Renovation: Tired Suburban to Urban Rustic

Part One:
Inspiration for an Urban Rustic Retreat.

Once upon a time I built a dream family home but within months moved interstate following my husband’s career. For several years we moved and settled, moved and settled, moved and settled. At each stop I was a ‘Taxi Mum’ for our busy sons who quickly became even busier teenagers. During those years my dream of once again building a home with a hint of urban rustic style stayed just a dream.

Instead I clipped and snipped saved a fabulous resource of visual delights from magazines and catalogues stored in a growing stack of folders. I was ready for ‘one day’ when there would be time for ‘the dream’… but that time always stayed just a little out of reach.


My stash… the visual archive remained and grew. Even now I can flip through it much like a diary. There’s a consistent theme to the collection, even as each new year produced a new iteration my prefered style stayed fairly much the same.

Classic Urban Rustic
neutral palette of natural colours, fabrics and elements,
textures layered for comfort and livability
a dash of Scandinavian, with a sophisticated urban twist.

A few years ago, I moved back to Melbourne and looked for a house to renovate for profit that could remain a livable home at the same time. The house I found was built by a well known local builder 30 years before, an Englehart home in original condition that needed significant updating yet had no major structural issues. Despite years of family life it retained the high quality of the original build and had terrific bones.  Thankfully the good stuff was well hidden by a seriously ugly entrance, outdated kitchen and bathrooms, unkempt garden and superficial issues on the exterior trim. In other words it was the perfect house for a moderate renovation and finally I put my visual treasure trove to good use.

This tired suburban was ready for a face lift with an urban rustic edge.
Let’s Get Started

It always begins with the face:

Every house needs a good face to welcome the world so that’s where I started… the existing door (only visible as an edge in the pic below) was a nasty institutional shade of yellow, flanked by an ‘indoor/outdoor’ planter box that narrowed the usable entry space and looked like a place sad plants go to die. The depressing prison theme was completed by an astonishingly ugly security door and window grill which would have been more at home in a maximum security facility and not home in a family friendly neighbourhood with a low crime rate.


Yet the bones were great and the space just needed ‘peeling’.  I had the original front door restored, the planter boxes removed and the door and re-hung in the center of a new taller frame complete with transom and sidelite panels glazed in 6mm laminated glass. This change flooded the entry with light and removed the need for the heavy prison door because the glazing provided great security as well as sound and thermal insulation. With new hardware and several coats of deep charcoal blue paint the the house now faced the neighbourhood with a smile.

The brick on brick effect was banished (along with the plant cemetery) and new paving laid along the entrance way, into the porch and through to the inside foyer. New exterior lighting on a sensor made it a welcoming home even on the darkest night.



As part of the entrance the area makeover the open pergola and narrow brick path also needed attention.

Whitehall entrance before

Originally the pergola created hard shadow lines over the narrow path that offered no protection from the weather. I had it rebuilt 800mm wider and covered with a translucent UV resistant material that kept the paved walkway dry on even the wettest days.  The grim yellow vanished under several coats of silvery white paint on the window trim which was a crisp contrast against the formal yet warm charcoal blue of the exterior timber.

The old roses responded well to a good prune, enriched compost and regular watering during the driest months.  Lavender border planting thrived in the warmth of the northern sun and for the first time in years the house had a welcoming face. 


Watch out for Part Two where I turn my attention to the interior,  and transform it with an unlikely finish.