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An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

Homes

Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen are both designers by trade, so when it came to purchasing their first home, they were after something in need of a little love. 

The pair found a 1970s apartment in South Yarra, Melbourne that ticked 90 per cent of the boxes (because you can never have it all!), and set out on a major renovation. 

Within six months, almost every inch of the apartment was transformed into the sophisticated home you see today!

25th January, 2023

Vintage Herman Miller arm chair. Vintage Moroccan rug. Striped coffee table from Facebook Marketplace. Soderhamn Sofa by IKEA. Chub Stool in Headland and Big Chub II Stool in Paperbark by Fearon. Taccia Table Lamp from Flos. On timber bench: Bellhop Portable Lamp in Brick Red from Flos. Light Soy Lamp by Heliograf. Artwork left to right: Set of prints by Stephen Baker from ‘Last Light’ series. Set of prints by Caroline Walls from ‘Silhouettes’ series. Landscape paintings by Lola’s great grandfather. Hallway artworks drawn by Lola. Dulux Natural White paint colour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen with dog Ruby. Dulux Natural White paint colour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Vintage Parker dining table. ‘Hoffmann 811’ dining chairs in French Walnut and vintage bar stools from Thonet. Wall lights from About Space. On bench: Poet’s Dream Cake Stand and Poet’s Dream Bowl by Robert Gordon. Bowls by Dinosaur DesignsDulux Natural White paint colour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Striped coffee table from Facebook Marketplace. Boxes of sweets from Florence. Terrazzo coasters made from stone samples. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Vintage marble chess set from Germany. Ceramic from a pottery shop in Lisbon. Dulux Natural White paint colour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Soy bottle print by Billie Justice Thomson. Florence Duomo print from a street vendor in Florence. Vase by Dinosaur Designs. Wall lights from About Space. Lola and Sebastian’s extensive collection of salt and pepper shakers! Dulux Natural White paint colour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Large Branch Vase and Resin Pebble Side Plates by Dinosaur Designs. Crystal glass flutes from op shop. Vintage salt & pepper shakers. Dulux Natural White paint colour.

Fluted glass joinery designed by Lola and Das. Vintage Parker dining table. ‘Hoffmann 811’ dining chairs in French Walnut by Thonet. Kettle by AlessiDulux Natural White paint colour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Polar 450 Wall Light by Ross Gardam. Sebastian’s beloved knife collection, Japanese knives mainly from CIBIPoet’s Dream Cake Stand by Robert Gordon. Bowl by Dinosaur Designs. Dulux Natural White paint colour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Round Stool in French Walnut by Thonet. Dulux Natural White paint colour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Throw from The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Custom walk-through wardrobe designed by Lola and Sebastian. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

‘Verde Alpe’ Green Marble from Peraway Marble. Paloma Moss Green Tiles from National Tiles. Wall light from Sphera. Coral Glass Canister by Hay. Custom fluted glass shower screen designed by Sebastian. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Built-in desk designed by Lola and Sebastian. Vase by Mud. ‘Your Way Now’ print by Caroline Walls. Shogun Table Lamp by Artemide. Vintage Model 503 Armchair by Hans Wegner. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Courtyard which we completely replanted except for an existing tree. Pots from Outdoor Emporium. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 25th January 2023

‘Having so much colour helps create an atmosphere that feels light, fun and a bit cheeky.’ – Lola Digby-Diercks

When looking to buy their first Melbourne home, Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen were willing to sacrifice size for location. 

Their priority was finding an inner-city apartment in a solid building (made from brick or concrete), with enough outdoor space for their dog Ruby.

‘We also knew we wanted to undertake a renovation of some sorts given we both work in architecture and design, so we were looking for a house or larger apartment which needed some work,’ says Lola, who works as an expansion strategist and designer. Sebastian is an architect and director at Stephen Akehurst & Associates.

After a yearlong search, the couple found a South Yarra apartment that met most of their requirements. ‘The building is a 1970s build, which we love. Buildings were built far more solidly than they are now and with quality materials which was important to us,’ says Lola.

‘While the previous owner had undertaken a renovation of their own, there was still a lot of potential to make it our own with a big renovation.’

With their design and architecture skills, Lola and Sebastian were able to completely transform the apartment in just six months. All architectural work was undertaken by Sebastian, who acted as the owner-builder (under the advice of Reece Nicoll of Hemming & Nicoll Construction), with interiors led by Lola.

Renovations involved creating a new bathroom, installing new doors and windows built by LBA Joinery, plastering, reconfiguring the main bedroom, and building new joinery throughout. All that remains of the previous build are the floorboards, kitchen benchtop, and outdoor decking.

Lola and Sebastian designed their apartment to reflect joy. The joinery was specifically created by E&C Joinery with this goal in mind, allowing the couple to display their ‘happiest items’ collected over the years.

‘We knew we wanted to have as many items on display so that they had a place, but also so we were reminded to use special things every day. So often people hide all their beautiful belongings away,’ says Lola. 

Colour was also a key consideration for setting the tone of each space. While the living room is bright, light and airy (painted Dulux Natural White), the bedrooms are block colours, and the bathroom is a moody mix of greens.

‘Having so much colour helps create an atmosphere that feels light, fun and a bit cheeky,’ says Lola. 

The completed home feels relaxed, personal, and refined, and encourages guests to be involved and intrigued. Perfect for two stylish professionals who love to entertain! 

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net