A Sincere Renovation For This Dreamy Art Deco Home

Bringing a house from one era mindfully into another is a difficult task. But interior designer Seona Kelly-Pearce was up to the job!

By adding their own contemporary art, a mix of vintage furniture and keeping new materials to an absolute minimum, the interior designer and her husband couple completed a sincere yet functional interior renovation that pays respect to the home’s art deco architecture – while making room for a young family of four.

Amy Gilsenan

Photo – Anthony Green.

New materials were kept to a minimum in the renovation, meaning decoration does the bulk of the heavy lifting! Photo – Anthony Green.

The kitchen overlooks the greenery beyond the boundary. Photo – Anthony Green.

A slab of marble creates the benchtop and splashback. Photo – Anthony Green.

Timber and pale marble brighten the room. Photo – Anthony Green.

In-built shelving and desk space maximises space in this clever study nook. Photo – Anthony Green.

Timber, tiles and cabinetry characterise the material expression of the laundry. Photo – Anthony Green.

Two different types of windows in the main bedroom. Photo – Anthony Green.

How good is that corner nook?! Photo – Anthony Green.

A clean and contemporary bathroom. Photo – Anthony Green.

Amy Gilsenan
10th of August 2021

Interior designer Seona Kelly-Pearce and Stephen Ritchie snapped up this solid brick art deco beauty in the Melbourne suburb of Travancore in 2013. The original owner built the semi-detached house in 1939, and the couple planned to live in it with their two sons Chester and Lane, and cat Scout.

Although south-facing with limited natural light, Seona and Stephen knew the house had soul, and could be modernised with a light-touch yet high-impact renovation.

‘The house has good bones. It’s a great example of art deco architecture with original design features: porthole stained-glass windows, solid hardwood flooring, three-metre-high ceilings, steel casement windows, and decorative deco detailing on the mantle, cornices, frieze and ceiling roses,’ says Seona.

Upon moving in, the couple painted, carpeted and replaced old curtains and blinds, then made a conscious decision to introduce as few new materials as possible in order to respect the home’s existing fabric.

‘We wanted to be authentic and sincere with the old lady, who was classic and respectable, and just needed a little dusting off,’ says Seona, who specialises in bespoke interior design. ‘An old window from the laundry was repurposed and installed in the kitchen to increase the amount of natural light and generate symmetry in the kitchen planning. We removed the wall between the kitchen and the living room so we have a larger space and can supervise kids while preparing meals or entertaining, and this also created a meals area that was missing before.’

New kitchen cabinetry and a continuous sand-blasted granite benchtop was installed, and three layers of linoleum were ripped up to reveal timber floors. The bathroom was transformed with terrazzo sourced from Italy to complement the bathroom’s original terrazzo flooring, a second toilet added, and built-in toy storage for bath time. In the oversized main bedroom, new wardrobes and a window seat were built in, while the laundry makeover included new cabinetry, timber benchtops, a clay-fired sink and beautiful brass hardware from LA.

Art was mostly sourced from friend and gallery owner Marita Smith of Gallerysmith. Artists include: Charmaine Pike, Adriane Strampp and Isobel Clement and Aunty Rhonda, a local artist community leader in North Western Victoria.

‘We’ve collected, curated and refurbished the furniture over a lifetime,’ says Seona. ‘There are lots of found objects that have managed to find me and are thankfully hardy. Most of the fine things long ago became victims of toddlers, so we focus on solid timber for its durability and have  mixed collection of old and new ‘heirloom pieces’. The mid-century dining setting has it’s original yellow wool-tweed upholstery and perfect cylindrical legs; which is still relevant today.’

A seamless blend of homely warmth and contemporary style, this art deco renovation truly respects its heritage.

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