When the owners of Retromodern bought a 1950s pink and country-styled cottage, they saw great potential beneath the surface.
Miniature proportions and a lack of cohesion were the main complaints of home owners Charlie and Monique when they moved into this quaint little home. When they set to work with a small budget and ample enthusiasm, more than a couple of walls were brought to ground, with careful consideration for maintaining its cottage charms. On return from some time spent in the UK (with an extra-tight budget), the couple purchased this home — their first — and began to renovate bit by bit.
Over the past six years, the home has slowly but surely edged towards perfection. “We initially added a walk-in robe and ensuite bathroom; however, the largest part of the ongoing renovations was to extend the tiny sitting room and build a large undercover deck,” Monique shares. First, they removed the wall between the kitchen and lounge room to make an open-plan living space and then the exterior wall at the back was removed so the room could be extended. “Unfortunately, this took place in winter,” she laments, “and we lived with black plastic walls for some weeks. Needless to say, the bedroom became our home.”
While the South Australian climate wasn’t kind during the winter, good orientation on the site remains one of the home’s prized inherent features. “The farmer who built the house also planted lots of deciduous trees, which completely shade the house in summer,” Monique explains. “But it is genius when the trees shed their leaves in winter for the sun to penetrate.” As a result, the home requires less heating and cooling. This ethos of touching the Earth lightly is something that became of interest to the couple when they began sourcing secondhand furniture to recondition for their home.
Monique’s love of retro design paired with Charlie’s handyman and restoration skills saw this hobby evolve rapidly into a successful online business, Retromodern. Their passion for saving these pieces from landfill is admirable and they find a great joy in giving pre-loved furniture a new lease on life. “All our furniture is recycled from original pieces,” Monique says, “By restoring used furniture we are offering a greener alternative to mass-produced pieces. We’re saving trees and reducing landfill caused by dumping old furniture.”
This passion is echoed in their treatment of the cottage itself. “I wanted to keep as many of the original features as possible but also wanted the overall feel to be modern. My partner and I removed all the detailed cornices and skirting boards that were to be kept in a safe spot so they could be returned once the renovations were complete. Originally there were two French doors, which opened onto a tiny little deck (about 1.5m × 1m) that I wanted to keep as they matched the windows in the house. We turned these doors into windows in the new extension.” One of the key challenges the residents came up against was re-levelling the home.
Over the years it had dropped between 15cm and 20cm towards the back of the house. “It felt as if you were walking down a hill when you walked from the kitchen to the lounge room.” Not only did they need to remedy this, but they also had a deep desire to connect effortlessly with the outdoors and to achieve a casual, flexible lifestyle. Not surprisingly, the deck has now become a favourite location for Monique and Charlie. “The roof is covered in a UV-protective polycarbonate and it’s enclosed on three sides, as I wanted the option to fully enclose the room for colder evenings when we light the pot-belly stove.
I also installed cafe blinds, making this an outdoor room that offers protection against the rain and wind.” Environmentally speaking, the aim was to shed the dark cloak that seemed to cover the house. “We installed as many windows and skylights as possible to ensure that during the day no lights were needed to illuminate the room.” This has achieved a lovely wash of natural light through the home, which in turn becomes the perfect showcase and backdrop for their revolving range of Retromodern pieces. Another striking element of the renovation is the floorboards, which came about through a frustrating inability to match the existing pine. As a result, they selected Karri, which is a lively red with overtones from pale pink to rich reddish brown.
“Karri’s high density and hardwearing qualities make it sought after by architects.” Monique and Charlie are thrilled with the result, as are their guests. “Visitors always comment on the floor when they see the house for the first time.” “For us this is our first home and our first renovation project, which we deem to be a great success.”
Photography by Sue Stubbs
Designed by: Retromodern www.retromodern.com.au
Kitchen/dining/living: Karri floorboards
Bedroom: Carpet in the master and the original pine in the nursery
Kitchen/dining/living: Dulux wash & wear 101 tinted with Wattyl Orchid White
Kitchen fireplace: Solver Paint — semi-gloss. Coffee colour matched to an ornament
Outdoor/deck walls: Dulux Texture Coat roll-on paint
Benchtop: Laminex Pure Mineralstone
Splashback: White tiles
Cabinetry: Original that was modernised by painting with British Paints Chocolate Drop