Melbourne Design Awards - City Design Awards

McConnell Street

Melbourne Design Awards 2010 - Winner

Project Overview

Renovation and extension of a Victorian era home in Kensington, Victoria. My husband bought the property in 1991, from the original owner, intending to one day restore its original beauty. Ideas for the project began with the notion that my husband and I wanted to create our ideal family home where, behind the original Victorian façade, would be a large contemporary living space with a seamless transition between the interior and exterior. With a love of entertaining, we wanted to welcome our family and friends into a beautiful, bright, vibrant home.

Project Team


Robin & Alan Craig
Robin Craig


Robin Craig: Interior Design & Decoration
Robin Craig

Robin Craig, Dip.Arts (Interior Decoration and Design)
Interior Designer (sole trader)

Project Brief

This home is a Victorian-era house built in what was then a working class suburb. The original house was simple – built without the period features that most people associate with the Victorian style. There were no cornices or ceiling roses and the fireplace surrounds in all rooms were very simple.

I created the brief.

The lack of period features allowed great latitude in decoration – I could seamlessly blend the old and the new; I could let my imagination soar.

I could use bold coloured wall paper; I could fill the house with my collection of contemporary paintings and art glass; I could mix my inherited and collected old furniture with modern day pieces; I could choose light fittings such as the Bocci 14 series and the Talo light; I could select exciting fabrics for my granny’s old chairs; I could use antique and modern mirrors to reflect the vibrant colours; I could put Thonet bentwood chairs at my grandmother’s kitchen table; I could create contemporary bathrooms using large organic tiles with great depth of colour; I could have a bright airy master bedroom and colourful, fun rooms for my sons.

I could create an environment where the original house harmonized perfectly with the contemporary extension. I could create our dream home.

Project Innovation / Need

I have a unique way of putting together patterns, colours and shapes.

- I use colours in combinations that are startling, yet effective
Photos 1 and 1a: In the entry hall an antique mirror with a bronze gilded frame hangs on Eiffinger turquoise blue ‘Oriental Moon’ wallpaper; the hall doors have been two packed in full gloss white creating a strong contrast to the metalized finish of the wallpaper; looking into the hall from the bathroom you see a mix of handmade red, organic fossil and dark floor tiles - the depth of colour flowing into the bold wallpaper.

- I combine furnishings to create intimate spaces within one larger space; creating nooks where there are no nooks Photos 2 and 2a: The extension viewed from the top of the curved stair case is one large open space within which I have grouped comfortable arm chairs, Molteni Domino glass tables, a large yucca and Whalen garage shelving (from Costco) to create a space to which people are immediately drawn.

- I harmonize old with new, up-market with mass-produced
Photo 2a: I love that the contemporary glass tables sit happily in front of the garage shelving, encompassed by armchairs from my childhood (recovered in Designers Guild Morskaya aqua).

- I hang art work in eclectic groupings, revelling in colours and ignoring usual rules of compositional style Photo 3: My son’s wire coat hanger dragonfly hangs above four framed art works and a canvas.

Design Challenge

How could I give the house character without clutter?
How could I keep my existing furniture and blend it into a new space?
How could I have colour, art, photos and memories of our lives around us?
How could I create a contemporary yet warm family home?

Graduating in 2006, I had endless ideas for decorating our home. The challenge was reining in these ideas, finding a starting point and then remaining true to the vision.

I began with a picture in my head of a bold colour. I opened the Eiffinger book and there was the blue ‘Oriental Moon’ wallpaper – it was a perfect match for my vision. This was the first thing you’d see on entering my home.

I then remembered the Morskaya fabric (for the armchairs). It happened to mimic part of the design in the wallpaper. I knew immediately that the colour and design would create a sense of flow from the hall down into the living area.

The journey had begun. From there, one thing led to another.

One look at the dark Mustang fabric (for my sofa) and I knew it was a perfect foil to the brilliant colour of the Morskaya.

Loving colour, I needed more. I remembered the orange and green Hay cushions – they had just the intensity of colour to bring life to the Mustang fabric.

I stuck to my vision: the mixture of bold colours, contemporary fabrics, old and new furniture were coming together to bring our art, photos and memories to life.


While sustainability was part of the architectural brief, I also tried to emulate this in the decoration.

Wherever possible, I used existing furniture and accessories (including all my artwork). The art deco book shelves were originally found in op shops and the magazine rack is a refurbished antique. I reused my Granny’s armchairs and her occasional chair by re-staining and reupholstering them to fit in with our new home. The hall mirror was sourced in an antique shop in Sydney over 25 years ago. Most lamps and all beds came from my previous two homes. My Grandmother’s kitchen table, used now as our dining table, has been resurfaced using Whittle wax ‘lustre’ finish. This product is a non-toxic, eco- friendly timber finish made from sustainable, natural raw materials.

Whittle wax ‘lustre’ finish was also used on all floorboards – the existing floorboards in the original section of the house and the spotted gum floorboards through the rest of the house.

Australian designed and made items include the sofa, the floor and table lamps, the window shutters on the entrance level and the inbuilt cabinetry (in the kitchen, bathrooms, living room, rumpus room, laundry and cellar).

Bentwood Timber chairs, which are recyclable, surround my dining table. Low E glass was used throughout the home and ceiling fans were installed in all bedrooms and the study/office. Hydronic heating is in every room.