Homemade is where the heart is

Home Magazine , December 2014


A Torquay couple who decorated their home around a philosophy of home-grown, hand-made and recycled has created a stylish retro wonderland, discovers MIRANDA LUBY

A carrot cake decorated with hydrangeas, a bowl of freshly-laid eggs, faded vintage sugar and flour tins, big bundles of hand-picked garlic and beetroot.
These are some of the items that adorn Briony and Chris Williams’ kitchen table, or the beautiful recycled wooden turquoise door they use as the table, on a regular Friday afternoon.
Home-grown, hand-made and recycled is the ethos this Torquay couple lives by. Almost everything in their Parkside Crescent home, from the pastel-coloured wooden bunting hanging across the front to the hothouse made entirely from recycled doors and windows out the back, has the nostalgic, homey and crafty feel of something that’s been given a second life.
And, it seems, there’s hardly an exception to the rule.
“We saw this gorgeous house in North Balwyn,” Briony says of the beautiful 1930s weatherboard home. “And it was going to get knocked down so we decided to relocate it to right here to Torquay.”
Adds Chris: “We loved the shape of it and thought the kind of Californian bungalow style would fit perfectly here.”
This was seven years ago — three years after the couple met working at a surf shop in Melbourne. The home was cut in half and shuffled off down the highway.
“Within three days you could lock the doors,” Chris says. “It was incredibly easy.”
But the couple knew there was plenty of work to be done. First Chris built the verandah out the front and the pair has since set about trying to renovate the entire home to fit in with the original 1930 style of the house.
“It’s a labour of love,” Briony chuckles.
And this is a couple with no shortage of love to give in life or their home.
Briony, a mental health nurse, and Chris, a music teacher at Bellbrae Primary School, both in their early 30s, have given each corner of every room the kind of attention to detail that only comes from the love for a home.
Colourful crochet rugs are folded neatly on beds adorned with vintage teddy bear print pillows that remind Briony of her childhood. Vases of rustic-looking native flowers complement the recycle wooden crate coffee table they sit on. Walls are decorated with nature-themed art crafted by Chris’ brother, Justin Lee Williams, while the covers of old records from Chris’ collection act as their own kind of art in the wooden shelves that line the living room wall.
An antique typewriter, mismatched vintage crockery, a kid’s tricycle festooned with a colourful terrarium: all these details combine to create a perfectly balanced and extremely stylish recycled retro wonderland.
“We don’t want to be surrounded by all new home wares that have no history or feeling to them,” explains Chis of the items that come from eBay, op-shops and even the tip. “Even the bath (a cement claw foot tub) is from eBay and it’s been fantastic.”
It’s no surprise that as a kid, Chris used to get in trouble from bringing home piles of goods from the local op-shop.
And outside the magic continues. Like an Alice in Wonderland-esque garden party, everywhere you look there is a surprising visual treat such as the bathroom sink overflowing with herbs, the bejeweled pink fabric lantern hanging over one of the many vegetable patches and the quaint iron garden gate.
“We wanted it to feel like you could have a picnic out here and it be a really special experience,” says Briony of the space, which is also home to the couple’s four chickens and two dogs. “We love coming out here, picking a place to sit and just enjoying that little corner of the garden.”
The picnic table adorned with a summer-inspired strawberry printed tablecloth is a focal point of the back yard but the real centerpiece is a glistening hot house. Cobbled together from recycled doors and windows, some big clear panes and others intricately detailed glass designs, it’s a feat of creative engineering.
The Williams, whose parents were all avid gardeners and recyclers, were inspired by a house made entirely of glass they has seen on a design blog and decided to recreate it in miniature form — and Chris now makes them to order himself.
Inside the hot house, among the tomatoes and herbs, takeaway coffee cups filled with new seedlings point to the creative lengths the couple goes to in order to reuse and create little waste.
“We often go on big road trips up the coast of New South Wales and keep all our cups which, after the trip, ends up being a lot,” says Briony of the cups still scrawled with their names and individual coffee orders. “So then we plant seedlings in them and they’re actually perfect for that use. I guess it just shows what you can do instead of buying things.”
As does growing their own vegetables, they say.
“We know a few people in the area that grown different vegetables to us so we swap them when we have an excess,” says Chris who jokes it’s like having three supermarkets in the street. “It also creates a sense of community and gets people inspired and talking about what else they can grow or make.”
Adds Briony with a laugh: “We say we’re thrifty but we mean it in a good way. We think that should be a positive word.”
Not ones to keep all this to themselves, the couple, who has a small home in Lorne as well, rent their home out over summer through airbnb. Briony delights in making hampers for guests out of goods from local producers who make a difference in the community, such as jam, chutney and honey from Norlane’s 2&5 Fresh Food Shop, which promotes healthy eating in the area.
“We love the idea of people staying somewhere that in years to come they might still remember fondly,” Briony says. “We always want it to feel like a home.”