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A Local Post Office Transformed Into A Meaningful Family Home

Homes

Home has been an important place for everyone this year, but this is particularly true for photographer Alexandrena Parker and carpenter Michael Riseley. Alexandrena has cystic fibrosis, and is therefore at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, so the couple have been isolating at home with their three-year-old daughter Ruby since the beginning of March. 

Luckily, this family lives in a pretty stellar home. Originally the Beaconsfield Upper post office, (locals still affectionately refer to the building as ‘the old postie’), Alexandrena and Michael bought the property in 2016 in a state of disrepair, and spent two years bringing it back to life!

16th September, 2020

Dress by Wolfe Child. Silver metal Speedster ride-on-car from Temple & Webster. Rug from Tribe Home. Ladder from Red Hill House. Couch from Oz Design. Table from Michael Riseley. Glassware by Country Road. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling (done virtually!) – Rebecca Vitartas

Menu Dancing Pendant light from Leo & Bella. Coffee table made by Mike. Cushions from Adairs. Rug from Tribe Home. Ladder from Red Hill House. Couch from Oz Design. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Rug by Tribe Home. Two line drawings from Mondo Cherry. On the second shelf: ‘Josephine’ print by Alexandrena Parker. ‘Menu Dancing’ pendant light from Leo & Bella. Coffee table made by Mike. Throw by Adairs. Silver metal Speedster ride-on-car from Temple & Webster. Couch from OzDesign. Walls painted with Dulux Lexicon Quarter. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

This is Mike and Alexandrena’s favourite room in the house. ‘When we purchased the building the fireplace had big wooden boards tacked over it, holes in the walls from old post boxes, 80’s style carpet covering the floors and lime green paint finishing the windows!’ Togo couch by Ligne Roset from DOMO Australia. Stool from Nick Pearce Furniture. Pendant by Coco Flip. Wall rosette by Skinny Wolf. Rug from HK Living. Walls painted with Dulux Lexicon Quarter. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

‘Menu Dancing’ pendant light from Leo & Bella. Coffee table made by Mike. Vase on coffee table by Oh Hey Grace. Lamp from Provincial Living. Rug from Tribe Home. Cushions from Adairs. Ladder from Red Hill House.  Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

‘Menu Dancing’ pendant light from Leo & Bella. Coffee table made by Mike. Vase on coffee table by Oh Hey Grace. Wall hanging above fireplace by Mondo Cherry. Couch from OzDesign. Walls painted with Dulux Lexicon Quarter. Throw from Adairs. Silver metal Speedster ride-on-car from Temple & Webster. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

‘Dogs that live in Yuendumu’ painting by Senita Napangardi Granites from Warlukurlangu. Togo couch by Ligne Roset from DOMO Australia. Pendant by Coco Flip. Ceramics from Oh Hey Grace. Wall rosette by Skinny Wolf. Rug from HK Living. Walls painted with Dulux Lexicon Quarter. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Alexandrena with three-year-old Ruby, who she describes as an ‘all-round legend!’ Togo couch by Ligne Roset from DOMO Australia. Vases in the background by Oh Hey Grace. Ruby is dressed in Goldie + Ace. Alexandrena’s collection of film cameras can be seen behind her on the shelves! Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Mike custom made the dining table from Oregon wood. Secondhand dining chairs from the op-shop. Ceramics by Robert Gordon. Glassware from Country Road. Cushion in background from Pony Rider. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Mike custom made the dining table from Oregon wood. Secondhand dining chairs from the op-shop. Ceramics by Robert Gordon. Glassware from Country Road. Cushion in background from Pony Rider. The splash-back tiles were handmade in Morocco by Tiles of Ezra. Ceramic vase on shelf by Oh Hey Grace. Pendant light by Normann Copenhagen. Chopping board from Nick Pearce Furniture. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Mike custom made the dining table from Oregon wood. Secondhand dining chairs from the op-shop. Ceramics by Robert Gordon. Glassware from Country Road. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Mike and Ruby nestled in the window seat below some family portraits. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

The hallway is still in original condition. Pendants from Beacon Lighting. Stool by Nick Pearce Furniture. Bench from Imprint House. Vintage hats on the wall. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

‘Avalon Kids on Dirt Track’ by Alexandrena Parker. Hooks and bench from Imprint House. Soft toy camera from Numero 74. Basket from Oli Ella. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Bathroom towels by købn. Stool by Robert Gordon. Vanity by Nick Pearce Furniture. Bath by ACS. Bed linen by Bed Tonic. Navy pillow cases and oatmeal sheet from Bed Threads. ‘Jackson Hole Herd’ photo by Alexandrena Parker. Painting by Kate Eliza. Stool by Nick Pearce Furniture. Pendants from Beacon Lighting. Room painted with Dulux Lexicon Quarter. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

‘Land of the Roses’ wallpaper from Jimmy Cricket. Camomile London bedding from Mondo Cherry. Horse cushion from Mini Rodini. Mustard cushion and bunting from Numero 74. Vintage knitted doll purchased at Broken Hill op-shop. Swan artwork by Tamar Mogendorff from Hello Little Birdie. Vintage desk purchased on Gumtree. Rainbow toy from Grimms. Rug from Oh Happy Home. Heico mushroom light by Egmont Toys from Kid Store. Bed and bedside table were vintage finds on Ebay. ‘I purchased the vintage chalk boardfrom op shop when I was about 20 years old for my future child because I loved it so much!’ says Alexandrena. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Interior design – Hide and Sleep. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Vintage doll dress photography series by Ilona Nelson from Signed + Numbered. ‘Land of the roses’ wallpaper from Jimmy Cricket. Mini vintage kitchen. Stool by Nick Pearce Furniture. Basket from Kmart. Broom from Honey Bee Toys in Armadale. Assorted kitchen toys from Honey Bee toys Armadale and Kmart. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Interior design – Hide and Sleep. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Dress is handmade by Wolfe Child. Toy soft camera and bunting from Numero 74. Basket from Kmart. Round cushion by Muskhane from Mondo Cherry. ‘Land of the roses’ wallpaper by Jimmy Cricket. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Interior design – Hide and Sleep. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Mike made this backyard cubby where an old garden shed used to stand in the early days of the pandemic. Ruby dressed in Goldie + Ace. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Inside the cubby – look at that light! Kitchen toys from Leo and Bella. Raduga Grez wooden tea set. Toys from Aldi. Wooden block stacking toy from Wooden Story. Ball bunting by Muskhane. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

The front of the house. Vintage benchseat from Nook Vintage in Collingwood. Wine barrels from Bunnings. Handmade dress by Wolfe Child. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 16th September 2020

‘It was a constant balancing act to pay homage to the house, whilst making it as practical as possible.’ – Alexandrena Parker

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!

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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