Geneva Vanderzeil, content creator + founder of DIY and how-to website a pair & a spare and partner Benjamin McCarthy, founder of interior design practice Charlie & Rose recently completed renovations on a 19th century workers cottage in Brisbane – all while welcoming the birth of their first child, baby Frankie. What a busy pair!
Originally from Brisbane, Geneva says “even though we technically live in Hong Kong, we’ve been wanting to put down some roots for ages, knowing that we’ll be heading home for good in the near future. Last year, we made the decision to splurge on this run-down worker’s cottage in Brisbane, the tropical city that I grew up in.” Whilst the idea of a cottage built in 1871 may seem cute and quaint, Geneva says “in reality, walls were falling down, there were giant holes in the floor and the veranda at the back was collapsing! That said, this little house has plenty of unique elements that we incorporated into final design. We stayed true to the local character of the home.”
Can you believe it took this pair just 7 months to complete their renovations?
Before + After
On transforming the exterior of the house, Geneva says “one of the biggest things we did with this house was to raise it, which enabled us to keep the gorgeous heritage-style home, but also create significantly more space”.
“I love just how simple and modern it is, whilst also keeping its character. Working with Ben on this project really showed me that his skill and creativity lies in knowing how to contrast materials and finishes in a way that ensures a space feels both picture-perfect, but also real and lived-in. The contrast of the concrete fence, stripped-back floor boards and updated door with the minimalist black and white palette gives it such a great feel.”
Check out that pink door!
The Living Room
Whilst preserving the historic features of the original house, the couple transformed the interior into a sun-drenched, soft pastel-colored, open-plan dream. “I really wanted to create an open plan living space that flowed through from the lounge and kitchen to the outdoors. I’m so happy we were able to do it! The original house didn’t have anything like this and for me, it’s pretty much the definition of how I want to live,” says Geneva.
On creating a snooze-worthy space, Geneva says: “I’ve been a huge fan of west elm’s Mid-Century Collection, so knew it would be front and center for this styled bedroom space.” And on the topic of plants: “It’s not a bedroom without some soothing greenery, but instead of going OTT on the number of plants, I went for size in a single one. This fiddle leaf fig is dreamy don’t you think?” (Yes, we certainly do.)
Geneva’s top tip for achieving a designer finish on a budget: “Mix old and new elements: If there’s one styling and decor trick I always rely on it’s mixing old and new. Whether it’s furniture, surfaces or lighting, the key to a more ‘design-y’ finish is one with a few unexpected elements.” We couldn’t agree more.
About Geneva Vanderzeil
Geneva is a lifestyle blogger, content creator + founder of DIY and how-to website a pair & a spare. Follow her on Instagram + see more of Geneva and Ben’s home at a pair & a spare. See Ben’s work at Charlie & Rose.