When Kate first moved to the Mornington Peninsula around 10 years ago, she used to go walking around the streets of Mt Martha with her two young children in a double pram. They would often walk down the street that they now live on, and Kate always wished she could live in this part of Mt Martha. Over the years the family moved from house to house but she always had her eye on this particular pocket. When this house became available, the time was right for Kate to move so she jumped at the chance. That was 2015.
Kate loved the area, but she was also looking for an older home with character. This house is one of the first four original houses in the area, and Kate was definitely drawn to that. She could see past the property’s superficial disadvantages – the drab exterior, the dated interior and the untended garden – and appreciated the elegant bones of the 1930s sandstone building. The blockwork, the original windows, the architectural features, the corner block location and the ability to landscape were all part of the charm. “I fell in love with the architectural design, and with its uniqueness,” says Kate.
Being in the line of work she is in, making homes beautiful for her clients, Kate wanted something highly designed. “I wanted my home to display those things I have collected over the years and that I love being around. I have always loved the colour blue so I wanted to make a feature of it.”
“I definitely didn’t want to follow a trend, but I love British Colonial, American Coastal and Chinoiserie styles so elements of these are included throughout the house. I wanted it all to feel like a collection of my life rather than tied to a particular style. The look had to be organic, showcasing pieces I love like the antique blue and white china I have collected forever sitting alongside family memorabilia. I love layers and textures, with beautiful upholstery fabrics, rugs and sisal carpets. It’s an eclectic mix that reflects the woven pattern of my life.”
The colour was always going to be fresh with blue as the solid accent colour set against a base of white. Kate was very bold with the use of colour, blending different shades of the one blue hue in each of the bedrooms. Living by the coast, she wanted it to have a coastal feel without being twee.
Kate had collected special pieces of furniture along the way that create different shades and shapes. She found a beautiful vintage roll top desk and a sideboard at a local garage sale, and she mixed those with borrowed pieces of furniture from family and new pieces that all work together within the small space.
“I teamed older pieces with beautiful light fittings I found through local importers, and I trawled and trawled looking for the perfect accessories. Artwork and rugs are my biggest splurges. I love supporting Australian artists. I commissioned a piece by Sydney artist Richard Claremont, to paint our favourite walk down to the beach in Mt Martha that we do every weekend. I’ve also splurged on beautiful pieces of coral that are both sculptural and suit our coastal location.”
Kate is very proud of the pieces of furniture she found through local garage sales. In her bedroom there is a mix of some beautiful custom pieces that sit alongside stylish storage units from Ikea and local thrift shop finds.
“Bromley’s artworks are a favourite,” says Kate. “I couldn’t afford an original but I did find a beautiful Bromley quilt and had it stretched over a canvas to make an artwork. That was a great money-saving project that looks amazing. And I have commissioned paintings by Claire Spring. She’s a very talented local artist and she created the artwork that I wanted for a lot less than I would pay in a retail store. I have pieces of china that are worth thousands of dollars sitting next to a piece from Provincial Living that cost $30. I love mixing pieces together. I have a pair of expensive lamps that sit on a very inexpensive sideboard from Pottery Barn. Mixing and matching works.”
Kate has retained all the traditional design features in the house. The stucco walls, the roof, the internal archways, the fretwork, the outdoor steps and paving. She loves the built-in arched shelving unit with a mirrored back that’s now filled with shells the family has collected over the years. Kate even kept the heavy set original staircase and brought it to life by staining the treads and painting the uprights white, and adding a sisal stair runner to give it a coastal, Hamptons-style feel.
The home is just a few minute’s walk to the beach, so it has influenced the interior design concept. Kate didn’t want it to be twee coastal though, she wanted it to be more traditional Hamptons-style. She has thoughtfully displayed coral and shells, and there are some nautical images and colours without being predictable.
“The original granny flat became my first KWD studio, and it was exceptionally important to be able to work from home. Launching a business I had to work incredibly long hours, so the studio meant I could also be connected to home. It was vital really. I was able to work the ‘late night shift’ as we used to call it. I could work a full day, have dinner with the children, put them to bed and then go to the studio and work late. It gave me a lot of flexibility. It was also really important to establish an authenticity with my clients. We would often have client consultations inside the house at the dining table and they could see my own aesthetic. It acted as a showroom in itself.”
KWD has grown so much that it was no longer feasible to have team working from the home studio, and her children have also grown up during that time so they need more living space. The studio has since become a pool house and teenager’s retreat.
Explains Kate, “We opened a purpose-built KWD HQ in Mt Martha Village mid last year, and an adjacent Studio officially opened earlier this year. It’s only four minutes from home so it still allows me to be connected, and to bring clients home when appropriate.”
The family focuses on outdoor entertaining. The garden was given a lot of consideration and was carefully designed to follow the sun – starting out the front in the morning light and moving around to the pool area in the afternoon. There’s lots of seating pockets and places to enjoy the sun and the shade. “Summer is perfection,” says Kate. “We throw open the sash windows and french doors and the sea breeze flows through. We have air-conditioning upstairs so if it’s a really hot night Charlie (whose room is downstairs) will sleep upstairs on the couch. The downstairs stays cool though with the thick sandstone walls.”
Jamie Hills from Always Greener worked with Kate on the landscaping. She created the design and Jamie worked really well with her to bring my dream to reality. Says Kate, “I’m quite a traditionalist when it comes to landscaping so I wanted an English garden feel, and I wanted it to be instant. I knew that for me to really enjoy the property, with the house being relatively small inside, I had to focus on the outdoors and it was my prime focus moving in. It was obviously a well considered garden though, as we didn’t remove any plants at all.”
The internal renovation was simple and short really, but Kate spent about six months working on the garden. She spoke to a lot of expert gardeners to get the right plant advice and make sure she put the right species in. She wanted to create a private oasis so she planted lots of hedging plants and shrubs that would flowers at different times during the year. The nature strip is more coastal native with traditional plants like Echium, Euphorbia and Westringia.
Inside the garden Kate loves the camellia hedge which is a ‘Sasanque Paradise Blush’ variety that flowers beautifully in April and May creating a stunning white floral wall. She planted Crepe Myrtle Tuscarora trees which are a beautiful hot pink that flower in late autumn. The Kay Parris magnolias form a beautiful hedge at the front. Kate adores the hydrangea garden that flowers with massive blue and white blooms and to bring some prettiness in around the pool area there are white arbours with Souvenir De La Maison climbing roses. Pierre De Ronsard climbing roses are growing up the obelisks that are sitting in a bed of Lavender. “Whilst I buy flowers for the house every week,” explains Kate, “I also do a lot of picking from the garden to put in vases like Gardenias and Daphne. These fragrant flowers, and the Murraya hedge, make the garden smell beautiful.”
“I had big plans for a major renovation this year with a new kitchen, living and dining wing and a master suite upstairs. I was committed to keeping the character. I’ve found someone with the original mould for the sandstone blocks, I searched for the same roof tiles with the moss so they would look like they’ve always been there, and the windows removed from the original house were to be used in the new section. The design intent honoured the history of the property.”
Kate recently sold the property to new owners who will add their own stamp to it, and she has recently purchased another property in Mt Martha. It’s an exciting design project – we’ll bring you the whole story as it unfolds.
Images: Brent Lukey, Martina Gremmola
Styling: Kate Walker, Julia Green
Thank you to House & Garden Australia.