Architect Anna Rozen, her partner, Taj, and two young kids were living in an unrenovated workers’ cottage in Abbotsford, Melbourne that they’ve since made their home called Valiant House. Back then the space was nothing like it is now; it was dark and insular and it made a lot less sense for a family home.
The couple toyed with the idea of a small scale kitchen refurb; add a dishwasher and expand on storage space, but as their family grew it was obvious a larger renovation was what they needed. “We fell in love with our inner-city lifestyle and had to decide whether to move further out from the city to a bigger house with a large garden, or whether to renovate our house and make the most of our small block.”
The end result? A light-filled, spectacular and entirely functional family home designed for living.
As a working mum who runs her architectural business out of her home, A for Architecture, it was crucial the space fit their many needs. “I work from home, so it’s important to me that the spaces are both functional and beautiful. Similarly, with two young kids it’s vital that there are spaces where they can put their own stamp on things, express their own creative ideas,” Anna says.
Working alongside design guru Anna, furnishing and styling this home was an absolute joy. The ideology behind the design of her home lent itself well to our furniture, as we subscribe to a similar ethos: design that is functional yet beautiful. With our elegant designs, natural palettes and simple forms, it’s as if we designed our furniture with this space in mind.
Continue on to learn how Anna approached the design of this stunning space and how she made the most of small-footprint living.
BL: What were your goals for the Valiant House?
AR: Valiant House is the home I share with my partner, Taj, our two young children and our French bulldog puppy. I also work and run my business from home. It’s a small house with many different uses. When we first bought the house it was a typical un-renovated workers cottage. The rooms were insular and the only view to the garden was from the bathroom at the rear of the house. As a result, the house was dark and the garden was unused. Initially, our plans were for a small kitchen refurb in order to find space for a dishwasher. But as our family grew, we fell in love with our inner-city lifestyle and had to decide whether to move further out from the city to a bigger house with a large garden, or whether to renovate our house and make the most of our small block.
The decision was simple – we embraced small footprint living and have never looked back. The main goal with the renovation was to connect the living spaces with the garden and to create a light-filled home for our family that felt spacious and made the most of the compact site.
BL: How did you land on the material and colour palette for your home?
AR: Having two small kids and a dog meant the house needed to be robust – concrete, recycled bricks and recycled timber fit the bill. We also love the instant character and texture provided by these materials.
BL: How does the design of your home serve your lifestyle?
AR: It’s been a period of adjustment in our lives, growing our family and starting a business. I work from home so it’s important to me that the spaces are both functional and beautiful. Similarly, with two young kids it’s vital that there are spaces where they can put their own stamp on things, express their own creative ideas.
BL: Favorite spot in your home?
AR: The kitchen. It’s perfectly laid out – everything is within arm’s reach. All the appliances are integrated and hidden in the cabinetry and everything has its own place in a cupboard or drawer, so there’s no clutter.
BL: What overall feeling do you hope your home conveys?
AR : The overall feeling as you step into the new parts of the home is of space and light – the cathedral ceiling in the living space adds to the sense of volume. I feel with smaller footprint architecture it’s important to be as generous as possible with the living spaces as this is where residents will spend most of their time.
BL: How would you describe the style of your home?
AR: Functional minimalist. I’d love to go further with it, but the reality of family life dictates some concessions to clutter.
BL: You’ve got to tell us about that amazing brick wall.
AR: The chevron! I really wanted to celebrate the original brick walls, but I also love the clean, simple aesthetic of the white painted brick. The chevron was a way to get the best of both worlds – it’s possibly the simplest, most cost effective design feature of the build but we love how it’s turned out.
BL: You’ve mastered indoor-outdoor living in your projects. What are the keys to achieving this?
AR: Getting that strong indoor-outdoor connection is one of my key focuses when designing a house. This is particularly important with small inner-city houses. A strong connection to the garden and sunlight can make a space feel much larger than it’s footprint. Many of my projects include courtyard gardens located centrally in the house plan, to enable multiple rooms to enjoy an outlook to a garden space. At Valiant House, the entire rear wall of the house is glass sliding doors so when the doors are open the living space extends into the garden.
BL: Our furniture looked right at home in the shoot! How do you feel our furniture fit your home vibe?
AR: The Barnaby Lane furniture fits perfectly with the vibe of Valiant House – both have natural materials, simple and elegant design aesthetic and similar neutral tones.
B L: What 5 words would you use to describe yourself?
AR: Unpretentious, hard-working, enthusiastic, discerning, tired.
BL: What’s your best bit of design advice?
AR : Bigger is not necessarily better. If the house is well-designed it doesn’t need to be big. Spaces can be flexible and serve dual purposes. The overall feeling of a space can be large and open while the footprint is only small.
BL: Any design mantras you live by?
AR :Keep it simple.
BL: What’s the best lesson in designed you’ve learned?
AR: I’ve learned that the projects with more constraints, size or budget or planning requirements, tend to end up with some of the best designs. I don’t design in a vacuum, the more insight into the project (from the client, from my peers and even, dare I say, from planners!), the richer the end result will be.