Today, I’m delighted to introduce a new series with ex-Blockheads Julia and Sasha, who will be exclusively sharing their latest reno journey with Phukienso, warts and all! As you know, I was big fan of these two and their taste on the last season of The Block. I’m taking major inspo from their Block kitchen for my own!
It just so happens that their latest project, a 100-year-old home full of character (but currently not much space), is only a few streets away from where the new series of the reality reno show (which starts airing this Sunday, yay!) is being filmed in Melbourne.
The girls (Julia’s an interior stylist and Sasha, a software engineer) have been busy bees since they finished up on the show, starting up a design business called . While their main focus will be flipping their own properties, they’ll also be offering interior styling services to clients.
Without further ado, I’ll hand over to Julia with the first fortnightly instalment of the Little Willow journey, which you’ll only read about online here…
2016 was an absolute whirlwind. We’d recently sold our and were packing up our lives when we decided to apply for The Block. It was one of those spur of the moment decisions and we giggled through the entire process. ‘As if we’ll get on,’ we said. ‘Not a chance in hell.’ But we had a few hours up our sleeve and Sasha wanted to give her new camera a workout, so we made an audition tape and clicked ‘APPLY NOW’.
That decision proved fruitful and two months later, we were standing on a rooftop in front of Scotty Cam, frozen to the bone and absolutely terrified. The next 12 weeks were equal parts challenging and exhilarating. We cried, fought, and laughed our way through the build of our Port Melbourne apartment. It tested us in ways we never imagined but we rode the rollercoaster with passion and determination and somehow came out the other side. The below package sums up our time on the show, expletives and all (Sorry, Dad!).
When cameras stopped rolling after our incredible auction, we were anxious to lock in our next project. Our plan had always been to flip properties but we’d been out of the market for a year and there was limited stock. Serendipitously, a sweet little Edwardian popped up and we knew we’d found the one. We roped our agent into bidding for us because I simply cannot be trusted at auctions and we had a budget to adhere to. After 15 heart-pounding minutes, the hammer fell and the property was ours.
Of course, first things first. She had to have a name and we chose Little Willow. It suits her to a T because she’s currently pretty mini and resides on a street with the same appellation. In her 100 years, she’s housed only two families and was once part of Melbourne’s renowned Rippon Lea Estate. Her weatherboard façade had us at hello but the rear hasn’t been touched in eons. The scope is incredible and even though there’s no heritage listing, we’re committed to preserving her period charm.
So, what’s our plan exactly? Well, we’ll be taking her from a tiny three-bedroom abode to a sizeable family home. We’ll retain the four principal rooms and knock down the rest, paving the way for a rear and first-floor extension. All up, there’ll be four bedrooms (including a stunning master suite), three bathrooms, and two living areas. It’s a massive project, our biggest to date, and we’re doing it in a matter of months. After The Block, I swore I’d never work to crazy timelines again and yet here we are. Will I melt down? Probably, but there’ll be no cameras to capture it so you’ll never know. (Jokes – I’m a chronic over-sharer so read about it here first.)
Our vision for Little Willow is in keeping with our design aesthetic of classic meets contemporary with a luxe vibe. The aim is to make it as appealing as possible to the widest range of buyers so we have the best chance come auction. Like most renovators, our biggest challenge is our budget. We have to keep it front and centre if we’re to grow Abbey Collective. This poses a massive problem as I get emotionally attached to things, so let the fireworks begin!
Undoubtedly, a renovation is only as good as the suppliers on board and we’re lucky to have some of the best. Freedom Kitchens will be holding our hands through kitchen and laundry week and NEFF will be kitting us out with their exceptional appliances. The team at Beaumont Tiles must have their blinkers on as they’ve agreed to work with us again, even after I tortured them on The Block. Reece have signed on the dotted line for more bathroom goodness and DIY Online Blinds will be jazzing up the windows. The Montauk Lighting Co. are new on the scene and will be providing some stunning pendants. Our walls will be dressed by the excellent Taubmans and doors by Gainsborough Hardware. Not to be forgotten is Little Willow’s façade. The folk at Scyon Walls will freshen her up with their Linea weatherboards whilst James Hardie will showcase their fab HardieDeck.
We get asked all the time about life after The Block so it’s a real treat to be sharing it with you on Phukienso. We’re so excited to be working on this gorgeous home and can’t wait to document it here via fortnightly articles. Until next time, lovelies.
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