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A well-loved two-bedroom cottage gets a modern makeover

There’s no place like home for this young family, who have breathed glorious new life into their cottage home

What began as the chance to transform a dilapidated cottage into a dream home to be sold to another family, soon became so much more for builder Dale Cheesman and his wife Gemma Sampson. To the couple’s surprise, they found themselves forming a strong emotional connection to their “cute but rundown” century-old weatherboard, tucked away on a leafy street.

And before Gemma and Dale knew it, their plan to renovate and move on had evolved into something much more personal. “It quickly went from being a home that we were going to house-flip into a home we plan to stay in for a much longer time,” says Dale. “We found ourselves falling in love with both the house and the area.”

The plan

Parents to Hugo, three, and one-year-old Angus, Gemma and Dale bought the home in November 2015, just a month before their wedding. “It’s our first home, which also makes it really special,” says Gemma with a smile. “It was liveable when we bought it, but it needed a lot of work.

We always knew we would renovate the front rooms and add an extension at the back, and we decided to live in the house before and during the renovation.”

The couple was armed with a carefully thought-out wish list. While Dale, who has his own construction company, took charge of the works, Gemma unleashed her creative energy on the home’s interiors. “We didn’t rush into any decisions too quickly,” says Dale. “As we were living in the house for a couple of years before we started on the renovation, we got to understand it really well – the way the light comes in and all of the different features of the house and garden.”

Beautiful transformations

Today, beckoning behind a grey picket fence, a traditional garden, lovingly brought to life by Dale and his father Mark, brims with new plantings of roses, magnolias, snow maidens and English box hedges. “The garden has undergone a massive transformation,” says Dale. “Before, there was a lot of concrete, some yuccas and bamboo, and really not much else.”

The home itself has also been transformed. Once you step over the threshold of the heritage home you are immersed in a dramatic union of old and new. While the original rooms at the front – housing the sleeping quarters and bathrooms – pay homage to the beauty and charm of the Edwardian era, the luminous rear extension is a study in contemporary family living.

Fully retractable steel-framed glazed doors flood the open-plan family domain with daylight and a soaring raked ceiling enhances the sense of airiness and space. “People are taken aback by the
scale of the house and the light, which is really beautiful,” says Gemma.

Large-scale contemporary artworks and plush furnishings, juxtaposed against a palette of predominantly white walls, pale timber flooring and beautifully tactile marble, infuse the home with colour and texture. Shades of green, peppered throughout, bring a sense of unity.

“We wanted to take a few risks and have a bit of fun with the palette,” explains Gemma. “We always seemed to come back to the colour green, with different shades featured in the rooms.”

Over the past year, Gemma and Dale – like so many of us – have come to understand the true meaning of home life, and with that, has come an overwhelming sense of appreciation.

“We tried to find the silver lining in the situation by taking the time to unwind, reset and slow down a little more with the kids,” says Gemma. “At the same time, we’re growing with the house – and that’s a really lovely thing.”

A closer look:


Powder room: The Ice Green marble reigns supreme in the home’s luxurious powder room. “The fully-integrated marble washbasin has to be my favourite feature here,” says Gemma. Tapware from Reece complements the modern look while the timber wall arch is a shapely feature in the pared back room.


Main ensuite: Above the shower is what Gemma describes as an “enormous” skylight that allows daylight to stream into the couple’s ensuite, which comes complete with double basins and underfloor heating for the cooler months. “It’s such a luxury,” says Gemma of the added heating. White mosaic wall tiles provide the chic match to the Carrara marble vanity, while the sconce wall lights offer the right amount of task lighting when needed.


Main bedroom: “This is our sanctuary,” says Gemma, of the couple’s retreat, which is a large bedroom with an original fireplace, as well as a new ensuite and walk-in robe. The grey fabric bedhead marries perfectly with the blue-green quilt and velvet cushion. A Home Republic stool from Adairs doubles as a bedside table, while the irregularly shaped mirror is a budget-friendly Target find.


Nursery: “I had so much fun styling the kids’ bedrooms,” says Gemma. In Angus’ room, a fairytale canopy and an Artecnica mobile are suspended over the Mocka cot, as if lifted from a secret fairytale garden.


Uniting old and new: The couple designed the extension with everyday living and entertaining in mind. For easy dinners and impromptu barbecues, the grey marble-topped outdoor kitchen, which was designed and built by Dale’s company, makes cooking for a crowd a breeze.


Urban oasis: Gemma and Dale have outdoor entertaining sorted with this room framed on both sides by retractable glazed doors should the weather turn inclement. An extendable oak dining table created the perfect spot to relax. “There’s nothing better on a nice evening than opening up the sliding doors and sitting out here while the kids are playing outside,” says Gemma.

Words by: Jackie Brygel. Styling by: Julia Green. Photography by: Armelle Habib.

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