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A Melbourne Family Home That Feels Like A Warm Embrace

Homes

Renovating a family home is always a highly personal experience, but especially in the case of Rebecca and Tom Long.

Rebecca purchased this Clifton Hill house in 2015 with her husband, actor Tom Long. The pair undertook renovations over 2017-18 while Tom was being treated for multiple myeloma. Tragically, after a long battle, Tom passed away in January 2020.  This home, which holds his beloved family, is part of his legacy. 

Alongside interior designer Kim Kneipp, the couple have created supremely comfortable oasis for their blended family. There’s a very literal, tactile softness in the textured walls, shaggy wool carpets and perfectly worn vintage furniture. A roaring fire in the living room captures a country house feeling, reflective of both Tom and Rebecca’s upbringings.

With its warm, comfortable and natural feel, Rebecca says the home feels like an embrace in times of bliss, and grief since Tom’s passing. Here, home is most certainly where the heart is. 

14th July, 2021

The ‘moochy’ lounge room in the home of Rebecca Long. The carpet is a thick wool that has been embellished with additional Beni Ourain rugs, vintage sheepskins and Moroccan ottomans. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘I love this coffee table that we bought many years ago from Angelucci in Fitzroy.  It has leaf imprints in the top of it and is the perfect table for floor lounging!  I also love these ottomans that I bought from Storie studio in South Melbourne.  They were a lockdown online purchase and I spent many hours meditating on them during isolation,’ says Kim. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rebecca in her incredibly soft lounge! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

This room was tricky to work out at the beginning as it is very long and rectangular like a ‘train carriage’, Rebecca says. Kim divided up the spaces by using different coloured paints for the ceiling and varying up the floor rugs with different textures, like the leather weaved Moroccan. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

An old map passed down through Rebecca’s family. Her uncle Tom had drawn coloured lines, one for where he travelled on his own, one for where he travelled in the war, and one where he travelled with his wife, Vera. Underneath this map is an old engraved bench seat that was salvaged from his home when he died. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The open fire is the heart of the home, used mostly for huddling around in winter and watching the footy. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

There are so many angles to this incredibly textured, characterful room! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rebecca’s mother salvaged the bentwood dining chairs from her old school (Genazzano Ladies College) when they throwing them out many years ago. They were the chairs Rebecca had around our family dining table when she was growing up. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rebecca and Tom had the big long dining table made from a vintage shop on Johnson Street, Collingwood so the house could always be filled with guests. Salvaged dining chairs. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘Our dining room is like a little temple with its churchy window and amber chandelier,’ says Rebecca. Chandelier from eBay. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The kitchen is brighter and more functional than the cathedral-like dining room. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rebecca, Tom and Kim transformed the kitchen from a daggy ’90s reno to a spacious hub. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Rebecca’s childhood chest of drawers, they’ve been with her in every house! A hanging rack made by Tom from an old baguette tray and hooks from The Society Inc. Loom rug. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The tiny ensuite was a dingy little bathroom prior to Kim transforming it with some impressive tiles and decadent lights. Sink from Tarlo and Graham. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘My nook is my haven,’ says Rebecca. ‘Tom made the bookshelf behind the bed and it still holds all the books that he was reading. I write here in the mornings when I wake super early. I meditate here, read and sleep. It’s a sacred space for me to be still and quiet and to honour my grief in those very frequent moments where I feel the pain of loss.’ Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The green bathroom is like a Turkish bathhouse! Tiles handmade in Tuscany. Hooks from The Society Inc. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Moody blue paint in this room creates a sense of depth. ‘Like you’re at the bottom of the ocean,’ says Rebecca. ‘Strangely, this would have to be the quietest room in the house. It oozes calm and tranquility. It is where books and games are kept and music lessons are undertaken.’ Nudo rug from Halcyon Lake. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 14th July 2021

‘I do feel “wrapped up” in my home – like I’m in a nest!’ – Rebecca Long

Rebecca and Tom Long bought this Clifton Hill home for their blended family in 2015.

Having both grown up on farms north of Melbourne, the couple loved this home’s country-like feel, being on the doorstep to the creek and local parkland. The location was also close to the hospital where Beck worked, and where Tom was being treated for multiple myeloma.

Interior designer and friend Kim Kneipp came on board to help Beck and Tom renovate their home, removing additional stress during this difficult time. Kim intuited their style perfectly from the beginning, navigating the project’s sensitivities, and sensing what was needed to complete the couple’s vision.

‘Tom was in and out of hospital during this time, and often it was pretty serious, however, he was determined that the renovation keep going,’ says Rebecca. ‘Kim and our builder were completely compassionate, tactfully getting the job done, despite us being absent for some of it.’

The house was mostly transformed through paint, tiles, and custom built cabinetry. Structural changes were contained to the bathroom, and the hallway was widened by one floorboard by Tom and his brother. ‘When he suggested doing this I thought it was a lot of dust for little effect, however, I must say it did make such a difference to be able to see all the way through to the back of the house when you open the front door,’ says Rebecca.

The styling has also made a huge impact on the home, which now feels like a true reflection of Rebecca and Tom. Textures such as sheepskin, leather bean bags, and ottomans for lounging around have created a warm, comforting feel. 

‘It is textural, sensual and cosy. We often mooch around on the lush wool carpet, especially in winter when the open fire is going. I like keeping the light dim, so we have dimmers on all the lighting, and I love the use of lamps and candles,’ says Rebecca. ‘I do feel “wrapped up” in my home – like I’m in a nest!

Tom very sadly passed away in January 2020 – and not long before Rebecca and her sons Satchmo, 16, and Kit, 11, entered lockdown – but this special house remains filled with his love and spirit. ‘Isolation and grief was incredibly challenging because Tom’s physical absence from our home was magnified and relentless, but I also felt held and comforted by the walls of our home, almost like he was wrapping his arms around me,’ says Beck of this incredibly difficult time. 

Beck loves so many elements of the home, but the bedroom nook where she often meditates, reads, and writes is particularly special. ‘Tom made the bookshelf behind the bed and it still holds all the books that he was reading, which were mostly spiritual texts… It’s a sacred space for me to be still and quiet and to honour my grief in those very frequent moments where I feel the pain of loss,’ she says.

‘I am now writing a book about our experience of love, healing, cancer and grief, and I do feel that this home whispers to me, reminding me of the beauty and lightness that reigned over that time.’

Beck and Tom found so much joy in every little detail as they wove aspects of themselves into the fabric of the house. It became incredibly symbolic to their journey to have created a home that reflected them so vividly. ‘The coming home to ourselves and each other felt warm, comfortable and natural – and that is how we wanted our external home to feel’, says Beck.

Here, home is most certainly where the heart is.

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