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 Family Home That Pushes The Boundaries Between Art And Design

Interiors

We’ve seen a lot of amazing homes, and one thing we’ve come to notice over the years, are those distinct hallmarks that make a home feel ‘quintessentially Australian’. This isn’t one of those homes.

This is a home with its own unique energy, a home that could easily be in London, Berlin or Paris. It’s a bold, and unapologetically creative space which blurs the distinction between art and design. It belongs to interior designer Kate Challis and her family.

22nd April, 2019

The Fitzroy home of interior designer Kate Challis and family. Photo mural by Melbourne artist Valerie Sparks. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Interior designer Kate Challis at home. Photo mural by Melbourne artist Valerie Sparks. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Incredible dining room, with custom pendant light by Christopher Boots. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Looking through to the formal lounge room. Frigerio Armchairs (1970) reupholstered in hot pink velvet! Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Formal lounge room, with Frigerio Armchairs (1970) reupholstered in hot pink velvet, and 1970s Fratelli Toso Murano chandelier! The deep sea green paint on the walls was inspired by Margaret Preston’s work ‘Western Australian Gum Blossom’ (1928). Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

The Ora desk lamp by melbourne designer Ross Gardam. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Incredible attention to detail in this richly layered home! Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Cole & Son cloud wallpaper at the end of the hall. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Cole & Son cloud wallpaper in the stairwell. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Cole & Son cloud wallpaper. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

The new rooftop terrace, created over the rear garage. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Laundry. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

A dramatic bathroom, with hand-made Moroccan tiles by Popham. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Master bedroom. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Lucy Feagins
Monday 22nd April 2019

‘I wanted to create an immersive atmosphere, in the tradition of grand homes of the past.’ – Kate Challis.

Behind an unassuming Victorian shopfront on Fitzroy’s Gertrude st, is this incredibly creative home, which brings together historic art references, local craftsmanship, and a truly incredible use of colour!

Interior Designer Kate Challis purchased the property over 15 years ago. ‘Gertrude street was quite different back then…’ she recalls ‘…no barista insight and a rough reputation, but we loved it’. What they purchased was a charming 19th-century shop front with an adjoining residence, and Kate and her family lived here for a number of years, before embarking on a proper renovation.

In collaboration with Ridolfi Architecture, Kate completely reworked the original floorplan, moving the kitchen and dining to the street-facing end of the home, and the formal lounge to the rear. The former shop window was blanketed in double-glazed frosted glass, ensured a sense of privacy, whilst remaining sympathetic to the neighbouring shopfronts. Finally, the family added an extra bedroom upstairs, and roof garden above the rear garage.

In a decorative sense, the project has been heavily influenced by Kate’s love for art (she has a PhD in art history) and is inspired specifically by two Australian female artists, Margaret Preston (1875 – 1963) and Valerie Sparks (b. 1961). The deep sea green paint in the formal lounge was inspired by Margaret Preston’s work ‘Western Australian Gum Blossom’ (1928) and painted in a distemper finish, popular in the nineteenth century. Meanwhile, the incredible photo mural on the walls in the kitchen/dining rooms was a collaboration with Valerie Sparks, a Melbourne artist, and is a customisation of her ‘Le Vol’ series’. Other bespoke details include a lighting commission above the dining table by Melbourne designer Christopher Boots, and custom pendants by local lighting studio Volker Haug.

‘I set out to see how far I could push the boundaries between art and design’ Kate explains. ‘As a family home it needed to be functional, but I also I wanted to create an immersive atmosphere in the tradition of grand homes of the past.’

Since launching her interior design practice in 2015, the home has also become a valuable example of Kate’s distinctive design aesthetic, including her love of brave colour, and her tendency towards bespoke details, often created in collaboration with local artists. Kate often brings her clients home to show them what can be achieved within a period home, and give them the courage to be bold!

Kate has relished the opportunity to design her own home without compromise, and to add a new layer to this building’s rich history.  ‘The property was originally a turn of the century shop front… and by the early 1970s was home to Melbourne’s first feminist bookshop, the ‘Shrew Women’s Bookshop’ Kate explains. ‘With such a strong and powerful history, I wanted it to feel otherworldly and be totally unexpected’.

This Week

Family

Journalist Nas Campanella On Parenting With Blindness + Building Disability Awareness

How ABC journalist Nas Campanella navigates motherhood as a person living with blindness and Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

On The Market

A Rare Robin Boyd House Is Available To Rent

You could be the next tenant of this house, designed by Australia's most famous architect.

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras
  18 hours ago

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Creative People

A Noosa Design Studio's Chic New Office, Inside A Former 80s Club

CLO Studios' have transformed an old music club into their dreamy new office space, and it's filled with eclectic design inspiration!
Christina Karras

Creative People

How Powerhouse Designer, Yuwaalaraay Woman Lucy Simpson Is Making Waves

How the Sydney based designer weaves stories of Country and culture into her collaborations with leading brands, such as JAG and Breville.
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Dani McKenzie’s Detailed Paintings Look Like Familiar Photographs

The Melbourne artist recreates local streetscapes and everyday scenes, filled with intimate reminders of our own inner-worlds.
Christina Karras

Interiors

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras
  10 hours ago

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Interiors

Before + After: A Dated Brick Home Turned Coastal Holiday Pad

Dark timber and dated tiles have been replaced with light and bright interiors in this Mornington Peninsula beach house.
Christina Karras

Homes

A Cosy Retro Rental In Melbourne’s North West

Dog lovers Michelle Campbell and Katy Louise share their warm and welcoming rented home in Maidstone.

Sustainable Homes

How An Architect Turned This 1930s Bungalow Into A Sustainable Family Haven

Architect Emily Sandstrom's warm family home runs off solar power, with a vegetable garden and impressive entertaining area hidden inside!
Christina Karras

Design Eye

How to Create Fun + Playful Interiors, With Studio Joy’s Kristel Marshall

The Melbourne designer shares how to balance minimalism and maximalism with playful colours and bold furniture – in a way that won't date!...
Christina Karras

Art

10 Emerging, Affordable Artists You Need To Have On Your Watchlist!

From ethereal still lifes to striking ceramic work, and meticulous soft pastel drawings, these are the artists to start collecting now!

Similar Stories

Interiors

The Cutest Cubby In Melbourne – Attic Magic!

Design informed by childlike wonder, from Windust Architecture x Interiors.
Miriam McGarry

Interiors

Our Edit Of 15 Dreamy Dining Chairs

Your search for the perfect dining chair ends here. A roundup of designs for all tastes and budgets!
Lauren Li

Roundup

Hello 2019 Victorian Architecture Awards Shortlist

Celebrating design longevity with the State’s top residential architecture projects.
Elle Murrell

This Week

Design Eye

How to Create Fun + Playful Interiors, With Studio Joy’s Kristel Marshall

The Melbourne designer shares how to balance minimalism and maximalism with playful colours and bold furniture – in a way that won't date!...
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Dani McKenzie’s Detailed Paintings Look Like Familiar Photographs

The Melbourne artist recreates local streetscapes and everyday scenes, filled with intimate reminders of our own inner-worlds.
Christina Karras

On The Market

A Rare Robin Boyd House Is Available To Rent

You could be the next tenant of this house, designed by Australia's most famous architect.

Creative People

How Powerhouse Designer, Yuwaalaraay Woman Lucy Simpson Is Making Waves

How the Sydney based designer weaves stories of Country and culture into her collaborations with leading brands, such as JAG and Breville.
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Sustainable Homes

How An Architect Turned This 1930s Bungalow Into A Sustainable Family Haven

Architect Emily Sandstrom's warm family home runs off solar power, with a vegetable garden and impressive entertaining area hidden inside!
Christina Karras

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Family

Journalist Nas Campanella On Parenting With Blindness + Building Disability Awareness

How ABC journalist Nas Campanella navigates motherhood as a person living with blindness and Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Interiors

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras
  10 hours ago

Creative People

A Noosa Design Studio's Chic New Office, Inside A Former 80s Club

CLO Studios' have transformed an old music club into their dreamy new office space, and it's filled with eclectic design inspiration!
Christina Karras

Homes

A Cosy Retro Rental In Melbourne’s North West

Dog lovers Michelle Campbell and Katy Louise share their warm and welcoming rented home in Maidstone.

Interiors

Before + After: A Dated Brick Home Turned Coastal Holiday Pad

Dark timber and dated tiles have been replaced with light and bright interiors in this Mornington Peninsula beach house.
Christina Karras

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras
  18 hours ago

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Art

10 Emerging, Affordable Artists You Need To Have On Your Watchlist!

From ethereal still lifes to striking ceramic work, and meticulous soft pastel drawings, these are the artists to start collecting now!

Similar Stories

Interiors

The Cutest Cubby In Melbourne – Attic Magic!

Design informed by childlike wonder, from Windust Architecture x Interiors.
Miriam McGarry

Interiors

Our Edit Of 15 Dreamy Dining Chairs

Your search for the perfect dining chair ends here.
Lauren Li

Roundup

Hello 2019 Victorian Architecture Awards Shortlist

Celebrating design longevity with the State’s top residential architecture projects.
Elle Murrell

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 bea@thedesignfiles.net