Author John Ed Pearce once suggested that, ‘home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to’. Despite not quite being ‘old’, for many parents of young children, the suburbs they grew up in begin to seem infinitely more desirable as they long for a similar upbringing for their own kids.
For Emma Clark Gratton, content strategist, writer and co-host of The New Normal podcast (alongside Tess McCabe), the idea of returning to the suburb she grew up in was initially daunting. ‘I grew up here’ says Emma Clark Gratton, ‘And I was like, we’re never moving back to Warrandyte! But we had the kids when we were in our last house in the inner north. It was a terrace and the backyard was tiny; the kids used to just run in circles. It wasn’t a good way to live.’ Emma’s husband, Lee (founder of Gratton Design) grew up on a farm in Queensland. ‘He was like, ‘we need space!’ so we knew at some point we might move’.
But the ‘some point’ happened a lot sooner than they had expected. ‘Lee was on a bike riding trip for a fortnight, and I was busy getting Archie into a nearby school and then I was looking online one day and saw this ‘Yarra Yarra’ house come up on The Modernist Australia website. I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Warrandyte! I came out and looked at it and made an offer. Then I texted Lee and said, ‘We’re going to buy a house’ and he was like, ‘Sorry, what?’
Despite Lee only seeing the house on the day of the auction, he instantly joined Emma in appreciation of the hilltop views, riverside location and the idea of living in a Robin Boyd original. After securing the four-bedroom home at auction from its original owners, The Arnold family, the couple set to work restoring it, carefully adhering to the heritage restrictions of the property. This included re-doing the kitchen which was ‘just really low and narrow’, with new cabinetry and tiling, renovating the master bedroom and adding a walk-in wardrobe, fixing the ceilings ‘which hung down a bit’ and adding solar panels, amongst many other small tweaks. The spectacular views, seen through floor to ceiling windows in every room, take centre stage alongside a beautifully designed interior full of Gratton furniture, retro finds and a muted colour palette.
Outside, the couple landscaped, with help from Emma’s brother, and added a separate workspace for Lee to design and create for his business (in addition to his larger workshop in Blackburn). While Emma says there’s still some work to do – ‘There’s a fourth bedroom downstairs which we want to make into more of a guest room’ – Yarra Yarra is well on its way to being this family’s forever home. ‘I feel like we’re never moving again. This is it’.