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The Coppinger Family


There’s an unmistakably warm, ‘lived-in’ feeling that comes with a long-serving family home. Layered with history and nostalgia, homes like this have a personality all their own. In fact, they feel like another member of the family.

One such home belongs to The Coppinger family in Melbourne’s Balwyn. Here lives Inge, who works in the fashion industry, David, an ex-architect and now artist, and daughters Cleo (22, studying interior design) and Alexandra (19, studying neuroscience). The family have been here 10 years, after moving to Melbourne from Cape Town, South Africa.

10th August, 2016
Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 10th August 2016

Incredibly, when Inge and David Coppinger moved to Melbourne from South Africa more than a decade ago, they had never before visited Australia! They were looking for a fresh start and more opportunities for their two young daughters. They settled in Balwyn, renting initially, but soon found themselves in the market to buy their own home and grow roots in their new-found neighbourhood.

‘We were renting across the valley and I used to run past the house, which was standing empty as it was a deceased estate’ recalls Inge. ‘It didn’t look like much from the street, but I mentioned the house to David as we had been looking at (ugly) houses for ages’. Soon after making enquiries, David and Inge had the chance to inspect the home, and they couldn’t understand why no one had snapped it up. They bought it 3 days later.

The home was architect designed in the 1960s, and originally owned by a florist. Elevated on a sloping block, it bears many of the hallmarks of classic late modernist architecture, including floor to ceiling windows, timber panelling and exposed ceiling joists, and original shale detailing.

Whilst Inge and David were keen to retain many of the original features of the house after moving in, there were a few things that had to go! ‘EVERY wall in the house was wallpapered, a lot of it with brown and white stripes which I could not live with, so I painted over the wallpaper myself’ Inge recalls. In addition to this, blinds and ceiling fans were installed throughout, the original kitchen was updated with new appliances, and David miraculously engineered a tiny third bedroom by seamlessly partitioning off a section of hallway / study nook using the same timber and detailing as the original house.

Though Inge and David are certainly a house-proud pair, there’s nothing new or overly orchestrated here. Their home is a richly layered space, full of much-loved second-hand pieces, handcrafted souvenirs from Africa, an eclectic mix of vintage posters and paintings, and artefacts both collected and inherited. Everything here has a story.

The Coppinger family – from left, Inge, Alexandra with Milo the dog, David and Cleo. Photo – Annette O’Brien. 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