Swallow House by Carole Whiting.


Inside A Light-Filled, Tiny North Melbourne Terrace Renovation

At just 81 square metres, this North Melbourne terrace is one of the smallest projects interior design studio Carole Whiting has ever worked on.

The brief was to turn a series of small, dark rooms into a light-filled and cohesive residence for the client and her young son. By retaining period features and bringing in subtle references to the owner’s Portuguese roots, the resulting Swallow House achieves its goal of creating a calming family home that still felt like ‘it had been there for years’.

Christina Karras

All appliances Fisher & Paykel.

Anne black wall hooks from Elevate Design. Lamps from Etsy. Tap by Astra Walker. Door cabinetry from Society Inc. Rugs and basket under bench from IKEA.

The renovations removed bulky hallways to make a new streamlined kitchen on one side, with a pantry, hidden fridge, and laundry grouped together the opposite end.

A benchseat makes the most of space. Artwork by Kir Larwell. Chairs by Toogood. Koushi light pendant from Merci Merci Paris. Lamp from K5. Benchseat upholstered in Unique Fabrics.


Artwork by Julie Patterson. Vibia Pin Floorlamp from Koda Lighting. Vase from SPence and Lyda. Cabinet handles from Society Inc. Stolab Chair from Thonet. Marni Coloured Table from Farfetch. Timber table from K5. Rug by Halcyon Lakes. Sofa from MCM house.

High ceilings also provide a greater sense of space in the living room.

Light from Society Inc. Artwork by Sophie Westerman. Cars (in arch) from op shop. TAB loorlamp from Euroluce.

Ceramic swallows from Portugal. Table from K5.

Meihua Mural Wallpaper from Verve Designer Collections. Headboard upholstered in Mokum Fabric. Karl Andersson Lollipop Table from K5. Quilt from In Good Company. Linen from Nest Homewares. Wallpaper MEIHUA MURAL WALLPAPER from VERVE Designer Collections.

The blue-toned wallpaper enhances the original period arches in the bedroom.

Rockwell basin from Old English Tapware Company. Taps from Astra Walker. Door handle from Pittella. Wall lights from Merci Paris. Mirrors from Society Inc. Tiles from Urban Edge.

Bath from ACS bath. Towel rail and shower curtain from Society Inc.

Christina Karras
22nd of August 2023
Interior Design

North Melbourne, VIC/Wurundjeri Country

Having moved from Portugal to Australia, the owner of this North Melbourne terrace was dreaming of a calming house that reminded her of home.

Carole Whiting was engaged to refresh the traditional 1880s residence, with a brief to increase the home’s functionality and feel. But expanding the compact floorplan of 81 square metres with interconnecting hallways and minimal natural light provided a challenge.

The client was especially conscious of ending up with a house that wasn’t too polished or ‘modern Australian’, so Carole says it was important the new renovations were sympathetic to the period features of the building. They collaborated with boutique building company Abode Restoration, and decided to render the existing brick walls rather than plaster them, to retain as much internal space as possible, while new lights and copper ducting were bought in to enhance this rustic character.

On the ground floor, hallways were removed and the ‘wasted space’ was cleverly repurposed to create a laundry and powder room. A large skylight was introduced in the kitchen, bringing much-needed natural light into the originally dark area, and a new streamlined galley-style kitchen effectively doubled the size of the original kitchen!

Injecting various shades of blue was another key part of creating the home’s cohesive and calming atmosphere.

More muted tones in the kitchen transition into stronger tones in the entryway, creating an almost sky-blue backdrop for a flock of ceramic wall-mounted swallows — a common symbol in Portugal, representing love, loyalty, hope, and new beginnings. It’s a sweet and subtle feature that also represents the client’s migration to Australia, Carole explains.

The furnishings feature a mix of new and old pieces that were refreshed with paint to fit the new space. Other personalised touches include the hand-painted blue wings across the steps of the white curved staircase, while the arched insets in the main bedroom was updated with a blue-toned illustrated wallpaper reminiscent of Portuguese tiles.

Now, the aptly named Swallow House is a homage to both the owner and the building’s past, transformed by its serene interiors.

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