A Vintage Retro Wonderland in Australia

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Name: Dana Leviston, Mahlie (9) Leon (8)
Location: Yarraville, Melbourne, Australia
Size: Approximately 700 square metres
Years lived in: 11 Years, Rental

This house was built in the 1950s and renovated in the ’70s. It came to Dana’s family through her father first; he bought the house in 1992 . (There was only one previous owner before their family.) Dana’s father immediately made some light, brightening renovations in the ’90s, such as knocking walls down to open up the space (sacrificing one of the four bedrooms) and replacing one single solid door with glass sliding doors that open out onto the deck.
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(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

There was a cool, enclosed verandah with glass windows and and a linoleum floor that definitely kind of had cool vibes, but Dana and her Father ultimately decided it had to go because it was mostly ugly and its ceiling was so low. Also because at the time, you had to go outside to get into the bathroom and toilet! The green retro bathroom was removed and in went a crazy corrugated iron shower!

There was ugly brown fake brick cladding the entire house. This was removed to reveal the original weatherboards, which were in good enough condition to sand and paint. The backyard was grass and concrete only, but all the plants and trees have been added since they moved here.

Some moves later, Dana made it back to this Yarraville house around 2005—when her Dad had decided to move out and rent the home to her. Dana has had two children since; it has now become their family home.

When she moved in, she took on even more renovations, adding her personality to the kitchen, bath area and bedrooms.

This home has seen a lot of thoughtful changes over the years (and has been helped by many local tradesman and friends) Not only is the home full of style, it’s also full of great memories.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mid-century – especially late ’60s/early ’70s, Spanish, some Australiana.

Inspiration: My childhood, my collection of retro Home Beautiful magazines, my grandmother—whose belongings I treasure dearly. Wes Anderson. Films and TV such as The Ice Storm, A Single Man, The Munsters, The Brady Bunch, Bewitched. Travel—especially Spain, Malta, California and New Orleans. Also I adore gathering vintage gems on Australian road trips. I’m like a bowerbird—I bring bits and pieces home and then everything else evolves from there. I have been collecting for 25 years. I like too many eras and too many treasures—having a large home and having two children’s rooms to decorate has really just given me license to spread out all the collections and arrange them into clusters of cute pieces. If I could I would have a house for every era to play with and satisfy and justify my collecting and love for interiors and décor.

Favorite Element: I love the stone mantelpiece in my bedroom. It had to be restored recently as it was falling to pieces. The fireplace is blocked so I created a “poor-man’s fire” with candles. Although at the moment, while it’s winter, my favourite element is the fire pit in the backyard that my boyfriend built—we sit out there with friends after dinner with our wine or with the kids and toast some marshmallows.

Biggest Challenge: Storage. I realise I’m a mild hoarder but there just isn’t any built-in storage in this house and it’s a constant challenge to keep the house tidy and find homes for things. My children won’t throw anything away, either. No idea where they get that from! My solution was to buy enormous deco wardrobes.

What Friends Say: When friends visit they feel like they are out of town—like this is a country house, even though we are only 8kms from the city. We have a huge flowering gum on our nature strip and a beautiful Jacaranda tree in the front garden, so in the summer the mornings are alive with birdsong. The village is like a little country town in the middle of the western suburbs; the area has a quaint charm and most friends will often include a trip to the Sun Theatre or the local cafés when they plan a visit to our home. People also love my record player and vinyl collection and that it is the focus of the living room—not the television—most people say there is a good vibe here. I often do my makeup work at home and clients don’t want to sit down and be still as they want to wander around and look at everything and never want to leave. It’s a nice feeling.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Biggest Embarrassment: The kitchen looks great at a distance, but to be honest, it was renovated in a hurry 10 years ago when I was heavily pregnant with my first child. Nothing was very well planned or thought out and it was never finished properly. All this time later it could now do with an entire makeover. Also, stuff went in our back shed in 1992 and never came back out. So it’s not pretty.

Proudest DIY: The bath. The old ugly laundry was ripped out and the entire space is now just for the claw foot bath. The bath was dark green when I bought it from Steptoe & Son and I painted it sherbet yellow. It’s very Doris Day. There is also a door out to the backyard so it’s lovely in summer to have the fresh air come in whilst having a soak.

Biggest Indulgence: There isn’t really one particular thing that more money was spent on or is more valuable that is an actual part of the house. I think decor-wise I spend the most money on framing artworks that come into my possession. If there was money to be spent I would probably re-do all the floors and fix up the kitchen. My dad says his biggest splurge was the central heating as he grew up in country Victoria enduring the winters with no heating all.

Best Advice: The best thing I ever read about interiors and home decor is that “the things you love will inevitably go together.” I think I love almost every decor item in my home and that every piece has a story behind it or once belonged to someone special and everything really does complement each other. I recommend featuring items that mean something to you and purchasing objects with character or history before bringing home anything mass-produced or un-ethically manufactured. Sometimes it takes me longer to obtain something I need or want for the house because I take the time to think about whether I can find it locally or handmade or produced by someone I know before I run out to get it from the department stores.

Dream Sources: Flea markets in faraway lands, garage sales, Camberwell Market, Daylesford Sunday Market, Thrift Stores, Facebook Buy-Swap- Sell Groups, The Mill Market, Chapel St Bazaar, Waverley Antique Bazaar, eBay, Antique centres in Sydney.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)
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Dana in the living room (Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Thanks, Dana, Mahlie and Leon!

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