With a mutual love of the picturesque Brisbane suburb of Hawthorne, a shared career in real estate and prior success in developing and selling properties in the area, Justin and Jody Marsden were in good stead to take the leap when they heard about a new opportunity.
The original house – a little 100-m2 cottage – may have been a spur of the moment purchase, but it has undergone a transformation that was thoroughly considered. “My neighbour called and asked if I knew anyone who’d like to buy her house,” says Jody, “I called Justin straight away and we practically bought it on the spot. We paid too much but we loved the street.” They lived in the tiny cottage for a few years before knocking it down to re-build. “That turned out to be a great decision, as we learnt where the light, heat and rain came in – which helped us immensely when planning the new house.”
They had a strong vision for their new home. “We used to live in Victoria and love all those classic Toorak homes with their generous proportions and parquetry, wrought iron and marble finishes.” Such an ambitious build took some time to complete, over 16 months, so during this time the couple moved into their holiday home on Stradbroke Island. “The entire building process was really smooth and that came down to having a good builder. John (John Isaacs of J & P Isaacs Builders) understood what we wanted, which was a quality home; we wanted solid brick walls, solid timber doors and windows and high-end finishes – and he was on-board with that.”
Whist the building progressed nicely, Jody was having more trouble with the soft furnishings. “It’s a very closed industry, if you’re not a designer you really don’t have access to the fabric showrooms and I was finding it difficult to source the fabrics I wanted. I was chatting to a girlfriend, Simone, about this over a glass of wine one night, and we decided to start up an online business offering well-priced fabric by the metre, to make it easier for others to decorate their own homes.” The girls launched Fabric Traders, which was initially run as a side venture from Simone’s home. Today however, three years later, it has moved into its own warehouse premises and is run by a total staff of five.
Whilst Jody and Justin were heavily influenced by their love of classic Melbournian homes, they added a large outdoor living area to accommodate the Queensland climate and lifestyle. “We use the outdoor area all year round. It’s north facing so it’s beautiful in summer and in winter we sit by the fire with a glass of wine. It’s also enormous – for our son Will’s first birthday we had 100 people here! We can see the kids in the pool, there’s a bar and TV for the boys to watch sport and plenty of comfortable seating.”
All the cushioning in the outdoor entertainment area is made up in hardy, affordable indoor/outdoor fabrics from Fabric Traders. “I love the mix of geometrics and stripes. We’ve also added a more expensive fabric by Mokum on the armchairs. This keeps the overall cost down but still creates a designer look. It’s like teaming designer jeans with a Bonds tee.” The generous proportions of the interior (the five bedroom home is over seven times larger than the original cottage) means some of the furniture was custom made to accommodate. “The dining table in particular we had to get made to fit the space. It’s 2.4 x 2.4 metres. When we have dinner parties it looks lovely, very decadent and seats twelve comfortably.” Once the major furniture and fittings were in, stylist and decorator Tahn Scoon was called in to help with the finishing touches. “In general, it’s easy for such a large, prestige home to feel quite unwelcoming and even cold, as the spaces are so vast. What really saved this home was the beautiful warm finishes such as the parquetry flooring and the warm tones that run through the marble. However, it was still important to delineate each area in the open-plan design with large area rugs and layer each area with the correct furniture and furnishings to create a sense of comfort and warmth.” Whilst some high-end fabrics from the likes of Casamance and Christian Fischbacher were selected, they were cleverly combined with more affordable offerings from Fabric Traders.
“The important thing in any home, but in particular a prestige home, is to consider the details,” says Tahn. “We added contrast piping to the ottoman and sofa, stipulated featherwrapped foam in the seat cushions and filled every scatter with feather.” “We really wanted a house that would still look great in twenty years,” says Jody. “Though we borrowed elements of the Hamptons style, evident in the kitchen’s shaker cabinetry for example, we took care not to create a full Hamptons home. We hope instead that we’ve created a classic and timeless home that we can enjoy for a long time.”
Photography by Elouise van Riet-Gray. As seen in Queensland Homes Spring 2014.