Inside a Breathtaking Melbourne Home That Effortlessly Mixes Old and New
A case for wood paneling.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:14 AM
Barnaby Lane founder Rae Maxwell’s Melbourne home is the living definition of a “hidden gem.” Tucked away in the suburb of Clifton Hill, one step inside her renovated Edwardian abode and you’d almost never know the city was just 10 short minutes away. Maxwell has been cultivating her personal slice of paradise for the past six years, and it shows.
“If you’d seen it originally, there was little that would have drawn you to the home—think a bright lime green bathroom, blue bedrooms, and a lot of paving with no real outdoor space,” says Maxwell of when she first toured the home. “But it had huge potential.”
It was the storied hallway and high ceilings that sold Maxwell and her husband, Michael (also known as Maxy), on the Edwardian home. Maxwell’s husband—the “brains, drive, and madness behind all the renovations”—worked closely with Simon Cookes at Duckbuild Architecture to strike the perfect balance between old and new; both indoor and out.
“I think my favorite detail is that back living area, where the doors open completely and you can literally bring the outdoors in, including the birds that have popped in for a visit on many occasions,” says Maxwell.
In an effort to bridge the gap between old and new, the couple worked with Cookes on repeating the natural materials that were already present in the space. “This is where the timber paneling came from,” suggests Maxwell.
The original timber rods that line the staircase, for instance, are echoed by the wall paneling that was added to the master bathroom and the downstairs living area. Hints of exposed steel can also be spotted throughout the home. The rich woods and unexpected touches of black pop against the white walls.
“I try to let the home speak for itself,” says Maxwell. “Particularly in these heritage homes. They have so much character.”
Acutely aware of the possibility of overdecorating, Maxwell opts for negative space over fussy vignettes and crowded corners. Her decorating strategy doesn’t veer too far from the tidying movement that’s sweeping the world right now. Put simply, she lives with the items that she loves, or—as Marie Kondo would say—the things that spark joy.
“I would certainly put myself into the minimalist bucket,” she shares. “I definitely subscribe to the ‘buy once, buy well’ theory.”
This same ethos fuels her brand. Beloved for its relaxed sensibility and laid-back approach to seating, Barnaby Lane continues to redefine the meaning of casual-cool. “I try to honor the materials that we use and not overcomplicate them,” she says.
Fittingly, Maxwell treats her home as a second showroom and workshop of sorts. The space is appropriately peppered with original prototypes that hold a special place in her heart—like the buttery-soft sling-back lounge chairs that sit in her upstairs living room.
“I will be biased here, but my favorite object is the Smith chair,” says Maxwell. “It was designed and created in this home, and I’ve spent many relaxing hours lazing away in it, reading a good book, or even better, having a glass of wine.”
While sophisticated neutrals, rich woods, and leather tones play a dominant role in the couple’s master suite, their two little ones—6-year-old Sadie and 2-year-old Will—enjoy friendly splashes of color.
Cute and grown-up-approved are hard to master in one fell swoop, but Maxwell makes the merger look easy.
Maxwell paints a picture of an average day at home: “The kids playing in the back yard and me pottering around inside—typically cleaning up after them.”
Although the charming entryway was what initially sold Maxwell and her husband on the property, it’s safe to say that the real heart of the home lives downstairs.
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