Jane's Armadale Pear Tree House

Jane's Armadale Pear Tree House

Jenny Butler
Apr 16, 2010

Name: Jane of My Pear Tree House
Location: Armadale, Australia
Size: 220 square meters approx 2,300 square feet
Years lived in: 10 years, owned

Walking through the front door into Jane's 110 year old home is impressive. The highest ceilings we've ever seen in a house, seriously wide architraves, skirting boards and window frames, not to mention the original stained glass windows in amazing condition. As we walked down the hallway through the house, we came out into an unexpected space — newly renovated kitchen, dining and lounge room complete with a sunken lounge you'd die for.

There are so many different elements of Jane's home that we love; the drought tolerant front garden, the most perfectly red dining room, the custom built lounge suite in the sunken lounge, the impressively huge backyard. What we loved the most was how perfectly Jane has achieved having a child friendly and grown up home at the same time- there are toys scattered throughout the home but you barely notice them, the furniture is well made with smart upholstery choices to hide everyday wear and tear and the occasional piece of children's furniture doesn't look out of place with the mix of antique and modern furnishings.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My/Our style: Our house is Edwardian, about 110 years old. The front part (where the bedrooms, sitting room and dining room are located) is the old part of the house. This section has all the usual features of this period, wooden floorboards, very high ceilings, leadlight windows, casement windows, plaster walls and very very bad wiring.

We have constructed a very modern extension on to the back of the house. This is a large area, with a sunken conversation pit which houses a couch, TV, fireplace and built in bar. It also has a kitchen, laundry and dining area, with lots of tall glass sliding windows looking out on to the garden.

Our style is probably minimalist eclectic. We do not believe in building things to look old, or trying to 'match' styles. I know a lot of people disagree with this approach (including our neighbours!) but we really wanted the new part of our house to be of a modern design and take advantage of all the light and seasons we have in Melbourne.

We have also travelled a bit especially in Asia, and we like to have those little buddhas and wooden statues on display — for the same reason everyone does — they remind us of our travels and they bring something special and authentic into a space.

Inspiration: We were inspired by Mies Van Der Rohe's 'glass box' style of modernist architecture. Another house we love is Skywood House in the UK which has very minimalist glass and white walls. At a more local level, we lived for a while in a little box penthouse built on top of the George Hotel in St Kilda, and we have built something rather reminiscent of this at the back of our house.

Favorite Element: I love the pit, as extravagant as it is. I can sit there, below ground level and look up at the sky and the trees. It is like being in a tree house.

Biggest Challenge: Being patient. Ensuring there was enough storage (there still isn't). Dealing with a very slow builder. Trying to visualize drawings is hard if you are not in the industry.

Dealing with change. For example due to the drought we had to drastically revisit our garden planning, hence the largely drought resistant front garden.

What Friends Say: They can't believe no one has ever fallen into the conversation pit. (In fact, if the pit had been just a few millimeters deeper it would have required a balustrade!)

Biggest Embarrassment: For many years (7 in fact) we had an unrenovated playroom with cork boards, half ripped up, yellow walls and 1960s brown cupboards. Last year we finally bit the bullet and put shelves in. I love this room with a passion now, just as well as we spend a lot of time in it working.

The other embarrassment still exists — I have managed to pretty much ruin part of our floor boards with my stiletto heels!! No one told me they could do this much damage…

Proudest DIY: Well we didn't do it ourselves but the best idea we had was to get a carpenter to very inexpensively cover the open carport with chip board and mirbau wood slats. We wanted the garage to look like a barn. Ultimately it was a much better solution than the very expensive demolition and rebuild job proposed by our architect.

Biggest Indulgence: Definitely the conversation pit. We had to pour a slab and have couches custom designed. A couple of builders we spoke to were convinced we would tire of it and tried to talk us out of it. It was worth it though!

Best advice: Not to renovate quickly. We had some silly and crazy ideas when we first moved about knocking walls through and changing the integrity of the older part of the house which we would have regretted.

I think you need to live through the seasons and get a feel for your house before you dive into any major projects.

Also — we sometimes take a long time to make up our minds. We thought for about a year, whilst we shivered on the hard tiles, about the right kind of rug for the pit and finally decided on a red shag pile.

Dream source:
Space Furniture in Richmond. Our built in sofas were based on a Space Design ('Harry').

Poliform in Richmond has amazing built in wardrobes

All those fantastic online sources who don't ship to Australia.


All kitchen appliances are Miele and are fantastic

But even better is the concealed over oven fan which is Australian and very powerful (from Qasair)

Most of our furniture is either from local antique dealers, given to us by family, or from local retailers like RG Madden. Also Kazari has excellent Japanese antiques.

Starburst chandelier in front sitting room from Surround in St Kilda

Red murano chandelier from Mondo Luce

Lights near conversation pit from Hub

Hallway shades from Vixen

Dulux Whisper White in back area

Dulux Half magnolia everywhere else

Dulux Flagstone on exterior

Floorboards (ruined now by my high heels) in front of house (these are the original boards)

Rugs and Carpets

All rugs except in pit from Behruz

Pit rug from Rugs by Design (sadly now out of business)

Tiles and Stone
Tiles in back area are reconstituted stone tiles from Sadler Tiles

Window Treatments
Blind in the back of the house is remote control. Very James Bond, and very necessary to block the light. These blinds are by Somfy

Our bed is from Poliform

We have some watercolours and pastel work by me.

We also have some works by Graham Fransella, George Raftopoulos and Nona Burden, all young(ish) Australian artists.

I could happily cover all my walls with paintings.

Thanks, Jane!

Images: Jenny Butler

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