We have some fabulous vintage decorating inspiration for you, with a house tour of this gorgeous 1883, double fronted Victorian weatherboard home, in Thornbury, in Melbourne’s Inner North. With layers of the owner’s personal style across the home, it has 4 bedrooms and sits on around 850sq metres of land. Living here since 2005, Valentina Tansley, artist and owner of Tansley & Co Vintage Merchants in Maldon, shares the home with her husband Mark, a musician and AV guru, and their two boys aged 7 and 9. Take a tour with us and find out how Valentina and Mark found their home, what their decorating style is and how they feel about sustainability and using recycled and reclaimed materials and furniture in your home.
How did you find your home?
We returned to Melbourne after a stint living in the UK. We spent several months searching for a period property that was big enough for our various creative pursuits. We came across our current home in the real estate listings and viewed it a couple of times, before purchasing it at auction. We were bidding against a developer who wanted to knock it down, and the neighbours were very pleased that we didn’t do that!
What made you fall in love with it?
The house had been in the same family for around 100 years when we bought it as a deceased estate. Parts of the interior had been untouched since it was built, with the last serious renovation done in the 1940’s. It had a lot of character, and that’s what hooked us in! It is also in a great position walking distance to public transport, shops, cafes and schools.
Was there anything you didn’t love about it?
The 1940’s outside toilet was rather unsavoury when we moved in, so that was pretty high on the list of things to change. We also didn’t like the garden which was predominately grass with very few trees, but it was a great blank canvas to work with!
Are there things you still want to change?
The house was reroofed in the 1980’s with a daggy brown coloured tin, and I would love to return it to something more of the period – but, it doesn’t leak, so it’s pretty far down the to-do list at the moment. I also have plans every few years to knock down the interwar brick fence at the front of the property and replace it with wire but I never seem to get around to it. Perhaps this year!
Can you tell us something you like about your local area or region?
We settled in Thornbury over ten years ago, when it was a sleepy working class suburb in the shadow of trendy Northcote. Since then, everyone else seems to have discovered our little patch, and the number of bars and eateries has grown exponentially. We now have world class dining on our doorstep and our local pizza place The Moors Head was named in the Guardian’s top eateries. High Street has become a pretty busy place in the last few years too, so it’s great to be able to balance this with spending time in our part-time home town of Maldon in the Victorian goldfields.
What are your thoughts on sustainability and how is this part of your home?
When we bought our house we were determined not to rip everything out and replace it with new. We methodically went through every room and saved everything we could, whilst undertaking repairs. We asked the workers re-stumping the house not to tear up and splinter the floorboards (which they would have done if we had not asked) so we could retain the original floor. We replaced a few rotten boards with reclaimed ones which matched perfectly.
Our wattle and daub plaster walls were in a bad state, but instead of knocking off all the plaster we had a plasterer come in and patch up the worst bits. You can still see all the patches and cracks but it shows the history of the house, so it doesn’t bother us.
We built an extension on the rear of the property a couple of years after purchasing it, with almost all the materials sourced through reclamation yards. We bought the windows and doorframe, then got a draftsman to design the extension using the materials we had sourced. This saved us a lot of money and was also incredibly sustainable. The weatherboards on the outside were reclaimed from a house nearby. The only things we had made to order were the roof trusses and wall sections. Even the plasterboard sheeting was a builder’s surplus buy via eBay.
When we purchased the property there was pretty much no kitchen (literally a sink and a freestanding stove). There were no units at all. As we had run out of money we bought all our kitchen units and rangehood for the new kitchen from a reclamation yard for a few hundred dollars. Mark then built the main kitchen bench using reclaimed timbers and tin. Our only new purchase was the wonderful Falcon Range cooker which we got half price as a floor stock model.
Our bathroom was also built using fittings from reclamation yards and second-hand online buys. If you’ve ever been to a reclamation yard you will know that they are full of bathroom fittings, why buy new!?
Do you have any tips for other people wanting to own or build a similar style of home?
Doing it the way we have has literally saved us tens of thousands of dollars, but it took a considerable time to source everything, so it wouldn’t have been as easy if we had a pressing deadline.
What is the inspiration for the decorating and design of your home?
Initially we had no money to furnish our home, after spending our entire budget on the house purchase. As needs must, we purchased all our furniture second hand. As avid op-shoppers and bargain hunters this wasn’t a problem, and we enjoyed sourcing affordable items for our home. As it currently stands our locally made sofa is the only piece of new furniture we have bought. Every other piece of furniture in our house was second hand.
Our house is probably what you would call boho style – a bit eclectic, a real mix of stuff. When you buy second hand you tend to come away with what you like. rather than what’s ‘on-trend’, so our house is pretty different to most homes. I do buy the odd new item (such as my Ikea rug, which just happened to be the perfect shape and colour) and some lamps for the bedroom, but on the whole I like the randomness of preloved stuff. At the moment there are a number of items in the house which are rejects from our vintage store in Maldon – mainly cracked or chipped items which have little sale value but still look lovely! Oddly enough, I started Tansley & Co Vintage Merchants as a way of offloading all sorts of things I had been collecting over the years, however it backfired and I now have more stuff than ever in the house!
Your favourite part of your home?
The living room / kitchen is the place where we all spend the most time. It almost has a loft apartment feel to it, and is much brighter and more open than the rest of the house, which has a very traditional Victorian layout. My favourite room in the main part of the house is my study, which was originally the kitchen in Victorian times. It still has the original lining boards on the walls. I don’t think it’s been painted since the 1940’s.
Biggest Challenge in designing or decorating your home?
The biggest challenge for us was definitely money! As creatives our income has waxed and waned over the years so we both feel pretty lucky to have found this amazing property and been able to look after it.
What do people say when they come to visit you?
Visitors to our house love the quirkiness of the decoration and the fact it has real character. A few have even taken photos for inspiration, which is nice! Unfortunately a lot of homes like ours in this neighbourhood have been knocked down to build apartments, so most of our visitors are also impressed that this one is still here.
What do you do to relax in your home?
There always seems to be so much to do around the place that I probably don’t relax as much as I should, but I do find tending the garden can be quite therapeutic! I also love putting my feet up with the latest Reclaim Magazine – it’s one of the few publications I read cover to cover and find very inspiring.
What a gorgeous home and how wonderful is it that the family have used mostly reclaimed materials and secondhand pieces to decorate their home. It is so lovely to see people holding onto houses and not tearing them all down. You can find out more about Tansley & Co Vintage here.