When Melbourne-based builder Rebeka Morgan and her partner first saw this dated Edwardian, they couldn’t shake their love for the period home. The two possess the same clever ability to see hidden potential in an unrenovated space which comes in handy in the business of building — Rebeka is a co-founder of BuildHer Collective, a platform dedicated to giving women the training and tools they need to take on renovations of their own. In 2016, the couple purchased the home for renovation which made perfect sense for Rebeka. “Those who know me know that building and design practically runs through my veins; I live and breathe it,” Rebeka says. Together with Beirin Projects, architects Bellemo & Cat, and some creative help from Justine Murphy, the couple took on the Bayview House.
The interior is a striking marriage of contemporary and classic design, paying homage to the home’s Edwardian roots. The kitchen, one of the most design-forward spaces of the home, stuns with a glorious stone bench, moody cabinetry and a brilliant butler’s pantry. The designers placed a clear emphasis on material, colour and texture in their renovation, which led to brilliant finishes and impressive spaces. Each design decision was well and meticulously made, and it shows.
Combining period design with modern interiors was no easy task. To ensure their contemporary elements wouldn’t fall flat, they let the home’s historical details speak for themselves and dictate the major design decisions. “We let the house guide us to a certain extent, wanting to showcase the beautiful period features but also wanting to give it a contemporary touch so it reflected current modern-day living in Northcote,” Rebeka tell us. “It is a place to retreat, rest and relax; to entertain and just be with family. It’s warm, textural, earthy and calming. It’s moody and dark is some places, yet light-filled and bright in others. There’s a really beautiful relationship between dark and light within this house.”
We’re chuffed to see our modern Jones Dining Chairs in the open-plan dining space, aside a striking contemporary dining table, again playing on light and dark. “We love the [chairs] for their simplicity and also for the depth they add to the dining space. They are contemporary yet classic at the same time and complement the dining table perfectly,” Rebeka tell us.
With each room boasting a different elegant vibe, they’ve maintained a seamless flow throughout the home without adhering to “cookie-cutter design” by extending their robust, natural material palette and neutral hues throughout the home. “I love that this space can be all those things,” Rebeka says of the eclectic nature of the home.
The Bayview House is a beautifully restored period home that is a perfect combination of the old and the new, and we were so lucky to get to chat with the lovely Rebeka of BuildHer Collective about the space. She’s spilling the beans on the major design decisions of the home and how they landed on this sophisticated, functional and refined design!
Continue on for our chat with Rebeka.
It seems most people wear many hats! Rather than asking your profession, what hats do you wear?
BuildHer: I wear many hats! I am one half of the founders of BuildHer Collective in which we help women navigate the building and renovation industry through our online courses. I am the Builder and Developer half while Kribashini is the Project and Development Manager half. I wear the mum hat to a small pile of children and if life wasn’t busy enough (!!), I also run Beirin Projects, a building business with my husband, John.
Tell us about how you got your start in building and design.
BuildHer: I have always loved building and design! I took the commercial route, studying a bit of architecture at uni, then moving to construction management. I started my working life as a Quantity Surveyor working out how much things cost before moving to the client side of project management. After writing a proposal to be the GM of a commercial construction business, which I was ultimately successful in, I jumped ship to perform that role. Around 12 months in, I remember my boss telling me I needed a ‘house husband.’ This was their way of telling me that I needed someone to be home to look after the kids so that I could work more. At this point I politely resigned and started up a fundraising business of all things. Just for something different! I couldn’t really keep my hands, head and heart out of construction though and was very much drawn to building, especially residential homes. It did take a few years before John and I actually committed to following our dreams, trusting ourselves and developing for profit. Those who know me know that building and design practically runs through my veins; I live and breathe it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
BuildHer: I find inspiration everywhere! I am always looking and learning and talking and listening. It is fair to say there are a lot of tabs open in my mind: nature, buildings, shapes, colours, materials, art; the list is truly endless. I love Instagram and Pinterest for the great visual contexts they provide and I also love to read books and magazines for the same reason but also for what the imagination can conjure after looking at an image or reading an explanation on something. Lastly, I love love love travelling! I travel locally as well as internationally so I can continue to be informed and educated about new design features and products.
I don’t normally have to go searching too far actually! If I see something that gives me a thought, I keep that tab open until the time comes for me to use it or some variation of it. It is so satisfying to be able to build what you want and explore what takes your fancy and we have worked incredibly hard to get here to the payoff is lovely.
Tell us about the Bayview House! It’s absolutely stunning. How did this home come about? What’s the story behind it and what were your goals?
BuildHer: When my partner, John and I went to first saw Bayview House, there is no doubt we were drawn to the home straight away! The front facade is incredibly stunning but it needed a lot of work internally. Both John and I have a knack of seeing the same potential, which in building is super handy. We didn’t think we would have time to pay the home the respect it deserved with other projects we were involved in and we also thought we couldn’t afford it so we walked away and thought that would’ve been brilliant. It was when we were in Malaysia we each confessed we couldn’t stop thinking about it, that we decided to plan plan plan and it was amazing that everything else in our life aligned and we purchased it in 2016!
How would you describe the Bayview House’s style or aesthetic?
BuildHer: Bayview House is a home in the true sense of the word and that is what we were wanting to achieve. It is a place to retreat, rest and relax, entertain and just be with family. It’s warm, textural, earthy and calming. It’s moody and dark is some places yet light-filled and bright in others. There’s a really beautiful relationship between dark and light within this house.
We let the house guide us to a certain extent, wanting to showcase the beautiful period features but also wanting to give it a contemporary touch so that it reflected current modern-day living in Northcote. We pride ourselves on designing, building and styling with love and care and thankfully most of the feedback on the home has truly reflected this underlying principle.
That dining table — it’s so incredible! Dying to hear about it.
BuildHer: Thank you! I could not for the life of me find what I wanted. Like I said earlier there was a dining table tab open but nothing out there fill my design need. I had all these incredible tiles, so we decided if we couldn’t find it, we’d make it! The table legs are made out of just two concrete plumbing pipes, cut to size and tiled and the top, a piece of aluminum cut to size which we had powder coated! Simple! ( Oh-O! I hope I haven’t just created another hat for myself, furniture designer and maker!!!!!)
We’re seeing loads of natural stones and materials, and loving every bit of it. What materials did you incorporate in the build and how did you land on that palette?
BuildHer: When I say that we do all things with love and care, I really mean it. It is painstaking love and careful consideration and for Bayview House, it's fair to say we spent a lot of time deliberating on the materials, colours and design. I worked the Bayview House concepts with Justine Murphy (aka @thenorthcotestylist) right through to completion and we were so careful to ensure weren't ‘cookie cutter’ in our approach or design choices. It is so much easier when you have the right people around you who share a similar design aesthetic. Each choice is deliberated, and yes, while this is time consuming, I feel the end result is true to us and speaks volumes.
The Eco Outdoor limestone flooring which we feature in the open-plan living, dining and kitchen area - OMG is so beautiful underfoot with its ‘suedey’ texture. And then there’s Signorino Tile Gallery’s Fior Di Bosco stone in the kitchen and Serpeggiante in the bathroom, I mean c’mon! The addition of all these beautiful materials just elevate the home and really bring our design point of view to life.
How did you go about choosing a colour palette for the home?
BuildHer: We will generally start with images or ideas that we like and build on from there. In the case of Bayview House, our design concept started with a love of arches and dark navy skirting boards and then away we went…
Deciding on a colour palette is not a linear process by any means. You have to ensure each layer you add is in tone with the last and it can honestly feel like you’re going around in circles. It’s an ever-changing process and can even cripple some in the decision making process!
For example, the initial concept for the internal flooring was to be dark chevron boards with industrial polished concrete but then during the renovation process, we unearthed original baltic pine floorboards and when we saw them we knew we had to keep them! That natural element was a design win and we then felt that the home needed to have a more grand and soft feel, meaning we had to redefine our design direction. It never ceases to amaze me how one change can create such knock-on effects!
Which room is your favourite in the home and why?
BuildHer: This is a really tough question. I feel like every day it changes!
The formal living room is a perfect blend of period meets contemporary with a hint of eclectic thrown in for good measure! I love that this space can be all those things! We loved the texture of the existing wallpaper in that room (but not so much the colour) so we decided to leave the paper on the wall as it was in great condition, but paint over it leaving the subtle textural detail on the wall. We also reconfigured the room to gain access to the side terrace and provided an option to keep the intimacy of this room in tact with the inclusion of a tall steel-framed glass door to keep the hustle and bustle of kitchen and dining activities to a quiet lull. It’s quirky and inviting. Our furniture choices are perfect in the space but also quiet and calming, often the room I go to if I want a second to myself and is also the place I usually start to plan my day.
I also absolutely heart our master bedroom suite. It is both grand with its feature lead light windows and feature fireplace but also cosy with its softening window furnishings, plush wool carpet and natural bedding. The ensuite makes me feel like I have gone to a day spa (even if it is only for 10 minutes before a child appears) and the walk in robe makes me feel like I have my life together! A place for everything!
All this being said though, our family naturally gravitates to the kitchen, dining and living area - the more informal part of the house where can all just be as a family and just like with kids, I can’t play favourites! I love each piece of Bayview for its own individuality!
That open kitchen/dining area has got to be a favourite of ours. What was your inspiration for the space?
BuildHer: We knew we wanted this space to be a little from column A, a little from column B. What I mean by that is that we wanted this space to be many things to many people; a place to cook and entertain, a place to eat and gather, a place to relax and be with the family.
As I mentioned earlier, our inspiration changed a little after we uncovered our original baltic pine timber floorboards in the adjacent areas of the home and we knew we could really make light and warmth the hero of this space as we decided to soften the area with the revised flooring choice of limestone with its underfloor heating (oh my!) and flowing textural window furnishings flanking the large glass windows.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the void, we love a good void! The void which houses the first floor study and fifth bedroom plus ensuite and overlooks the ground floor space really allows for separation or integration from that space as required. We really wanted to use all the space we could for living and at the same time ensure as much light as possible was present for this part of the home. I feel we really did achieve a warm and inviting light-filled living area.
How did our Jones Dining Chairs fit into the design of the home? (We’re so thrilled they did!)
BuildHer: We love the Jones Dining Chairs for their simplicity and also for the depth they add to the dining space. They are contemporary yet classic at the same time and complement the dining table perfectly.
Do you have a favorite piece of Barnaby Lane furniture? If so, what is it?
BuildHer: This is like the favourite room question! Too many to chose from! Ok, ok.. I do love The Fitzroy in Rose, this will be a gift to myself when I have the kids well and truly trained but I also do really love The Croft , a collaboration between two of my favourite furniture designers, Barnaby Lane x Harbro ! The leather detailing is gorgeous and I agree totally that this sofa is completely livable and fuss-free but oozes style without having to sacrifice on quality as was intended.
What’s your best bit of advice?
BuildHer: Just stay in your lane. Be authentic to you. Do what you like. Chose the things you like. Be around people who lift you and encourage you. Ask questions! Keep going, even when you don’t think you can, keep going. Back yourself. Be kind- to yourself and to others. You can’t be everything to everyone so keep balance in mind. It is ok to say no. And learn, always learn from those around you! I am always investing in learning from people who have done things before me, saves me time and dollars in the long run and it makes the process so much easier!