Interior designer Amanda Lynn and her husband, Leon Levine, a lawyer, have a rule about the types of properties they buy together. They never like to buy a ‘conventional’ house. They’re much more interested in seeking out unexpected properties – industrial spaces, warehouses or shopfronts which offer a blank canvas, and present an opportunity to create a truly unique home together. Their home of the past six years in North Melbourne is one such property.
Originally, this house was part of a sawtooth warehouse, built in the late 19th century, and used as a storage facility for stalls at the nearby Queen Victoria market. In the 1980s, the warehouse was divided into four commercial premises – when they took possession, Amanda and Leon’s property was occupied by a trade union office. At the time, the place was covered in stained blue floral carpet and broken grey office partitioning!
The pair completely gutted the interior of the property, creating what is now effectively a two bedroom contemporary terrace house. ‘Our main aim in rebuilding was to create a series of flexible spaces that would allow the house to be used as a studio or offices or a family home, and to introduce as much natural light and ventilation as possible’ explains Amanda. ‘Our beyond awesome architects, Brenton Weisert, Kirsty Fletcher and Giles Lawson from The RexRoth Mannasman Collective created space where there was none. The elegance and cleverness of their conversion continues to amaze us’.
Of course, as a designer herself, Amanda has also taken great delight in furnishing and decorating her home with her own distinctive handwriting. ‘I had always wanted to try to design a black house, but it was not something I could easily sell to a client, so I knew I had to be my own guinea pig’ she says! The rich colour and materials palette here is in part, inspired by Amanda and Leon’s South African heritage. ‘I think if you knew we were both born in Africa you would pick those references, but I have also installed items that pay homage to the 70’s, as that has always been my favourite design era’ she explains.
Amanda and Leon are passionate art collectors, and are very fond of their eclectic art collection. Favourite pieces including the sculpture of ‘Ham’ the chimpanzee by Australian artist Lisa Roet, as well as the striking Mitjili Napurrula painting (hanging in the living room, to the right of the sofa) – a very special birthday gift from Leon to Amanda.
The sense of community in North Melbourne is something Amanda truly cherishes. ‘We share the produce of our herb and veggie gardens with our neighbours, and the neighbourhood cats and kids all drop in to each others’ houses, creating a very vibrant environment’ Amanda says. In this street alone, nine different nationalities dwell within six adjacent houses, so the neighbours are always celebrating some festival or tradition together – the United Nations is alive and well in North Melbourne!