Sam and Gina Rosenberg have been married for more than thirty years after they met on a blind date. They have been together ever since. Not only that, they have also been business partners for more than 20 years. This is quite an amazing feat. Like many of you, Gina is a vintage lover and collector of many things. From quite a young age she has had a huge passion for old things, things that have a history and a story to tell. She loves things that belonged to others and gave them pleasure, or even “gave them trouble!”. She says this passion came from the fact that her parents were refugees after the Second World War and came to this great country with only the clothes on their back. The couple live in a Victorian home, built in 1901. Here we share their passion for all that is old.
What is your history together?
In 1996 we began our business together, after a holiday with our three gorgeous little daughters. We met another young couple, a policeman and a kinder teacher, who had built and ran a childcare centre. At that stage I was working at a wonderful school teaching prep and Sam owned and ran a large accountancy firm with his brother in the city. Somehow after this holiday Sam and I began our journey. We built and ran our first large childcare centre for 120 children and 35 staff every day. This was soon followed by our second, third and finally, after 16 years the number was 11 childcare and kindergarten centres! That era is a whole other book I could write about and a wonderful journey indeed.
The times were tough financially and we needed to sell up our home to cover bills, wages and all sorts of things. This began our years of moving. Over the next 14 years we moved 10 times! Now you need to understand that not only was it a task to work, move, feed, keep clean and run all things for three little girls, but my biggest problem was my hoarding! I had pieces of furniture, magazine collections of national geographic, piles of old books, records, paintings, ceramics, tea cups etc. Things that I collected from shops, street collections, my family and friends. The list went on and on!! Now I wasn’t one of those people that they do shows about, that can’t get out of their house because of junk. I had things stashed neatly and in a way that others did not notice too much!
But we moved and I had to declutter!
Why do you collect old things?
I think I collect old things to have that real sense of belonging and connection to someone with a history that was here before. It gives me a sense of grounding. I love the stories that goes with each item I find, all the details if I can get them, like the lady who lived in the one house her whole life and she used the doilies every day with her cup of tea, or the hand made tool wooden box that was made by a man called Cohen in the 50’s – I imagine him lugging his toolbox from house to house getting small jobs to feed his family.
How did you find your home?
Garage sales were held and even days at Camberwell Market, to sell off what we could. But my eyes were always on the next thing I could collect for my obsession for beautiful old things that told tales of wonderful lives lived. We had fun as a family and moving house became the norm. We had a routine and everyone helped, including family and friend and I even learned to live with less! Eventually when it was time to buy a home again, my wish list was so huge and it was so confusing trying to find what I wanted, that we looked for three years. In the end our very dear friend started looking for us as we got so tired. She rang us one day and insisted we check out the new listing in Malvern. So off we went.
IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT!
She was a beautiful Victorian home, built in 1901 with a superb lace verandah, so feminine in its design, and incredible tessellated tiles. It had a dining room to die for with amazing high skirting boards in each room, backed up with deep layered cornices and ceiling roses. There were four bedrooms, which meant no more sharing for my children who by now were fairly grown up. With gorgeous fireplaces to boot, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. But the best part, it had the most amazing deep block with a mature garden, incredible old trees that were just begging for you to put down a blanket, grab a book and sip on a cup of herbal tea. We were so fortunate, surrounded by family and friends we bought this home and made it our own. It had such wonderful bones.
What is the history of the house?
The house started out life as the home for the local priest and there is a huge beautiful church down the street. In those days the property must have been something, as our backyard was the horses stable! Another fact that makes my heart giddy! Being able to become the custodial owner of this old home with such history made my heart sing. Here we were the caretakers of this home – what were we going to do with her? I am a huge believer of it doesn’t matter where you live, a house is just a house unless you bring heart, love, food, joy and celebrations into it … Then it becomes a home. My mother brought me up with that. As teenagers we were always allowed to have parties. Every weekend when there wasn’t anything to do. Noone else was allowed to have parties as it made too much mess or noise. But my mother would say, “a house is not a Mausoleum, it’s a home to enjoy”.
So these were the first ingredients we bought to this home.
It had been renovated in the 80’s and it was a nice job for the time. The Victorian part was quite traditional, which I loved. The new back addition, although practical, was ready for a new incarnation. We decided to live in her for a year or two before we renovated to feel what she was like and what we needed to enhance. I think that was the best decision we ever made. It helped so much as we knew how the place worked in its location, position and what as a family we needed her to provide us with. So we moved again, just one more time during the renovation ….. But we knew we were coming back to this incredible home that we share with all and sundry.
What are your favourite parts of the house?
Hmm that’s so hard. I’ll start at the front door. Walking up our front stairs you walk past a front garden that we created. It is full of gardenias that sweeten the air for all of the summer and they look so pretty with their white faces. We planted five large magnolias some years ago, but I’m not really loving them and I’m thinking of replacing them with either fig or apple trees. I’m looking for the blossoms, and of course the fruit as it is all about being sustainable. I love that we have made the front garden formal in the most part, with a structured box hedge, and then a quirky section with roses and some perennials. It’s our personality. As you walk in the front door you are greeted with a gorgeous lead light arch. We pulled up the old carpet when we moved in to discover stunning floor boards.
I love our bathroom, in which we installed a claw foot bath.We also put in a bay window which looks out to a stunning secret inner courtyard that can also be seen by our study. I’ve decorated it with an old French bathtub filled with a riot of colours, plants and scents from perennials. I found a stunning pair of old green large shutters and placed these in a wall behind the French bathtub to look like a setting in France. It’s a beautiful calm spot to be in and we use it as an entry from our carport, so as you move into the home you are surrounded by plants and old things.
Our dining room is formal. Painted grey walls and finished off with trims of white around the windows, door frames, ceiling cornices and skirting boards. We finished the room off with three large chandeliers as an over dramatic effect – we love it! And our neighbours tell us that when we entertain, they love all the beautiful light tinkling from our dinning room. My favorite piece of furniture in our dining room ( and of course each piece in there has it’s own special story ) is the mahogany Victorian large dining table. It’s in the theme of having a great story ….. it belongs to Sam’s brother and wife. They lived nearby in Toorak in a stunning enormous Queen Anne period home. They brought up six children in that home.
When they downsized we inherited their dining table. The table that was the centre of all family celebrations, gatherings, family special dinners. There is not one single family thing that I can remember that was not celebrated around that table. So we have become the new owners. Our first celebration was the engagement of our eldest daughter and so the tradition continues. And I feel so happy to be making our own pieces of inheritance filled with beautiful stories etc. Our study is fun and beautiful. We knocked a wall down between two small rooms and made this gorgeous space. We custom built a wall floor to ceiling bookshelf with a quirky ladder, which is a moving rail linked piece reminiscent of by gone days, with plantation shutters out to our gorgeous secret courtyard. The old finishes and the new begins.
You enter the back half of the house still themed to look like the old Victorian section. I think of this area as the heart of the home. It’s a huge space filled with vintage bits and pieces, with a gourmet kitchen including a wonderful Lacanche stove that keeps giving us delicious wholesome meals. We have a huge white with grey and brown marbled stripes and swirls kitchen bench.
What kinds of vintage pieces do you have?
The family room is filled with an incredible collection of vintage ware. Everywhere you look there is something else to look at that takes you to yesteryear. The wash stand filled with 100 old tin boxes, the carpentry bench used as a side board, holding vintage scales, vintage enormous bottles, mortar and pestles, jars, teapots, old butchers grinders, old books, modern ceramics, world globes, cloches with billiard balls in them and collections of buttons ….. Sooooo much fun to collect.
We have a collection of large vintage boxes used as an entire wall of open storage and I have collections of fine china tea cups, wooden spools, shoe lasts and even a boot last from Krakow Poland flea market. All these things have been sourced from flea markets, opportunity shops, street collections, Camberwell market and trips overseas. I always try to find a piece of yesteryear where ever I am. The whole room is open to a north facing garden, the sun streams in and we have French doors opening up to the garden, pool and vegetable patch. I try my best to serve food that we grow ourselves. It is so satisfying to grow from seed …. that seed to table idea. When we renovated we put in a huge water tank under our drive way – it’s thirty thousand litres. We try to run all our water for the house off it, but at times have had some challenging moments with pumps and leaks. But we think we have it right now.
How do you like to decorate and why do you love the house so much?
The underlying colour scheme of the house is white walls as I strongly believe in a white canvas and that the people, the things you own, the noise you make, the flowers you use- all bring the colour! Our daughters are all grown up now and no longer live here and many friends say it’s time to downsize, but we don’t think so. There is so much to enjoy in our home, so many memories to have here. We had a friend’s wedding here, and our second daughter’s wedding. We love having the space to ourselves but also love entertaining. Sam has a breakfast club here Saturday mornings and makes French toast. We never quite know who will turn up but I often get home from gym on a Saturday morning (when I’m not at our vintage polish poster pop up store) to a house filled with friends eating, reading papers and generally just being around.
We fill our house with flowers from our garden as well as cheap magnificent flowers from South Melbourne market. Our house also acts a a gallery for our wonderful Polish Poster collection. These original vintage posters that now are aged between 50 and 70 years old are amazing intellectual geographical political art. They come from an extremely talented group of artists called the “Polish Poster School Of Art ” who produced all the political propaganda for the new political regime “communism” that came to power after the Second World War.
The period of work covers the mid 1940’s till early 1980’s when solidarity came about.
The artists that were seconded were incredible artists and designers in their own right. They produced an amazing body of work which is still studied today in design course around the world. The posters have been exhibiting around the world including the MET in New York and even in Australia at the Ian Potter Gallery. Their work became known as the flowers of the street in Poland when they were hung in the street as the Russian/ communistic architecture was fairly bland. The ethos of the artists was to illicit an emotion from the person viewing their art.
They certainly achieved this aim. The edgy designs with brilliant colour catches your gaze at every look. Our house is decorated with many of these exquisite pieces and we also sell these original pieces through our pop up shop and online site www.sklep.com.au
Our home is such a comfort to us, both full and quiet. Our lives are still busy. We love being involved with the Polish posters, they fill us with beauty. And we love our home and garden. It really is a dream and we feel so blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to take care of our incredible home for the next generation to come.
Do you love this story as much as us? Do you agree that it is the people and the experiences that bring the colour to a home? And what is something you can not resist collecting?
**update of a post originally shared in 2014 – and one of our most popular!