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A True Family Home, Passed Down Over Generations

Homes

Plenty has changed over the life of this 100-year-old property, but at the same time, not much has changed at all. 

Originally built in 1923 with dairy buildings and stables at the rear, the house has been passed down over the same family for generations.

Today, the Moonee Ponds home belongs to the original owner’s grandchild, artist Martin Tighe, and his wife Jennifer Tighe. Since moving here in 1991, the couple have completed three renovations and raised three children in this house, which is reflected in its intimate, layered feel. 

19th August, 2020

The kitchen was refurbished by Cantilever in 2019. The tiles are a tribute to the original dairy fit-out with an original iron window. Anchor ceramics planters . Lidded vessels, banded vases, bowls and small painting by Martin Tighe. Yuko Ando jug and bowl from Kyoto. Vintage ceramic storage jars from op-shop and vintage Chinese teapot. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Jennifer in the courtyard at a Tait Jack + Jil table setting. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Tran Cong Dung woodcut from Vietnam. Selection of vintage ceramics including Denby ‘Chevron’ tea set. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Main painting form Martin’s Werrimul series. Vintage Thonet chairs. Pine dining table made by Martin Tighe. Anchor ceramics planters, vase by Martin Tighe. Wicker plant basket was found in the old dairy. Timber fruit bowl from hard rubbish. Vintage highchair serves dual purpose as a plant stand. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Vintage amber glass jug from op-shop on gorgeous Fibonacci terrazzo island bench. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Side-table and chair both made by Martin Tighe. Paintings clockwise from top left: Kaltukatjara Art by Joy Jackson, print of Station Blacks painting by Russell Drysdale, Richmond Rosalie by Richmond Clendennin, small tin work by Martin Tighe. A small sculpture by Jason Hazle sits on the table. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The living room wall is decorated with objects collected from travel and local op-shops. Traditional masks from New Guinea sit on the wall. Danish rocker by Ole Wanscher with original upholstery purchased from a Modern Times warehouse sale. Coffee table belonged to Jen’s grandmother. Vintage tin vessel, rice basket and kimono printing block from Hakujitsu, Tokyo. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Looking from the hallway into the living room. Vintage TV cabinet picked up from hard rubbish and refurbished to house a new screen. Simpson’s Donkey bronze sculpture by Martin Tighe. Skantherm Shaker fireplace from Oblica. Paintings by Sharon West. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Moving from the lounge room to the front of the house. Paintings by Sharon West. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Paintings from Martin‘s Werrimul series. Vintage globes from Germany. Old school pigeonholes as bookcase. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The guest room is furnished with an old iron bed and vintage textiles, mirrors salvaged from op-shops, and a bedside table made from old timber Golden Crumpet box. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

On the other wall is an old cupboard, a wicker chair from hard garbage, vintage ginger jars and flask, and a school statue of the Virgin Mary. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The library room in the front room. Bookcases and Shaker chair made by Martin Tighe. A selection of teal blue vintage Bitossi/Italian ceramics and another vintage globe from Vienna. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A painting from Martin Tighe’s Picnic at Hanging Rock series sits above the antique dresser in the master bedroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The library room. Bookcase and small painting by Martin Tighe. The chair is a carpenter’s exercise, a study of the Gerrit Rietveld’s Red & Blue Chair. Vintage clocks collected from various travels. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The hallway is adorned with a table made by Martin, and an antique etching which was a wedding gift. Vintage globe and clock. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A corner of the library room. Vintage Pianola was a gift from Jennifer’s uncle and Martin’s graduate ceramics from back in the 80s. Vintage Planet lamp, instruments and metronome. Brandenberg Gate painting by Martin Tighe. Japanese ceramics. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Martin’s painting studio is in the back dairy outbuildings. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Martin’s ceramics in the stable studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Jennifer’s renewed drawing practice is housed in a separate stable studio. The charcoal drawing is part of a series on vintage coats! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The home centres around a courtyard, the original residence at the top and old dairy buildings on either side, with contemporary block of the living room (left) joining the house to the dairy. Santa Fe bench by Martin Tighe. European street signs from overseas travel. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 19th August 2020

‘The house has layers that are a result of all that has happened here and those who have lived here. It says a lot about our life.’ – Jennifer Tighe

This Californian bungalow in Moonee Ponds (seven kilometres north-west from Melbourne’s CBD) belongs to artist Martin Tighe, and Jennifer Tighe, general manager of Tait. The couple have lived in the home since 1991, but the property has actually been in Martin’s family for generations, having been built by his grandparents in 1923!

At the time of building, the house was accompanied by two dairy buildings used for milk bottling, and a stable. ‘Martin’s grandfather was a milkman who would deliver the milk on his horse and cart,’ says Jennifer. ‘The milk would come from the farm in Keilor, and was bottled by the milkman, then delivered. Customers would walk down the side lane and ring a bell to pay their milk bill.’

The dairy buildings ceased their original use in the 1950s, and when Jennifer and Martin moved into the house in 1991, the entire property was a spartan place. ‘All the walls in the house were grey, and there was only one picture on the wall  – a picture of the Pope!’ Jennifer says. ‘Things have changed!’

Martin and Jennifer have completed three renovations over their almost 30 years living in this home. The first renovation, completed in 1996 with architect Bill Wright Smith (who now owns the concrete fabrication business Rutso Concrete) was the most extensive, where the main house was joined to the north-facing dairy building. ‘We added a big family room to join the two spaces, reconfigured the flow of the house, and refurbished the existing industrial spaces,’ says Jennifer. 

This dairy building is now the kitchen and dining room, with original features such as the cathedral ceiling and industrial windows retained. ‘Converting the existing dairy building was a challenge, [requiring] pulling it apart brick by brick to bring it back to contemporary building standards. It would have been much easier to bulldoze the lot and start again,’ says Jennifer. ‘We wouldn’t have it any other way.’

A second renovation in 2004 saw the remaining dairy building converted into a self-contained apartment. 

Finally, in 2019, the couple treated themselves to a kitchen renovation by Cantilever Interiors. ‘All three children had left home and we wanted to spoil ourselves!’ Jennifer says. 

This home’s rich history, paired with Martin and Jennifer’s own memories here, is reflected in its styling. ‘The house has layers that are a result of all that has happened here and those who have lived here. It says a lot about our life,’ says Jennifer. The personality of the residents is further displayed in the use of colour, which is classic, without being strictly neutral. ‘Our heyday was in the ‘80s, so we are also a bit of a fan of a feature wall!’ says Jennifer. Contrasting creamy and warm white walls are painted in Dulux’s Chalk U.S.A. 

Martin and Jennifer raised their three (now adult) children in this home, and they describe it as the perfect country-like setting, despite being on a city main road. ‘There was always something happening, someone calling in, someone opening a bottle of something. It has always had an amazing energy,’ Jennifer says.

Visit this home nowadays and you’ll likely find the couple cooking, reading, playing the piano or working in the studio. ‘We never get bored,’ Jennifer says. ‘We are very lucky and we know it.’

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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