A Creative Couple’s Warm And Welcoming Forest Home

Photographer Lucy Spartalis and videographer Alastair Innes of She Takes Pictures He Makes Films originally planned on buying a house on the NSW coast, but everything changed when a Google search led them to properties in the Dandenong Ranges (located about an hour east of Melbourne). ‘The following day we drove up to view a couple of houses. A few days later we’d made an offer, and a couple of weeks later it was ours,’ says Lucy. ‘The open house fell at dusk, with the sun setting behind the house and a warm glow coming from within… the moment we walked in the front door, we knew it was right.’ 

The 1950s property had just been renovated just prior to purchasing, and while the couple loved many of the changes made, they were keen to introduce some more personalised touches. ‘The house had been given a very cool toned grey colour scheme, which really isn’t our thing,’ says Lucy. ‘We started by painting over the exterior grey colour with a warm, creamy white.’

The bathroom was also painted a pale apricot shade, and the hallway coated in spectacular Graffito wallpaper by Kelly Wearstler – which has got to be THE wallpaper of the moment right now! ‘The screen-printed design reminds us of the loose and energetic illustration style of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and acts as a huge piece of abstract art peeking through to the main living area,’ says Lucy. ‘It never fails to shock guests as they walk through the front door.’ 

Meanwhile, the couple replaced all the hollow interior doors with solid mahogany doors, hung custom burnt orange velvet curtains in the lounge, replaced most of the light fittings, and installed a wood fireplace. They’ve also filled the space with much loved personal treasures – artworks, collectibles, and family heirlooms. ‘Everything in the house is absolutely loved, has a history and tells a story, or triggers a wonderful memory for us’ says Lucy. ‘Having an inspiring and treasure-filled space makes all the difference to our state of minds.’

Significant changes were also made to the property’s outdoor spaces, with the help of Ollie Cheek of Cheeky Nature Landscapes. ‘We’ve pulled up the enormous amounts of concrete that ran down the side and back of the home, replacing the driveway with sand-toned gravel,’ says Lucy. Ben Gray Architect designed a modernist style carport and pergola, built by Travis Rademaker from Timbervisions Carpentry, along with long stretches of elegant spotted gum batten fencing. The result is a much larger garden for their chickens (Salma, Pepita and Dot!) and dog Taika to enjoy, and an environment more in keeping with the home’s natural surroundings. 

Two years after moving in and making these early cosmetic updates, it was time to tackle the kitchen. ‘We’d been toying with various concepts for the space for a couple of years, constantly changing our minds, and collecting far too many tile and stone samples along the way,’ says Lucy. The couple had no luck settling on a scheme, until Lucy took a trip to Japan and became inspired. ‘The breathtaking use of mosaic tiles with muted wabi-sabi glazes, alongside varied timbers, natural stone and other organic materials all felt so calming, harmonious and cocoon-like – exactly the feeling I wanted for our kitchen,’ she says.

To achieve this look, the couple selected INAX Yohen Border tiles by Artedomus, imported from Japan (‘They had the warm, mottled, handmade quality we were after,’ Lucy says), alongside terrazzo benchtops from Signorino, and aged brass hardware. Matt Ibbott of Sawdust Timber Furniture constructed the timber elements, incorporating mountain ash (the same type as the trees outside this house’s kitchen windows), salvaged from a nearby property two years earlier! ‘I wasn’t much of a cook before, but having such an inspiring space to work in has changed that,’ Lucy says.

When they’re not working on wedding photography or videos, you’ll likely find Lucy and Alastair here entertaining friends, or embarking on one of many forest walks within minutes of their house! Also… massive shout out to Lucy for photographing their stunning home AND making this video for us (while Alistair was on another deadline!) while we’re unable to get out and shoot homes in Melbourne right now. So much talent, all under one roof!

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