A Bright, Happy, Family Home…in a Backyard Shed

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Name: Mel and Ryan Tonkin and their daughters, Millie and Olivia
Location: Bedfordale, Western Australia
Size: 95 square meters (1,023 square feet)
Years lived in: 4 years; Owned

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To begin this House Tour, I must tell you that this house is actually a shed — a standard shed you’d find in the backyard of many Australian homes. What Mel and Ryan have done to their shed though, is something entirely different from any shed you have ever seen. It is extraordinary. The Tonkins’ home is filled with light, color, pattern, and such warmth that it is very easy to forget that you are actually standing in a shed. Mel has such a beautiful eye for all things design-related, and that is reflected in every single corner of this family home.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)
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Looking in from the front sliding door (Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

The couple sold their previous home a few years ago and decided that they wanted to begin their family in the hills of Bedfordale. To save for that dream, they lived in an extended family member’s back shed for two years before they were able to build their own on a five-acre plot of land. Mel then set out to transform the shed from a simple space to something that is filled to the brim with lots of custom-made pieces from family members, projects she DIYed herself, verge finds, and purchases from lots of small businesses she found on Instagram.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

The shed has a main open plan living, kitchen, and dining area that is surrounded by lots of glass windows and sliding doors (the main change to the standard shed layout). This allows lots of natural light to flood the space and makes it feel a lot bigger than it actually is. Off the main living area there are three bedrooms: Ryan and Mel in one, the two daughters in another, and a spare room that they use as an office for their electrical business. The home also has one large bathroom that contains a washing machine, dryer, and linen cupboard.

Space may be tight inside, but with five acres to utilize, Ryan and Mel have decided to make the outside an extension of the house, building a playhouse for the girls, along with a sandpit, slide, and swing set. (They have also just had a huge in-ground pool installed at the front of the block, currently being prepared to be enjoyed by next summer.) And the playhouse sure hasn’t escaped Mel’s love of design! Like the main house, it is bright, fun, and decorated perfectly. The girls spend a lot of time out here, and it is not hard to see why. I suspect it may even be the perfect space for Mel to escape to when she needs a little peace and quiet from the demands of running both a household and the family business.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Modern Bohemian

Inspiration: Instagram!

Favorite Element: The wooden boxes my [Mel] dad made.

Biggest Challenge: Fitting everything in!

What Friends Say: They tell me I am a crazy plant lady! I am obsessed with plants and the life they bring into my home.

Biggest Embarrassment: I dont really have one!

Proudest DIY: My leather handles on all the kitchen cupboards.

Biggest Indulgence: The dining room chandelier. It is so bold and beautiful.

Best Advice: Only have things in your home that you truly love. As long as you love them, you can make it work.

Dream Sources: Anything bespoke and handmade.



  • Main walls throughout: Dulux Natural White




  • Dining table: Harvey Norman
  • Chairs: Sitting Pretty
  • Chair cushions: Tea Pea
  • Island bench: made by Mel’s Dad
  • Flowers: Floralstate


  • Kitchen cabinets: Bunnings
  • Box shelves: designed by Mel, built by Mel’s dad, featuring Bonnie and Neil tiles
  • Leather handles: DIY by Mel
  • Himmeli: Floral + Hardie
  • Cross: Ahoy Trader




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Thanks, Mel & Ryan!