After the much loved renovation of my last home, Beechwood, which was a successful journey both personally and professionally, embarking on the renovation of my new family home was an exciting adventure. I really wanted to further showcase the power of a carefully thought-through renovation. It is extraordinary what you can achieve when you have the ability to visualise what a property can become with the right design direction.
I found the ideal house in the most glorious location in Mt Martha on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Like Beechwood, the property had been on the market for a long time without an offer. I questioned myself, wondering why no one had purchased it, and then I realised that no one else could see what I saw as soon as I laid eyes on it.
The original architecture of the home really spoke to me. The beautiful big verandas transported me to the West Indies where you find incredible colonial properties. Colonial houses are really quite boxy, straight up and down, and this home was a perfect example. It was literally a square block, and the interesting features came from the carpentry – from the verandas. I really wanted to maintain that feeling, extrapolate the idea and bring that feeling to every room of the home.
In determining the design direction, there wasn’t one style I could think of that was perfect for this home. The aesthetic that immediately came to mind was British Colonial, but being so close to Port Phillip Bay I wanted to add more of a luxe hotel feel with a Floridian/Island vibe. Fortunately at KWD we don’t feel the need to fit into existing formats. With every project we work on we strive to create the best design style for that property, one that works with the location, the lay of the land and the bones of the building.
Our goal is always to be a trail blazer, a leader in design, so I felt empowered to translate these well known aesthetics and create our own style. The result is ‘Caribbean Colonial’ – a combination of the British Colonial formality with its sense of history, collection and curation, and the relaxed, airy and breezy vibe of Floridian, island design. This style epitomises resort-style living, blending a beautiful formality with relaxed conviviality. A design aesthetic that reflects my desire to be at one with nature, and to bring the outside in – in a fresh new way.
The house, known as ‘Fontainebleu’ had great bones and had been really well built. It had some fabulous features like 3m ceilings and a great floor plan, but it needed some major reworking in terms of space planning – for example the kitchen was located in the darkest corner of the house which doesn’t suit the kind of lifestyle we look for today. It was also a major challenge that the house had been built ‘backwards’ on the block, so we had to restructure how the entrance worked.
Space planning is my forte, and I had a clear vision in my mind of what I wanted to create, so the next step for me was to meet with a building designer. I have worked with Rod Hannah Design on a number of projects so I knew Rod was the perfect person to translate my vision and create build-ready plans. Engaging the builder was an easy decision as well. Having designed a number of projects for Montique Construction, I knew how Joel and Aaron and their team operate. I was actually really looking forward to being one of their clients, having seen how our own clients have benefited from their expertise, execution and attention to detail.
CONCEPTUALISING CARIBBEAN COLONIAL
Once I had my house plans finalised and had engaged a builder, I needed the skills of a talented landscape designer who could develop the look of the exterior, which in my mind is just as important as the interior. I wanted to work with someone who could take the sensibility of the interior and translate it to the external elements of the property so they were in harmony.
I tasked Heath Blair from Plume Studio with creating the exterior concept, and he brought his progressive and innovative approach to the design. Whilst gardening is an absolute passion of mine and I know a lot about plants that I like, Heath really surprised me with his creative genius. I really feel like I owe a lot of the success of Biscayne to him. He designed the pool shape, the outdoor terrace and the front entrance in a way that I never even imagined, and when he presented his design concept to me I was 100% on board with every element. It formulated and cemented everything I did moving forward.
Reality 3D then gave me confidence to proceed. Having a render offers insurance that the concept will translate into reality. The quality and attention to detail of the renders that Reality 3D created gave me the confidence I needed to believe that we unequivocally had the right design for this home.
The final piece in the design process was briefing the KWD team. Clients come to us with a really clear brief, and we take that brief and make it uniquely their own. And I’m no different. I gave my team a Caribbean Colonial brief and they really helped me deep dive into what that meant and how we could make the aesthetic really liveable for today.
We encourage our clients to trust us with their vision, and so my concern was that I would be KWD’s least favourite client. I had such a clear mindset but I knew I had to relinquish control. As a designer working on your own project, you second guess yourself 100 times over so it’s vital to have people you trust and respect, and who will constantly bring you back to north. This process helped me realise how important our role is for our clients, keeping them on track so they stay focused on what they set out achieve.
It was a consultative process for every single detail in Biscayne, and it was so exciting for the whole team to push the boundaries of design. It gave us the opportunity to road test our design processes as well as those of our supply partners. In the end the most challenging aspect for us was what to leave out. With so many incredible products and finishes to choose from and so many innovative directions to go in, deciding what to leave out was not only the most difficult thing to do, it was the most important. It’s the opportunities that you say no to that make a project successful.
I gave my team full autonomy to come to me with ideas and suggestions that were new, inspiring and ground-breaking, and every member of my team stood up to the challenge. I loved seeing the response to brief the design team pinned up on the boards in the KWD Studio. Every room had its own identity yet was still connected in some way – there’s no accident in that.
Designing my own home did of course create an element of pressure, to produce a home that was at once beautiful and functional, innovative and evocative, practical and liveable. I am not only passionate about how a home looks – it’s about how a home feels. At the end of the day everyone simply wants to come home, turn on the lamps, cook a meal and relax on the sofa – and enjoy the space you have created for your family.
CARIBBEAN COLONIAL DESIGN HACK:
- A relaxed, airy and breezy feel
- Collected and curated furniture, textiles, art and accessories from different countries to create a layered and eclectic look
- Rattan ceiling fans
- Resort-style living
- Dark floors and white walls, highlighted with layers of your favourite colours
My ‘Aha’ moment was definitely when I decided on the Caribbean Colonial design style. Another pivotal moment was when I discovered that I could close in the front veranda. Not only did it create an entrance for the home (that was essentially designed backwards on the block), it created the relaxed formality that was so important to the overall aesthetic, with beautiful casement windows that allow the breeze to flow through the home.
QUESTION: HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT DESIGN STYLE IS RIGHT FOR MY HOME?
The architecture of the home dictates the style. It’s really important not to fight was already exists. For example, the straight up and down architecture of Biscayne and the wrap around verandas are so reminiscent of colonial homes in the West Indies, so a resort-style island feel was the perfect choice to best reflect the architectural style of the house.
A CREATIVE COLLABORATION
We are so grateful to the incredible team of design professionals who helped to make Biscayne one of Mt Martha’s finest properties. We focused on creating a level of design that can only be achieved by specifying the very best hard finishes, fixtures, fittings and furnishings. We have featured the most stunning materials throughout with an immaculate attention to innovation and detail, showcasing how a strong vision can transform a home from ‘Fontainebleu’ to ‘Biscayne’.
A heartfelt thank you to our valued supply partners and trades who helped me bring the vision of Biscayne to life:
|Rod Hannah Design||rodhannahandassociates.com.au|
|Lynch’s Window Fashions||lynchswindowfashions.com.au|
|The Montauk Lighting Co.||montauklightingco.com|
|The English Tapware Company||englishtapware.com.au|
|Domino Architectural Fittings||dominobrass.com.au|
|The Nursery Co.||thenurseryco.com.au|
|Gladstones Granite & Marble||gladstonesgranite.com.au|
|RMS Natural Stone TBC||rmsnaturalstone.com|
|Morgan’s Painters and Decorators||morganpd.com.au|
|Classic with a Twist||classicwithatwist.com.au|
|The Lens Collective||thelenscollective.com.au|
|Edward Pope (artist)||edwardpope.design|
|Red Hill Country Gates||gates.net.au|
|Gregory Croxford Living||gregorycroxfordliving.com.au|