19th-century Melbourne mansion transformed into a modern family home

Formal rooms get an injection of colour in this redesign by design studio Richard Hall & Son

richard hall  son house melbourne living room togo sofa
Lisa Cohen

A dramatic arched portico marks the entrance to this stunning stately Italianate villa, built in Melbourne in 1859 and sympathetically renovated by local firm NTF Architecture in 2020. Originally designed for Victoria’s first attorney general and long-term chief justice, the building comprised a series of lofty, formal rooms, which have now been transformed with a bright and inviting redesign.

The remodel incorporated a new kitchen, two dining spaces and multiple living areas within a fluid and unified layout, while five bedrooms and four bathrooms can be found upstairs. The house is surrounded by large landscaped gardens that have been reworked by Eckersley Garden Architecture; an outdoor wine cellar situated in an old bomb shelter is a resourceful touch.

richard hall son house melbourne dining
Lisa Cohen

For the interiors, the new homeowners turned to Fiona Richardson and Belinda Hall, who were brought onto the project before the architectural work began and then picked up again when it was completed. ‘Our task was to complement and enhance the incredible existing formal rooms and marry these to the newly renovated spaces with furnishings, lighting and art,’ explain the duo, who are behind Melbourne-based creative studio Richard Hall & Son.

Asked to rethink the mood of the home’s grand interior, Fiona and Belinda devised a scheme that would cater to the needs of a busy family with an appreciation for modern design. ‘We had a great relationship with the homeowner and there were few limitations,’ say the designers, who did away with the strong paint colours, swag curtains and ornate lighting chosen by the home’s previous owners.

richard hall son house melbourne kitchen
Lisa Cohen

In their place is a serene white backdrop that makes the most of the natural light and impactful period features, including a grand total of 10 original fireplaces.

‘The existing architecture, high ceilings, ornate cornices and skirting boards gave us an incredible base to spring from,’ add Fiona and Belinda. ‘The architects also provided a strong, contemporary backdrop with the deep-blue kitchen, moody grey stone countertops and the elegant steel-framed outlook to the garden.’

richard hall son house melbourne
Lisa Cohen

The pair brought in hits of soft colour and muted jewel tones through a considered selection of textiles, custom furniture and art. Apart from the architects’ bold blue kitchen-diner, the only departure from the luminescent new white scheme is the study, where warm grey walls create a cocooning feel.

The juxtaposition between old and new was an important part of the process for both designers, who balanced a selection of contemporary pieces favoured by the homeowner with characterful vintage finds. One particular item that played a key part in realising this vision was an Italian mid-century sofa, which was reupholstered in yellow velvet.

richard hall son house melbourne bedroom
Lisa Cohen

‘The design had an unusual and pleasing curved shape that seemed to invite conversation, so we placed it in the open salon near the entrance to set the tone of this unique and welcoming home.’

Needless to say, the homeowners are more than happy with the finished result: ‘When we first moved into this house it felt like a museum in many ways, with rooms that were hardly used. Now, every corner is utilised, with cosy nooks to watch TV, daybeds that look out onto the garden and great entertaining spaces. It’s comfortable, practical, and, throughout a period where we have spent more time than normal at home, it has been a joy to live in.’ ntfarchitecture.com.au; richardhallandson.com.au

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