This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

A Renovated Heritage Home With Heart (and Art!)

Homes

Turning 30 can feel like a momentous moment. A step into full adulthood, equal parts exciting and terrifying. For today’s home co-owner Ben Esakoff, his 30th birthday was celebrated by purchasing a home with partner James Vivian. What a way to celebrate!

Four years on, we chat with Ben and James about developing their own distinctive style after moving into this 1890’s home, their passion for preserving architectural heritage, and their new love for contemporary art.

28th November, 2018

Inside the home of dermal therapist James Vivian and his partner, Nobody denim brand director Ben Esakoff. Here are a few of their favourite things including their marriage certificate, a mould of James’ fist (from aged 3!) and photos from the couple’s wedding. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Dining area details. Wall hanging by Ben Barretto. Painting by Tom Polo. Pukamini Pole a wedding gift from the couple’s parents. Billiani chairs. Jardan dining table. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Looking from the living/dining spaces into the bedroom. Pink armchair from Hub. Lamp from Space. Right: painting by Brent Harris. Left: photograph by Viviane Sassen. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The dining area. Wall hanging by Ben Barretto. Painting by Tom Polo. Pukamini Pole a wedding gift from the couple’s parents. Billiani chairs. Jardan dining table. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

James Vivian (left ) and Ben Esakoff (right) in front of a painting by Brendan Huntley the couple selected for their wedding registry. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The sleek kitchen, which had been fully renovated when the couple moved in. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The living room featuring a massive painting by Brendan Huntley. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Some of the couple’s favourite pieces – vase by John Booth and painting by New York-based artist, Ivy Haldeman. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

James and Ben are good friends with photographers Tom Blachford and Kate Ballis, who photographed the couple’s wedding in Palm Springs. This print above the bed by Tom Blachford represents their friendship and memories of this Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Some of the couple’s favourite pieces live in their bedroom! Left to right: Dane Lovett, Travis MacDonald and David Frank. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The couple collects art as part of a group – here is a treasured collective piece by Tom Polo. Also pictured is the famous Snoopy lamp – a gift from Ben to James as a third wedding anniversary present. Styling – Annie Portelli, Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 28th November 2018

‘We only collect pieces that we have a chemical attraction to and cannot live without.’ – Ben Esakoff and James Vivian.

Ben Esakoff and James Vivian purchased their Melbourne inner city home on Ben’s 30th birthday (what a present!), and describe ‘we’ll never forget standing in the back garden post-auction in disbelief that this home was actually ours.’ Four years later, and the couple are still pinching themselves on their good fortune.

James comes from a family with a passion for preserving Melbourne’s architectural heritage (his mum, Kristin Stegely, is an activist in heritage protection), and this love of built history carries through to his own property. Their home was originally built in 1893 and retains many of its original features. ‘We love the blend of old and new’ Ben and James enthuse.

This balance is partly achieved through the couple’s extensive collection of contemporary Australian and international art. The cherished collection was ‘born out of the need to fill some empty spaces’, but quickly evolved into a full-blown obsession. The pair follow a gut-response strategy to purchasing, where ‘we only collect pieces that we have a chemical attraction to and cannot live without.’

In a similar fashion to the evolution of their art collection, Ben and James’ decorating style only developed once they had moved into their home. James describes ‘before we purchased the home, neither Ben or I would say we really had a personal style.’ As they inherited a renovated space, there was no need for structural changes, and the home has instead offered a fresh palette to explore their developing aesthetic.

This is a relatively small home, so it has been important to Ben and James ensure every space is functional and beautiful, with ‘no room for redundant zones.’ The pair began by introducing large furniture items from Jardan, and then seeking inspiration from their favourite stores in Melbourne (Hub Furniture, Space, Loom, Euroluce).

The couple’s own sophisticated aesthetic has been gently guided by the help of friend Zoe Murphy, who assisted with the home styling and decorating. James explains ‘there were a few bits and pieces that were out of our wheelhouse, and we appreciated someone casting their eye over the space.’ Zoe also shared James and Ben’s love of colour, which has been thoughtfully splashed throughout the home.

While Ben suggests that the best aspect of the home is its proximity to the MCG (he’s a one-eyed Demons fan…) it is clear that for both he and James, this home is genuinely cherished. Four years after moving in, they are still thrilled to walk in the door each day after work. They warmly express, ‘we’re extremely lucky and we know it.’

This Week

Interiors

Inside Mona's New 'Evil-Billionaire's-Lair-Themed' Ferry

The Museum of Old and New Art’s lavish new catamaran will hit the water this weekend.
Elle Murrell

Gardens

A Perfect Family Garden In Camberwell

Not overdone, nor too sparing, tour an outdoor oasis designed by Ian Barker in Camberwell - and it’s only two years old!
Georgina Reid

Small Business

Knowing When To Call In The Experts, According To KeepCup

This Melbourne-born business has taken the world by storm, but they haven't gone it alone.
Fiona Killackey

Architecture

A Mornington Peninsula Home That Goes Back To Basics

A home designed for entertaining – The First Lessons House by Ray Dinh Architecture, in Portsea.

News

Frida Kahlo In Bendigo

An exclusive exhibition drawing on the archives of Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s former home, comes to Bendigo Art Gallery.
Elle Murrell

Art

An Exhibition of Modernist Suburban Homes, Painted In Brilliant Detail

Artist Robyn Sweaney looks back to the modernist homes of the 1960s, in a new exhibition at Arthouse Gallery in Sydney.

Every Painting Tells A Story

Uncovering The Hidden Symbolism In NGA's New Blockbuster: 'Love & Desire'

Our collaboration with National Gallery of Australia, celebrating their incredible new exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces from London...

Indigenous Art

A Joyful Exhibition Featuring Some Of Australia's Most Talented Indigenous Artists

A group exhibition and celebration of Australia's first Indigenous owned and operated gallery.

News

A Zen Group Show In Sydney

Saint Cloche gallery celebrates the feeling of home with CASA, an end-of-year group exhibition.
Sally Tabart

Architecture

A Home That Balances Mid-Century And Modern

Hindley & Co architects bring mid-century design into the 21st century with elegance and restraint, in Newtown, Victoria.
Miriam McGarry

Travel

A Stay At Mitchelton Hotel, Nagambie (+ Giveaway!)

Lucy's review of Victoria's newest boutique hotel, designed by Hecker Guthrie – and your opportunity to WIN a stay!

Homes

The Sleekest Apartment In West Brunswick

Explore the exacting apartment of photographer Sean Fennessy and stylist Jess Lillico.

News

A Sustainable Collection Of Objects 'For Gardening' By Australian Designers

Sarah K and Bree Claffey react to the scale of mass production that pervades our modern world.

Food

Alice & Marlon's Simple Ginger Sauerkraut

Wholesome recipes for preserving, pickling and fermenting, from our very own Alice Johnson!
Alice Johnson

News

An Australian Christmas Story Takes Over Fed Square

Beci Orpin illustrates a distinctly Australian Christmas story in collaboration with creative film producers General Strike.
Sally Tabart

View Comments

Similar Stories

Homes

Orlando Mesiti and Gregg Smith

A grand Victorian terrace home in St Kilda, decorated with restraint.
Lucy Feagins

Homes

Vaucluse Family Home

This serene family home combines Arts and Crafts and Art Deco details with a considered collection of contemporary artwork and antique furni...

Homes

A Photographer + Stylist's Vibrant Family Home

Melbourne photographer Derek Swalwell and stylist Georgia Young’s modernised 1960s family home in Elsternwick.

This Week

News

A Sustainable Collection Of Objects 'For Gardening' By Australian Designers

Sarah K and Bree Claffey react to the scale of mass production that pervades our modern world.

Homes

The Sleekest Apartment In West Brunswick

Explore the exacting apartment of photographer Sean Fennessy and stylist Jess Lillico.

Gardens

A Perfect Family Garden In Camberwell

Not overdone, nor too sparing, tour an outdoor oasis designed by Ian Barker in Camberwell - and it’s only two years old!
Georgina Reid

News

Frida Kahlo In Bendigo

An exclusive exhibition drawing on the archives of Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s former home, comes to Bendigo Art Gallery.
Elle Murrell

Architecture

A Home That Balances Mid-Century And Modern

Hindley & Co architects bring mid-century design into the 21st century with elegance and restraint, in Newtown, Victoria.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A Mornington Peninsula Home That Goes Back To Basics

A home designed for entertaining – The First Lessons House by Ray Dinh Architecture, in Portsea.

Interiors

Inside Mona's New 'Evil-Billionaire's-Lair-Themed' Ferry

The Museum of Old and New Art’s lavish new catamaran will hit the water this weekend.
Elle Murrell

News

A Zen Group Show In Sydney

Saint Cloche gallery celebrates the feeling of home with CASA, an end-of-year group exhibition.
Sally Tabart

Indigenous Art

A Joyful Exhibition Featuring Some Of Australia's Most Talented Indigenous Artists

A group exhibition and celebration of Australia's first Indigenous owned and operated gallery.

News

An Australian Christmas Story Takes Over Fed Square

Beci Orpin illustrates a distinctly Australian Christmas story in collaboration with creative film producers General Strike.
Sally Tabart

Food

Alice & Marlon's Simple Ginger Sauerkraut

Wholesome recipes for preserving, pickling and fermenting, from our very own Alice Johnson!
Alice Johnson

Travel

A Stay At Mitchelton Hotel, Nagambie (+ Giveaway!)

Lucy's review of Victoria's newest boutique hotel, designed by Hecker Guthrie – and your opportunity to WIN a stay!

Small Business

Knowing When To Call In The Experts, According To KeepCup

This Melbourne-born business has taken the world by storm, but they haven't gone it alone.
Fiona Killackey

Art

An Exhibition of Modernist Suburban Homes, Painted In Brilliant Detail

Artist Robyn Sweaney looks back to the modernist homes of the 1960s, in a new exhibition at Arthouse Gallery in Sydney.

Every Painting Tells A Story

Uncovering The Hidden Symbolism In NGA's New Blockbuster: 'Love & Desire'

Our collaboration with National Gallery of Australia, celebrating their incredible new exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces from London...

Similar Stories

Homes

Orlando Mesiti and Gregg Smith

A grand Victorian terrace home in St Kilda, decorated with restraint.
Lucy Feagins

Homes

Vaucluse Family Home

This serene family home combines Art Deco details with contemporary artwork and antique furniture.

Homes

A Photographer + Stylist's Vibrant Family Home

Melbourne photographer Derek Swalwell and stylist Georgia Young’s modernised 1960s family home in Elsternwick.