Before this property became photographer Alexandrena Parker and carpenter Michael Riseley’s family home, it was a post office. Originally built in 1914, this post office served Beaconsfield Upper (located 45 kilometres south east of Melbourne’s CBD) for almost 100 years, doubling as a residence for much of that time. The floorplan was tailored to suit this dual purpose, with one large room functioning as the post office on one side, and a living quarters on the other.
The post office eventually moved locations, and when Alexandrena came across the property for sale near Mike’s family home, it had been unoccupied for years. Undeterred by its deteriorated state, Alexandrena became ‘obsessed’ after peeking through the windows, and purchased the property at auction the following week when Mike was at work! ‘Mike was in shock when he realised how much work he had in front of him to get us actually living there!’ she says.
Indeed, bringing the property to a liveable standard was no easy feat! At the time of purchasing, the building had no kitchen or bathroom, just a small tea room with a toilet, and the entire right hand side of the property was one 12-metre long room with no dividing walls. Fortunately, Mike was able to undertake the renovations himself, adding a new 30 square metre extension, and building all the necessary walls to delineate the main bedroom, en suite, main bathroom and Ruby’s bedroom.
One major challenge the couple faced was retaining original features of the home, whilst making the necessary updates for heating, cooling and energy efficiency. This was particularly important, as the property has no gas connection, and the family is unable to use a fireplace due to Alexandrena’s cystic fibrosis. ‘Whilst we love the old charm about the house, it wasn’t always practical to keep all the original wall panelling, because it didn’t have any insulation,’ Alexandrena says. ‘It was a constant balancing act to pay homage to the house, whilst making it as practical as possible.’ Some elements of the original property, such as the hallway, flooring and windows were retained, but the majority of the home today is new construction.
Dulux Lexicon Quarter was selected as the primary white paint colour throughout the home, for its cool undertones. ‘Our Baltic floors throw a lot of yellow, so I used Dulux Lexicon Quarter to add a cooler tone to the walls so they balance each other out,’ explains Alexandrena. ‘I try and complement these neutral tones with furnishings, textures and artwork that is really meaningful and sentimental to us as a family.’
An exception to this otherwise pared back aesthetic is Ruby’s room, which was designed with the help of Hide and Sleep interiors. ‘I wanted to have a bit of fun with Ruby’s room and make it a very memorable room for her. She’s only young once so I wanted it to feel like it was magical and playful,’ says Alexandrena.
It’s been almost 200 days since this family entered lockdown, and despite its challenges, the trio has managed to experience many special moments together, and are especially appreciative of their home’s natural surroundings. ‘We love the huge trees in our area, and the fact that there are often four to five kookaburras along with king parrots and rosellas on our back deck,’ Alexandrena says.
Having been unable to work for the majority of this year, Alexandrena has started an online print shop where you can purchase some of her beautiful photographs – and Michael is taking furniture commissions, too!