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Revisiting A Magical Inner City Treehouse

Homes

We’ve featured hundreds of homes over the years on The Design Files, and if I’m honest, some of them don’t quite get all time in the spotlight that they deserve. With COVID-19 currently putting our regular photoshoots on hold, we’re taking this opportunity to dip back into the archives on occasion, revisiting some of our favourite homes that may have slipped under your radar the first time.  

This week we’re bringing you the inner-city Melbourne treehouse of Fleur Glenn, designed by architect Murray Barker.

We caught up with Fleur again to find out what’s changed for her since early 2019, and how she’s navigating this challenging time.

13th May, 2020

The very special Clifton Hill home of Fleur Glenn, designed by friend and architect Murray Barker. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

View from the dining to the living room and front garden. Wall lights are Artemide Dioscuri 140 from Artemide. Living room pendant light is Muuto Fluid pendant light (large) from Surrounding. Artwork on the wall is ‘Makeshift Jockey’ by Lucas Golding. Oar on the wall was brought home on a plane from Brunswick Heads by Fleur’s daughter three years ago. The grandfather clock belonged to Fleur’s father, who died six years ago at the age od 100. ‘I love the sound of it chiming, although it is very loud in my small house’ Fleur says.

View of the bookshelves which continue up the staircase. The natural, oiled timber column is visible in front. Fleur, Murray and their builder Hamish traveled to the timber yard together to pick out their favourite. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘I found this old printer’s tray years ago at the Camberwell Market’, tells Fleur, ‘it’s been fun finding tiny things to sit in it’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

View of the kitchen from the dining room. Guni Semi Pendant (large) from Surrounding. Green splashback tiles are Inax Biyusai from Arte Domus. Wall light is Artemide Dioscuri 140 from Artemide. ‘We’ve exposed the galvanised steel structure which supports the stair to the bedroom above, the timber shelves wrap around the diagonal columns.’ Murray explains, ‘The grooved cupboards are a reference to Fleur’s old kitchen in her original home.’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The southern shady garden view of the house. The reading room upstairs angles to look out at the large snow gum. The rain chain was at the request from Fleur and carries rain from the small roof. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

View from the living room to the dining and kitchen, as well as the deck and garden (partially established here by Bush Projects Landscape Architects). Another piece from the early morning group trip to the timber yard, which according to Fleur is ‘lovely to hug’.  Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

View down the staircase. The large slider on the left opens the reading room and main bedroom into one space. The roof/ceiling kinks to allow for the existing trees. The painting of the hydrangeas above the staircase is by Fleur’s mother. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

View from the reading room. Fleur shares, ‘This is my mother’s desk. My mother died 30 years ago. I love sitting at her desk high in my study looking out through the trees. The birds watch me and when I open the little windows I think one day one might fly in and sit on the desk as I write. The desk still holds some of mum’s old notebooks and photos.’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The pieces on the wall were made by Fleur when she studied art/textiles at the old Preston Institute (now RMIT Bundoora). ‘I made my own felt and paper and stitched on things I collected on walks’, Fleur tells. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

View from the kitchen through the hallway and into the guest bedroom. Fleur’s father collected old books, and she says she has ‘inherited a love for them’. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

View from the main bedroom into the ensuite. The story behind the Leaf Collector banner above the windows, according to Fleur – ‘A few years ago I had a stall at the Rose Street market in Fitzroy. I was the Leaf Collector. I painted leaves and made things out of them. My house is now filled with leaves that I love. It is funny now that I live amongst all these beautiful trees, I find eucalyptus leaves blow in all the time. I find them everywhere- in the living room, the bedroom and even in my bed sometimes.’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The main bathroom. Fleur collected the antique tiles at markets, and Murray incorporated them into the bathroom vanity. Wall light Artemide Dioscuri 140 from Artemide. Tap fittings Icon collection from Astra Walker. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The small window connects to the high hall void, it lets in the morning light, additional cross ventilation. The cupboard handles are The Dots from Muuto. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

(From left to right) Murray Barker, Fleur’s daughter Hazel Brown with her son Earl, Fleur Glenn. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The exterior of the happy home. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 13th May 2020

‘Often, when I am walking along the street, I look up and see my house among the beautiful gum trees and I can’t believe it is really mine. I am so lucky.’– Fleur Glenn

Fleur Glenn has been living on the same Clifton Hill block for over 30 years, across multiple dwellings. In 2016, she subdivided the site to build her ideal treehouse-inspired home. She explains, ‘I moved into the new house in August 2018, and it feels so luxurious and wonderful.’

The design of this idiosyncratic home developed in an appropriately unconventional way, as Fleur sought out her daughter’s friend Murray Barker as the architect for the project. Fleur had met Murray socially and knew he would be responsive to her ideas, and that she wouldn’t ‘feel pushed into a house design that really wasn’t me.’

The project brief was for a treehouse, and Murray explains, ‘Fleur had her own interesting ideas for the type of home she wanted to build.’ As his first solo architectural project, Murray highlights being ‘initially daunted by the task of taking on a full new build, but Fleur’s trust gave me confidence.’ Murray advocated for a varied spatial plan that respected Fleur’s desire for a modest size, but introduced variety to the compact footprint. The clean and considered lines of the building offer sites of retreat, as well as zones for sharing with family and friends.

When we last spoke Fleur told us she said she ‘could go on and on about the things I love about this house,’ and that feeling has only intensified during the current pandemic. Normally an admin worker at a sexual health clinic, at 64 years of age and possibly at risk of the virus, Fleur has been on leave and isolating at home. ‘I have spread my writing out all over the dining table. I have borrowed a keyboard with the dream of learning to play with a tutor on YouTube, but it is so hard and frustrating that I have almost given up on this,’ she says. ‘Upstairs I sit at my desk and look out into my gum trees and over the changing world of autumn and families walking the streets.’ One project she’s been tackling is building a chook house, using muddled building materials collected on neighbourhood walks. 

Normally people relish the end of a home renovation, but ever since its completion 18 months ago, Fleur has been itching to tackle another project. ‘I still miss the excitement of the design and build. I wish Murray and I could work on another project and, of course, we’d do it all again with Hamish and his people from Sanctum Homes. It was such fun,’ she says. ‘Often, when I am walking along the street, I look up and see my house among the beautiful gum trees and I can’t believe it is really mine. I am so lucky.’

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