Before/After: A Space-Enhancing Historic House Remodel in Melbourne

Carole Whiting spent 20 years producing television commercials while moonlighting as her architect husband’s design sidekick. Eight years ago, she finally signed on full time with his firm. Several design awards, a white-hot laundry room—and a divorce—later, Whiting now runs her own busy South Melbourne design studio leading a team of four.

We happened upon her stylishly practical interiors on Instagram and asked to see more. Here’s a favorite recent project: a new chapter for a compact historic house belonging to a recently married artist and builder and their blended family. The challenges: balancing tradition and modernity, creating order and flow, and keeping the look clean, all Whiting’s specialities.

Photographs by Jack Shelton, unless noted, courtesy of Carole Whiting Interior Design.
Above: Moody and original on the exterior, the late-19th-century North Melbourne Victorian was kept as is: “the only thing we addressed was the ironwork, which we restored and painted black,” says Whiting. Fittingly, the new owners, Soma Giovannini and Tom Carson, together run Adobe Restoration, “a boutique restoration building company.” Photograph by Kit Haselden, courtesy of Adobe Restoration. Above: The interior had been largely stripped of original detailing and lacked a kitchen, but the entry retained its original stair and Baltic pine floor, which was replicated elsewhere. (Scroll down to see some Before shots.) Whiting used the space under the stairwell for “mechanical services, data, bit of plumbing, hot water—all the things that need to go somewhere”—and she inserted a closet in the well next to the stair.
“The people who sold the house were builders who did a quick fix to patch it up for sale,” Whiting tells us. “They pretty much plastered everything up and put in cheap fittings.” Soma and Tom, she reports, plan to stay put and wanted to reinstate a classical look while incorporating “the requisites of modern domestic life.”
Above: Whiting was charged with fitting in a sizable kitchen, plus dining room, living room, home office, laundry, and WC  on the ground floor, which was 860 square feet, and got extended to 914 square feet.
For a sense of openness, she removed the wall that cut off the entry from what became the kitchen. On the left, three-quarter-height pantry cabinets serve as a partition between kitchen and dining room. On the opposite wall, Whiting inserted a combination powder room and laundry—originally two small rooms converted into one and camouflaged behind a central paneled door with the same trio of peg handles as the pantry cabinets.
Above: The north wall, overlooking the garden, was pushed out to extend the kitchen (see floor plan below).
Tom, the builder-owner, loves brick and laid the back wall himself using recycled materials. “There was quite a debate about keeping the brick color,” says Whiting. “I wanted to paint it white. In the end, we left it and I really love it—sometimes you need to be open to input.”
Above: Another of Whiting’s space-enhancing tactics was to establish a materials and color palette and stick to it. Throughout, she introduced wood paneling—”made the old-fashioned way.” And she painted just about everything in Dulux’s Lexicon Quarter, which comes in full, half, and quarter strength (the last is what Whiting used).
The walls are offset by two colors “and no others”: Dulux’s Grey Pebble, shown here on the ash island, puts in an appearance in every room, and all of the house’s dark accents are in a custom-mixed charcoal.
Above: Whiting applied clean white ceramic details as a repeating element: the Porcelain Cabinet Handles, shown here on the paneled door to the WC-laundry, are by Danish ceramic artist Anne Black (they cleverly double as hooks and come in a range of colors and sizes). Apparatus Studio’s Trapeze Pendant in brass and porcelain hangs over the island. Above:  The range is situated at the end of the marble sink counter with an exhaust vent set in a charcoal-painted cabinet. Concealed behind paneled doors, the fridge and freezer are tucked into the extension. All of the appliances are by Fisher & Paykel. The brass fridge/freezer handles are the Como design from Pittella. Above: In the dining room, the original fireplace had been replaced by a modern version. Tom and Soma, in turn, replaced that with a mantel dating from the same period as the house. Whiting flanked it with storage cabinets in Dulux’s Grey Pebble that rest on drawers made of American oak.
Whiting notes the dining room furniture—classic bentwood chairs and the owner’s vintage table—is “lightweight to prevent overcrowding.” The pine flooring was wire brushed for texture and finished in a gray to counter the yellowing and “give it more of an oak vibe.”
Above: The oak “bench” extends to the living area in the front of the room, where it serves as a display surface. Paola Navone’s Amburgo Armchair in sheepskin is paired with a Neri and Hu Frame Sofa for De La Espada. “All of the large furniture is recessive in tone to help increase the feeling of space,” notes Whiting. Above: Like the kitchen, the powder room has a classic Shaw’s ceramic basin—for sourcing, see 10 Easy Pieces: White Farmhouse Sinks. The brass taps are from Brodware. Above: In place of a fireplace, the master bedroom has a floor-to-ceiling paneled headboard, which has shelves concealed on the sides. “The house’s three bedrooms aren’t large and in order to fit in full walls of storage opposite the beds, we had to forego the fireplaces,” says Whiting. Above: French doors open to the front balcony. Tom and Soma bought the antique sconces on a trip to Paris. The linen bedding is by Bedouin Society. Above: The paneling—in Dulux’s Grey Pebble—continues in the bath, which has a reproduction cast-iron tub. Above: In place of a carport, the backyard now has a flagstone courtyard with a copper outdoor shower that gets used year round. The barn-door shed—made from the same style of paneling used indoors—holds bikes and gardening gear. Above: The ground floor plan highlights the kitchen extension. Above: Upstairs, there are three bedrooms and a shared bath. Before Above: The narrow original stair was in good condition but divided from the back of the house. Above: The rooms radiated off a central hall leading to the carport out back. Above: A metal garage door opened to a pebbled parking area.
Three more inspired Aussie remodels:
Sunny Side Up: A Victorian Makeover in Melbourne Steal This Look: A Small and Neat Kitchen A Laid-Back Courtyard Kitchen Where ‘Family Life Unfolds’ #KitchenDesign #Architecture&Interiors #HouseCall #Australia #Small-SpaceLiving
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