It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 2013 when this Brunswick East property was for sale, nobody wanted it. Rumour has it the property once had established olive trees along the front, which were removed in the hopes the site would be seen as a worthwhile subdivision for a townhouse development.
‘This was before Brunswick East real estate prices went crazy, and they didn’t succeed in selling the property for what they wanted. Lou stumbled across it when it was off market,’ says designer Kim Kneipp, who purchased the house with her partner Lou Weis, creative director of Broached Commissions.
A quick cosmetic renovation sustained them while Kim was pregnant, before a ‘proper’ renovation commencing in 2014. ‘We were in such a panic to nest that we essentially resigned ourselves to the quickest fabrication process imaginable, that being prefab. We added a new kitchen, dining, lounge room and upstairs parent retreat with an en suite’ says Kim.
With Kim’s styling flair, the home has grown over time to reflect the creative family who live here, including sons Felix, 14, and Max, 8.
Kim’s design explores the ‘wabi’ design philosophy, embracing elegant simplicity, and ‘a love for shadow play’, as described by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki in his book In Praise of Shadows. Rather than opening up the house to the bright northern light, large eaves and internal courtyards and zones have been created throughout, providing spaces with a softer, more diffused light, that gently track the sun’s movements throughout the day.
‘The house is mostly white with shadowy, dark zones, which creates a calm backdrop to frame our timber textures and bright green tropical garden,’ Kim says.
Also integrated into the home are details not obvious to the visitor that hold sentimental value. For example, Lou’s love of St Kilda, where he previously lived, is referenced in the salvaged kitchen timbers.
‘I have a good friend who collects recycled timbers, and I knew he had the old St Kilda Pier in his collection, so when we renovated, I bought pieces from him that were then used to make our kitchen shelves and the front face of our kitchen island,’ says Kim. ‘It was the closest I could get to bringing St Kilda to East Brunswick.’
Once appearing as a ‘respectable Victorian dame invaded by a futuristic robot’ (in Kim’s words!), the use of dark exterior paint, combined with the gradual growth of a jungle-like garden all around have softened the edges of this home, and given it a relaxed, lived-in feel. The family have also created a lush nature corridor for birds and insects here, including a frog pond for nature loving Max!
‘All of the vines and plants have softened the exterior relationship of the house and our front deck recreates my country Queensland childhood, encouraging so much conversation and interaction with neighbours and passersby,’ says Kim.
In keeping with Kim’s design philosophy, this home is humble by design, and luxurious by finish. Interiors are built to be perfectly imperfect, using materials that will age and patina over time, and textures intended to soften with wear.