Text by CoLAB Design Studio
The Highbury House project is a joyful restoration of a quintessential 1980’s suburban home. The interiors embrace the charisma of this often-shamed decade of design, giving new life and relevance to the home’s exuberant heart as it beats in unabashed colour and riotous texture; warm, unrestrained and deliciously liveable.
The Highbury House project in Balywn North, Victoria, Australia, is unique in its willingness to step outside of contemporary design sensibilities, exploring the joy of a design language that speaks of simpler, more optimistic times. The new design by CoLAB Design Studio did not seek to modernise or quieten the spirit of the original home. Instead it embraced the character of the time, going back in time to evoke the quintessential 1980’s Australian family dream.
Central to the client’s brief, was the desire to preserve the bones of the original home, including restoring much of the original joinery, architectural features, light fittings and fixtures. The design scheme was crafted to seamlessly knit old with new; from the large gestures to the tiny details. This meant embracing materials and colours boldly; being unafraid of the collision between junctions and textures.
The result is a home that feels familiar, like a happy childhood memory, evoking a time when things were less minimal but effortlessly simple.
The original home was a model of 1980’s optimism, where flashy entertaining was set amidst an interior rich with colour, reflection and layers of surface texture. The home came complete with vintage Murano light fittings, silk wallpaper, mirrored ceilings and tiled benchtops; the antithesis of contemporary design sensibilities but everything the client loved!
The design response was suitably bold, embracing the home’s unique character via a concept that ensured the interior would not be moderated by a ‘contemporary’ design interpretation. This was the starting point for a restoration that was designed to reignite the charisma of the original home, creating a setting for a new generation of family life, for joyful entertaining and vivid memory-making.
Where key design elements were retained or restored (including staircase, internal planters and mirrored ceilings), most joinery, materials and fixtures were replaced with new. The scheme built upon the extensive installation of cedar work within the home, layering it to walls, ceilings and joinery. At the heart of the design is a monumental walnut and brass kitchen, anchored by boldly coloured terrazzo floor and wall cladding, handmade ceramic tiles and miles of velvet drapes.
Design innovation was achieved in this project by simply embracing what was ‘old fashioned’ or ‘daggy’ and recognising its potential in what it may contribute to a contemporary design scheme. Restoration was employed where-ever possible, including the salvaging of original cabinetry, light fittings and fixtures; all of which were modified, redesigned and re-employed for modern-day use.
Where new design elements were developed, 1980’s detailing methodologies were studied and authentically applied, demanding an expert level of workmanship in stonemasonry and cabinet making. Significant lengths were also undertaken to reinstate original services where possible, including original in-floor heating and room-to-room intercom service.
Photos by Shannon McGrath