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A Warm And Wonderful 1950s Home In North Warrandyte

Homes

Today we’re bringing you the North Warrandyte home of designer Vy Costen, marine scientist Andrew Costen, their three boys Jack (7), Charlie (5) and Finlay (2), and two dogs Duffy and Niccolette. The Costen family are actually next door neighbours to Anna Byrnes and her two boys, whose equally amazing mid-century home we brought you a few weeks ago! It seems like every second home out in Melbourne’s outer north-east is an architectural masterpiece. 

This 1950’s house is located in an estate on the former land of Koornong Experimental School, which operated in the 1940s. Many of the home’s original features remain today, including the wonderful exposed stone walls, timber panelling, and a charming 1950s kitchen!

20th May, 2020

The Costens! From left: Finlay (2), Andrew, Charlie (5), Vy (wearing a sample from her knitwear label Stay Hungry), and Jack (7). Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Borge Mogensen couch, Peter Hvidt coffee table, and Peter Hvidt occasional chair (just out of shot) all purchased from Grandfather’s Axe. Pampa cushion, sheepskin from Society of Wanderers. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Alfred Christensen ‘Boomerang’ dining chairs, Finn Juhl side table, Borge Mogensen couch – all purchased from Grandfather’s Axe. Grahame King lithograph, Pampa cushion. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Vy and Andrew hope to eventually restore the gas fireplace to the original two-way model. Armadillo & Co rugs. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Large print from Middle of Nowhere alongside various vintage finds from Chapel Street Bazaar and op-shops. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Original room partition, Alfred Christensen ‘Boomerang’ dining chairs, and Parker dining table that came with house (where the family signed the purchase papers!) Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Items in the kitchen include those by Leaf and Thread and Sophie Moran. Planter by Pop & Scott. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Many of the kitchen items are op-shop finds or purchases from the annual Pottery Expo Warrandyte. Philippe Starck juicer. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Original bedhead joinery and wall lamp, Pop & Scott ‘Dreamweaver’ pendant light, Ikea Mirror, Bill Coleman ink drawing, Mark Gambino ceramic pot. The bedlinen a mix of Sage and Clare and Deiji Studios. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

The house’s original woollen stripe wallpaper! Wrapped knot wall hanging made by Vy, and Jai Vasicek tile. Other paintings and items are vintage. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Bush-scape views from the main bedroom! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Original woollen stripe wallpaper, wrapped knot wall hanging made by Vy, and Jai Vasicek tile. Other paintings and items are vintage.  Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Hand shadows print from Hello Lunch Lady. ‘Emotions’ illustration in blue frame by Liv Whitehouse. Wrapped knot wall hanging, knitted monkey and yarn wrapped branches all made by Vy. Bedlinen is a mix of Sack Me and Goosebumps. Cushions and ottoman by Sage and Clare. Rug by Armadillo & Co. Vintage kerosene chests used as a bedside table. Pop and Scott pot.

 

Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Hand shadows print from Hello Lunch Lady.  The wrapped knot wall hanging and yarn wrapped branches are both made by Vy. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Vintage print, vintage wooden sculpture that Andrew re-sanded and painted, DAB radio, and Italian glass pendant light that came with the house. Blue drinking straw sculpture made by Vy. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

The house was built between 1953 and 1955. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

All the stone work in this house is believed to be by local stonemasons McAulay Brothers who did a lot of work in the area for Robin Boyd. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 20th May 2020

‘In my heart I knew it was ‘the one.’ This was going to be our forever home.’ – Vy Costen

Five years ago, designer Vy Costen and her husband marine scientist Andrew Costen went searching for a family home where they could establish roots and become involved in their local community. After 12 months, they finally came across this North Warrandyte home, and despite needing updating and Vy being eight months pregnant with their second child (!), they decided to buy it. ‘I could tell there was a lot of work to be done just from the images online, so I gave Andrew every reason not to buy it, but in my heart I knew it was “the one,”’ says Vy. ‘This was going to be our forever home.’

The house is situated on the former Koornong Experimental School site that operated here in the 1940s. Following its closure, the site was subdivided into 12 blocks, with Vy and Andrew’s house completed on one of four vacant lots between 1953 and 1955. Vy says, ‘The original owners, Bruce and Lee Souter, considered this place to be their little slice of paradise. We are the second owners, having purchased it directly from the Souter estate.’

Vy and Andrew have attempted to learn more about their home’s history, particularly its unknown designer. ‘We may never solve the mystery, as drawings and other paperwork disappeared following Lee’s passing just after her 100th birthday. The local council only has records dating from 1965, and online searches have proved fruitless,’ Vy says. ‘Any help with identifying the architect would be most welcome!’ 

Since moving into the home, the couple have made several cosmetic updates, such as polishing the existing concrete slab and establishing a native garden. The walls were painted with Lexicon Quarter in satin finish to create a blank canvas, then the fireplace and floor-to-ceiling kitchen cabinetry was painted with  Lexicon Half in gloss for easy cleaning. The only structural change has been converting one of the bathrooms into a workplace for Vy, who is a designer and owner of the soon to be launched handmade knitwear label, Stay Hungry.

Among the untouched original features that remain are the blackbutt timber ceilings (that have ‘never been damaged by water or refinished’ says Vy), the kitchen, including its downlight fittings and joinery, and a pool that’s been unused for 35 years! 

Most of the furnishings here are vintage Scandinavian pieces chosen to ground the space. ‘This is all softened up with lots of greenery, books, art and little handmade treasures we’ve made or found in vintage bazaars over the years,’ says Vy. ‘With three young boys ruling the space, it’s all pretty robust and relaxed as a whole.’

The family hope to sympathetically extend this house in the near future, which will most likely involve introducing some private zones for their growing children and restoring the pool. ‘Three boys and two dogs in a two bedroom open-plan home can be challenging!’ Vy says. ‘We plan to reinstate the pool with the extension, but currently it is only good for pobblebonk frogs to swim in.’ 

Vy and Andrew have no regrets moving to this home, describing it as a well-designed, little glass pavilion set amongst the beautiful Warrandyte bush-scape. ‘It’s perfectly positioned and orientated with heaps of room for our boys to play,’ Vy says. ‘We love the clean lines, the floating roofline and that unmistakable mid-century vibe. It has a soul.’

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