Penny Basset and Shane Cracknell have lived in Yarraville — the inner-western Melbourne suburb described by Penny as a ‘country town in the city’ — for over 20 years, since purchasing their first home together.
‘Every time I walk down the main street I run into someone I know,’ says Penny. ‘My brother came out for breakfast with us once and said it felt like we were on the set of Sesame Street.’
There was no leaving their beloved suburb, but the arrival of the couple’s third child required more room for the family to grow.
Large blocks aren’t standard in the area, so they jumped at the chance to buy this 1910 property off market when Penny was 39 weeks pregnant.
The family lived in the home for four years before embarking on a major renovation with Kate Vernon Architects to optimise the property. ‘The house was already large, but we wanted an extra bedroom for guests (Shane’s parents visit from Tasmania pretty regularly) without encroaching on the back garden,’ says Penny.
Kate’s solution was to replace the large shed and carport at the back of the block with a studio. This move provided dedicated space for overnight guests, without impacting the size of the backyard.
‘The footprint is actually smaller than the previous structure so we’ve technically reclaimed some of the garden,’ Penny says.
Inside the home, alterations were made to expand the dining room (creating space for a study and butler’s pantry); relocate the laundry; and replace the kitchen and bathrooms.
There’s plenty of space for all three children and their different interests, as well as the entire extended family over the holidays. ‘We hosted Christmas lunch last year and all 23 of them (plus a dog) stayed overnight!’
Penny says the biggest change to the home was replacing the existing rear of the home with large glass sliding doors. ‘Kate also added windows and skylights throughout the house that let in natural light and offer different views of the garden.’
The interiors designed by Penny, who is currently studying interior design, now exude ‘warm minimalism’ created by soft neutral colours (white, tan, light grey, and blue) and subtle textures (white brick, marble, oak, and concrete).
‘In many ways, selecting the paint colour first streamlined the process for selecting other finishes,’ says Penny. ‘I tried to match the cabinetry, tiles, light fittings, and window furnishings to Natural White that eliminated a lot of options straight up.’
The neutral palette has the effect of drawing the eye to the home’s artwork, such as the Sally Joubert painting above the couch that was an integral part of design vision. Penny explains, ‘Before I’d bought this painting (or even started construction) Kate used to refer to “the Sally Joubert wall” and designed the stud wall and lighting especially for it.’
Last but not least, the renovation has improved the energy efficiency and performance of the home for year round comfort. A 13kW solar system with a battery produces enough electricity for the entire home in summer, and has cut winter bills in half.
Post-renovations, the house feels lighter, both physically and metaphorically, thanks to the natural light and ease of living it provides.
‘We spend a lot more time outdoors than we used to. The kids love the pool and we use the outdoor fireplace most weekends in winter.
‘And, at the risk of sounding dull, it’s also so much easier to keep tidy since renovating – we literally have dedicated drawers for everything, from Lego to wrapping paper to reusable shopping bags.’ Goals!