What better way to spend a Sunday than looking into the homes of others? Organised by St Joseph’s School in Hawthorn, Open Houses is an annual event, celebrating its 40th year in 2019. It attracts some serious numbers of attendees, in excess of 1,500 people. Started in 1979 by a mother, who had a child attending St Joseph’s, the goal was, and is still today, to raise money for the school.

Shuttled around by bus, with afternoon tea served at the school prepared by the parents, participants can enjoy seeing inside homes from a broad range of architectural styles: including grand Victorian homes, some in original condition, to others imbued with a strong contemporary statement. “I look for a variety of homes. This year includes a large historic Victorian mansion in Kew, as well as a modest three-level contemporary home on a slither of land, not much more than 100 square metres (carved off from stables),” says Kia Sadler, property coordinator for Open Houses. “People love looking at architecture and interiors, including the fixtures and fittings in these homes,” she adds. In the Prahran house, renovated by an architect, the strategic use of mirrors both reflects natural light and magnifies the spaces.

Although St Joseph’s School is located in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, Sadler throws out her ‘net’ to source homes in Kew and Prahran. “I’m looking for places that have wide appeal for those attending, as well as including some of the more idiosyncratic designs,” says Sadler, who works closely with a group of volunteers to make this event what it has become today. “Some people who attend come from far away as from Bendigo,” she says.

Kay & Burton is a sponsor for this year’s event for the first time. “There’s a synergy between the Open Houses event and Kay & Burton. It’s the right match, since we specialise in selling high quality homes, many of which are truly unique,” says Scott Patterson, a director with Kay & Burton.

One of the five houses to be showcased at this year’s event is a large Victorian home in Hawthorn. The home’s tuck-pointed red brick façade, inset with original glazed tiles and a tessellated tiled verandah, conceals a fine contemporary addition at the rear, not visible from the leafy street. The circa 1880s house, a family abode, fuses the best of the past with the present. At the rear, overlooking the north- facing garden with a swimming pool is a large open plan kitchen, dining and living area (13 metres in width), almost as wide as the site itself. The kitchen, with its smoked mirrored splashback, reflecting the manicured back garden, also features a quartz island bench.

This home in Hawthorn, a stone’s throw from the Yarra River, has been thoughtfully modified for a family, including zoning to allow parents and children to have their own spaces. The main bedroom, ensuite and dressing area, for example, occupies what would have been two separate rooms at the front of the original house. On the other side of the wide and decorative corridor, is now a formal lounge connected to a dining area. “We removed the walls on either side of the fireplace to create more fluid spaces,” says the owner. Upstairs, within the first floor contemporary addition, are the children’s bedrooms and a bathroom, together with a rumpus room that offers views of Melbourne’s skyline.

Unlike the period home, which was relatively enclosed, the kitchen and living areas strongly connect to the rear garden through generous sliding doors that disappear into cavity walls to allow for a seamless transition between inside and out. This house, which is sumptuously appointed, includes contemporary furniture, and objects and art from Frey, a leading homewares store in Hawthorn.

For the owner, who cycles to the MCG to watch his favourite football team, the joy of living in this quiet enclave so close to the city is as rewarding as living in the house itself. “There’s a bike track and park at one end of the street and a tram at the other,” says the owner.

From stately Victorian piles to impressive family homes, the purpose of St Joseph’s Open Houses is not only to see how others live but, as importantly to see how these abodes have been decorated by their owners. Some of these include original art nouveau wallpapers by William Morris in a landmark Italianate mansion from the 1880s, while others cleverly combine contemporary with period style, all to be absorbed and enjoyed for the entire day or part thereof. “There’s something here for everyone, hopefully leaving you with ideas and inspiration,” says Sadler.

St Joseph’s Open House is on Sunday 24 March. To purchase tickets or for more information, go to www.openhouses.org.au

Enjoy seeing inside homes from a broad range of architectural styles: including grand Victorian homes, some in original condition.

Lifestyle & Design

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