Patrick and Ally Smith were renting a home in Melbourne’s south east in 2016 when they received a notice to vacate. The couple didn’t know if they were in a position to buy at the time, but with few options on the rental market, they decided to speak to a mortgage broker. ‘After getting pre-approval, we had three weeks to find a house to allow us time to move in before our eviction date!’ says Ally.
The couple searched for a suitable home across 30 suburbs, and inspected over 30 properties, before coming across this townhouse in Northcote. The property is one of four on the block built in 2009.
Ally confesses, it wasn’t love at first sight. ‘To be honest, we weren’t particularly taken with the house when we first saw it… Townhouses of the noughties aren’t exactly known for their architectural features, and this was no real exception.’
While the home didn’t appeal to Patrick and Ally on an emotional level, it did tick all the boxes they were looking for, including a garage and some outdoor space. They made an offer the following day.
The first thing Patrick and Ally did after moving in was improve the home’s serious lack of storage. They also updated the previously concrete courtyard by engaging Pippi’s Plants to plant a lush vertical outdoor garden, and replaced the kitchen and laundry backsplash with Spanish handmade ceramic tiles.
The most significant update to the home occurred more recently, motivated by the arrival of Ally and Patrick’s son Hugo, and the need to work from home throughout COVID-19 lockdowns. ‘We toyed with the idea of finding a bigger house, but we were priced out of the family home market in our beloved Northcote. This forced us to reexamine our 90 square metre floor plan and any space we had that perhaps could be better utilised,’ says Ally.
The only possibility was the garage. ‘I recalled reading an article on your site about a townhouse in Clifton Hill where the garage had been converted into a living space, and this provided the inspiration we needed to turn our dark and dingy one car garage into a home office,’ says Ally.
To transform the garage, Ally and Patrick covered the concrete slab with an epoxy coating; clad two of the walls in plywood; painted a wall and ceiling in warm and earthy Dulux Clay Pipe; installed a new door; and hung a dusty pink curtain to divide the room and hide mess (especially handy during Zoom calls!). Most of the works were DIY jobs completed by Patrick.
‘I never thought I’d say this, but our garage is actually now one of my favourite rooms!’ says Ally of the completed project. ‘I’m really proud of the transformation that we have been able to achieve on a relatively small budget. It’s a really beautiful space to work from with its warm and soothing colour palette and an abundance of natural light flooding in.
‘We’ve also been able to reclaim precious space which has made our home function better than it ever has, and ultimately this has allowed us to stay in the area that we love.’
Ally has continued a thoughtful use of colour throughout the home by painting calming Dulux Mossa walls in Hugo’s room, and showcasing her significant art collection. 20 paintings by artist Fredrick Salt are displayed in the home, alongside a painting by Ally’s mum Tina Sammassimo above the living room bench seat. ‘She would have only been 20 or 21 when she painted it, but it has a darkness and maturity that belies her years. I was very fortunate to grow up in a home surrounded by art and I really have my mum to thank for fostering my own appreciation and love of art,’ says Ally.
Furnishings are a mix of designer and vintage pieces, which Ally is constantly editing to ensure the interiors remain practical and uncluttered. Both she and Patrick are pharmacists by trade, but Ally’s passion for design has recently led her to study interior decorating and start her own styling studio, Alessandra Smith Design.
Needless to say, Ally and Patrick are very happy they took a leap of faith to buy and transform an initially uninspiring home. ‘We had never lived in Northcote before, but after having lived here for six years, we can absolutely say we never want to leave! We really feel like we were meant to have landed in this part of Melbourne, and are so grateful to have received that original notice to vacate!’