Cinderella might be proof that a pair of shoes can change your life, but DIY maven Geneva Vanderzeil has taken her fairytale into her own hands, crafting a West End renovator into the home of her dreams.
Vanderzeil has built an empire based on do-it-yourself and budget luxe style, turning her blog, A Pair & A Spare, into her full-time gig in 2012. She now travels the world and boasts a community half a million strong on Facebook, all while authoring book DIY Fashionista and founding the A Pair & A Spare footwear label.
Hungry for something new, Vanderzeil began a new project in 2017, buying a ramshackle cottage in her home town. “I grew up in West End — my parents still live in the house I was born in! It’s a little community unlike any other and we couldn’t be happier to call it home.”
With partner and interior designer Ben McCarthy by her side, there were no delusions about the mammoth task ahead; the dilapidated 1870s workers cottage far from the fanciful bungalow it is today. The couple renovated the home within a year — all while pregnant with baby Frankie, who was welcomed into the family last July. “To be honest, I was so scared of becoming a mother … I can honestly say it’s been so much fun and, although challenging at times, I think it has helped me to focus on what I want to do more of in my business.”
As it turned out, pregnancy was a great motivator to get things done. Peeling back the crumbling façade, Vanderzeil says she strived to keep the integrity of the building intact. “The main goal for the architectural design was to keep as many of the original features of the home as possible so the original flooring, the iconic front verandah, the tongue and groove walls and the details above the doorways.”
Using white as their base, the pair mixed eras and styles to create a home that was truly theirs. Pops of green and warm tones highlight each room, offset by texture rich organic materials and splashes of pastel. Natural greenery adds depth to the space, with vintage pieces reminiscent of the home’s history. The front door pays homage to the house that was; a sweeping blush semi-circle revealing the sanded back skeleton of the past.
Travel was a huge inspiration for the design, layering eclectic and mid-century pieces while pulling back for that minimal feel. “I think it’s always a good idea to mix your favourite decor styles and types, along with things you have collected, and not go over the top on any one trend … so the space feels like you without feeling like a showroom.”
Vanderzeil says this home will not be the pair’s last renovation, realising there is no true end point to any project. “You never finish renovating, which is the best bit! Every weekend sees us create a new project and put together new ideas.”
As Vanderzeil says, that is the problem with being such a creative pair. They always have new ideas. The hard part is finding enough canvases to bring the ideas to life.
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