Photographer Sean Fennessy, and art director and stylist Jessica Lillico (partners in business and life!) spent 18 months searching for a family home to buy, but found few properties they were passionate about, and even less they could afford.
Rather than a specific number of bedrooms or bathrooms, the couple were seeking a certain ‘feeling’ in home – an inspiring environment for them to live and work.
When they came across this 1969 Warrandyte home designed by Alistair Knox, they knew the search was over. ‘It was an easy decision,’ says Jess. ‘We’re big fans of “bush modernism” and Knox homes in particular, so it was a real thrill to find one in our budget.’
Knox designed over 1000 homes between 1946 and 1986, several of which are located in the Melbourne outer north-eastern suburbs of Eltham and Warrandyte. Nearby properties listed on the Victorian Heritage Database recognise the designer and builder as a leading figure in the development of the ‘Eltham style’ of architecture.
‘His homes somehow manage to feel sophisticated yet unpretentious,’ says Jess of Knox’s work. ‘He was probably one of the first Australian building designers to develop a hyperlocal design vernacular and his approach was an early example of sustainable, passive design.’
A huge selling point of the property for Jess and Sean was its near original condition including brick flooring, timber-lined walls, and hefty ceiling beams. ‘These textures are the heart and soul of the home and served as the touchpoint for the sympathetic update of the internal spaces,’ says Jess. ‘During the course of renovating, our motto eventually became “embrace the brown!”’
Architect Adriana Hanna designed the renovations that saw the former kitchen (featuring joinery by AKWT) and bathroom (painted Dulux Baltic Sands) replaced; a new en suite added; and the internal brick walls rendered. Built-in lounge furniture and open timber shelving in keeping with the era was also designed by Adriana, adding structure to the otherwise open-plan living space.
The couple have also worked with Miniscapes to rip out the old overgrown garden and replace this with natives.
Sean and Jess with their children Matilda (2) and Ray (7 months) love their new neighbourhood with its bushy landscape and great sense of community. ‘On one hand there are a lot of families that have been here for generations, which I think speaks volumes about the appeal of the Warrandyte lifestyle,’ Jess says. On the other hand, there are a growing number of inner-north expat families (like us), so it’s been a lovely bonus to meet so many like minded people in a similar stage of life putting down roots.’
Like many Melburnians, Sean and Jess are planning to spend the summer interstate visiting friends and family, over which time they’ll rent out their home via Airbnb (complete with an outdoor bath currently in the works!). Book now for a quiet staycation, or tranquil Melbourne holiday this summer!