Before and After: This Illustrator Turned a Dark, Run-Down Mid-Century Modern Australian House into a Bright and Colorful Home

published Apr 4, 2023

Before and After: This Illustrator Turned a Dark, Run-Down Mid-Century Modern Australian House into a Bright and Colorful Home

published Apr 4, 2023
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Name: Samantha Curcio, David Waddell and Ezra Waddell (almost 2)
Location: Ringwood North — Victoria, Australia
Type of Home: Mid-Century Modern Home (a Sibbel house, built in 1969)
Years lived in: 4 years, owned

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When freelance illustrator and designer Samantha Curcio (who also published her first children’s book last year through Hardie Grant Kids titled “Hello Every Body!”) and her husband, primary school teacher David Waddell, bought this mid-century modern house built in 1969, they knew they’d have to put some work into the run-down house to turn it into a modern home for their family, which now includes little Ezra, almost 2.

“We had been looking around for a few months particularly for homes that were mid-century modern builds, particularly project homes,” she begins. “There were a couple of developers we had a saved search on (Merchant Builders and Fasham Johnson), but we weren’t having any luck, being either outbid or not loving the house on inspection. We inspected a house up the road on the same street and we loved the outlook and vibe of the area, so I kept an eye out for any properties that would pop up. Then, by chance this place popped up and it was built by another project home developer, Sibbel Builders, who I’d never heard of at the time.”

“What we loved about this place (even though it needed a lot of love) was it’s relationship to the Australian bush block of land and how every window provides an outlook to the garden. We also love the features that make the property mid-century like its use of timber and exposed brick throughout, the wooden beams on the roof, and the layout of the house. Personally I love that our bedroom and en-suite is tucked away from the kid’s rooms down the back,” Sam continues.

“The previous owners — we got to learn from the neighbors — were quite eccentric, so a lot of the house was poorly looked after. This gave us an opportunity to update the areas and rooms as per our needs and not feel bad about tearing down a recently renovated kitchen or bathroom. It was truly a blank canvas. We also found some funny objects while demolishing old cabinetry. The funniest being a couple of tear-outs from a ’90s porn magazine stuck in a wardrobe cavity in the back bedroom!”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: A mix of mid-century modern and straight up modern. Colorful, full of (mostly) local curated art, eclectic and unique knick knacks. Lots of fun stuff to look at!

Inspiration: Color is probably the biggest inspiration in our home. Most of our artwork features bright palettes, as well as our furniture and homewares.

Favorite Element: There are so many lovely parts about our house — it’s hard to choose just one! I do like how much light we get in every room through skylights and the floor-to-ceiling windows. I especially love the outlook from the lounge room windows that wrap around the space.

One of the other things I love about our home is that a lot of the work we’ve done to the house has been done with my dad’s help both on the design side and the practical side. My dad has a background in architecture and for every room we’ve updated, he has played a huge role in how the space has been renovated. He’s provided architectural drawings for each room in the ideas stage and suggested layouts which would best suit the space. He’s also been so helpful with the project management side of things and even getting his hands dirty on the day-to-day with helping both Dave and I doing some of the demolition, building, and carpentry. We wouldn’t have been able to have this house without him!

Biggest Challenge: Every time we’ve gone to update something in our house, there are always about three to five extra things we need to do before we finish the job. Because the house is quite old and the previous owners left the house uncared for, we’ve had lots of additional costs added to renovation jobs. It’s happened so many times now that it’s never a surprise anymore. It’s just like, oh another thing? Sure why not, add it to the list!.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? One of the smartest ideas for space saving (again via my dad) was to turn a room solely for a toilet (a very extravagant and kind of dated idea) into a European laundry. It’s a practical space that we use every day.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing, cleaning, or organizing tips you have: I think the number one tip for renovating, especially a mid-century place, is to design it for you and the members of your family who will be living in the space. Trust your instincts! There are so many opinionated people out there who think they can tell you what you should or shouldn’t change (and this advice is usually unsolicited). At the end of the day, you’re the people who have to live in the space, so make it something you love and you’ll never regret it.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? We like to support friends, local and/or independent designers where we can when sourcing unique pieces for our home, if it’s in our budget. We’ve also picked up little things on holidays that sit on the shelves. It’s nice to have a fond memory attached to certain pieces too. If we can’t go on a holiday for a while, we can at least look wistfully at something in our home (lol).

Resources

CABINETRY

  • All new cabinetry in our house built by G&E Custom Built Kitchens

ENTRY

  • Artwork – Samantha Curcio, Printed by Hound and Bone studio (
  • Wooden sculptures – Vitra Wooden Dolls by Alexander Girard
  • Vintage yellow mirror from Sam’s mum’s childhood bedroom

LIVING ROOM

DINING ROOM

KITCHEN

  • Plant pot – Areaware
  • Studio Arhoj creatures – Pinky’s
  • Noda Horo Amu Kettle – Cibi
  • Ceramic vase on top shelf and small cup on shelf below – Rittle King
  • Coffee cups – Various artists I can’t remember but one is Echo Park Pottery via Third Drawer Down and another is Chips Japan via Pinky’s

PRIMARY BEDROOM

ENSUITE BATHROOM

KIDS BEDROOM

  • Abc, Aussie animals and number prints – Samantha Curcio
  • Cot sheet – Halcyon Nights
  • Mobile over cot – Etsy
  • Mobile near window – Double Date
  • Drawers and shelving – Ikea
  • Yellow chair – Tuff Play
  • Goki lobster – Pinky’s
  • Knitted Xmas doll made for Sam by her grandma
  • Apollo Saturn V rocket – Lego (built by Dave)
  • Custom Ezra print gifted by talented illustrator friends of Sam’s – Ashley Ronning, Kate Pullen, Matthew Wong, and Rebecca Mills
  • Handmade felt skateboard made for Ezra – One of Sam’s beaut pals Magda Ksiezak

MAIN BATHROOM

  • Towels – Dusen Dusen
  • Floor tiles – Signorino tiles

STUDY

  • Herman Miller desk chairs – Leonard Joel
  • Yellow Lamp – Nicole Lawrence / Seb Brown
  • Alex drawers – Ikea
  • Rope vessel plant pot holder – Gemma Patford
  • Various patches, cards, mugs and artworks primarily by Samantha Curcio.
  • Other artists featured: Ashley Ronning / Helio Press, Magda Ksiezak, Symon McVilly, Steve Gavan, Luke Flowers, Scott C, Eamon Donnelly, WBYK and more

Thanks Samantha!

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This tour’s photos and interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.