usage dramatically. Ample storage was also essential, so the family installed in-built cabinetry in almost every room.  They also recently converted the attic into a kids retreat – ‘and somewhere to stash all their paraphernalia!’ Madeleine says. (Sadly it was impossible to get a good shot of the attic, which was SUPER cute but a little too pokey for our camera lens – sorry about that!).

‘We feel really safe and secure in our little home; it’s compact but deceptively spacious and remains freakishly cool in Summer and snug as a bug in Winter!’ says Maddy.

Renovation works aside, the most distinctive aspects of this home really come down to Maddy’s intuitive decorating style. She is just so good at pulling random pieces together to create the sweetest focal points throughout the space, resulting in a beautiful, relaxed and creative family home with such a cheery personality!

Madeleine and Karl particularly love their ever-growing art and print collection – ‘We LOVE adding more and more art into the mix, particularly our children’s paintings, doodles and collages – we’re fast running out of wall space!’ says Maddy.  Favourites include the stretched Bromley quilt above the couple’s bed, and treasured paintings by indigenous artists Mitjili Napurrula and Betty Mbitjana.

With many creative friends and collaborators between them, Madeleine and Karl are also proud that much of the furniture, artwork and soft furnishings they have amassed have been created by local makers and designers.  ‘We’re SO proud of our friends endeavours and prefer to invest in locally designed and made treasures such as Leila Sanderson’s gorgeous quilts, and our dining room chairs from Industria X’ says Maddy.

Although the house appears narrow, it sits on a 6m x 47m metre long block, with an impressively huge Liquidambar tree out the back, and a big old tin shed beyond.  Maddy and Karl appreciate the North facing orientation, and tending to their compact little sun drenched vegie patch.  Their next project will be converting that big old shed into a purpose built studio for Maddy to work from.

As a parting question, I always ask each householder how they would describe their home, and more often than not, their response is much better than anything I come up with. Madeleine says – ‘My husband would describe our home as ‘over cluttered’ but I view our aesthetic as more of a spontaneous order that reflects our collective personalities… A good balance of old and new, sprinkled with colour, print and pattern, a touch of humour and sentimental collections that celebrate the extraordinary in the ordinary!’ .  As usual, I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Ada (6), Madeleine and Wilhelmina (8) at home. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email