This Californian bungalow in Moonee Ponds (seven kilometres north-west from Melbourne’s CBD) belongs to artist Martin Tighe, and Jennifer Tighe, general manager of Tait. The couple have lived in the home since 1991, but the property has actually been in Martin’s family for generations, having been built by his grandparents in 1923!
At the time of building, the house was accompanied by two dairy buildings used for milk bottling, and a stable. ‘Martin’s grandfather was a milkman who would deliver the milk on his horse and cart,’ says Jennifer. ‘The milk would come from the farm in Keilor, and was bottled by the milkman, then delivered. Customers would walk down the side lane and ring a bell to pay their milk bill.’
The dairy buildings ceased their original use in the 1950s, and when Jennifer and Martin moved into the house in 1991, the entire property was a spartan place. ‘All the walls in the house were grey, and there was only one picture on the wall – a picture of the Pope!’ Jennifer says. ‘Things have changed!’
Martin and Jennifer have completed three renovations over their almost 30 years living in this home. The first renovation, completed in 1996 with architect Bill Wright Smith (who now owns the concrete fabrication business Rutso Concrete) was the most extensive, where the main house was joined to the north-facing dairy building. ‘We added a big family room to join the two spaces, reconfigured the flow of the house, and refurbished the existing industrial spaces,’ says Jennifer.
This dairy building is now the kitchen and dining room, with original features such as the cathedral ceiling and industrial windows retained. ‘Converting the existing dairy building was a challenge, [requiring] pulling it apart brick by brick to bring it back to contemporary building standards. It would have been much easier to bulldoze the lot and start again,’ says Jennifer. ‘We wouldn’t have it any other way.’
A second renovation in 2004 saw the remaining dairy building converted into a self-contained apartment.
Finally, in 2019, the couple treated themselves to a kitchen renovation by Cantilever Interiors. ‘All three children had left home and we wanted to spoil ourselves!’ Jennifer says.
This home’s rich history, paired with Martin and Jennifer’s own memories here, is reflected in its styling. ‘The house has layers that are a result of all that has happened here and those who have lived here. It says a lot about our life,’ says Jennifer. The personality of the residents is further displayed in the use of colour, which is classic, without being strictly neutral. ‘Our heyday was in the ‘80s, so we are also a bit of a fan of a feature wall!’ says Jennifer. Contrasting creamy and warm white walls are painted in Dulux’s Chalk U.S.A.
Martin and Jennifer raised their three (now adult) children in this home, and they describe it as the perfect country-like setting, despite being on a city main road. ‘There was always something happening, someone calling in, someone opening a bottle of something. It has always had an amazing energy,’ Jennifer says.
Visit this home nowadays and you’ll likely find the couple cooking, reading, playing the piano or working in the studio. ‘We never get bored,’ Jennifer says. ‘We are very lucky and we know it.’