Where I Live

There Is Nothing Predictable About This Bold Melbourne Home

Expect the unexpected.

By Chanel Dror
modern and warm fireplace living room area

One of the things we admire most about Australian design is the way that it always seems to strike the perfect balance between modern and bohemian, and refined yet relaxed. Nailing that balance is a challenge for most home decorators, yet for our favorite stylish Ozzies, it seems to come with ease. No one does this better than the owner of today’s home, Alex McCabe. As co-founder of home decor and textiles line Kip&Co, it’s no surprise that Alex’s home is bursting with unexpected color and pattern — the two things are literally her specialty — but still, her Melbourne house delights beyond expectation.

Don’t be fooled by the laid back feel of these spaces, things like custom cabinetry and meticulously laid tile serve as a reminder that for Alex, creating a dream home was anything but effortless.

Read on to learn more about what went into the renovation of this wildly unique home, and to get inspired to bring more playfulness into your own.

amazing indoor outdoor living architecture in melbourne australia

Your home embodies so much of what we love about Australian design. Tell us about it.

I’ve lived here for about eight years, after finding it online when I was house hunting (the “hunt” didn’t last long, it was only the third house I looked at!). We live in St Kilda, which is by the bay in Melbourne, Australia. I bought the place as a ‘fixer upper’. There was no heating, cooling or insulation so it was absolutely freezing in winter (see-your-own-breath kind of freezing) and boiling in summer. I saved for about six years to do the renovation I wanted, which was an almost total rebuild, retaining only the front facade which has a heritage overlay. I worked with an architect to design the house, but chose all the interior details myself, so it’s a true reflection of my (sometimes eclectic!) taste and personality.

It’s so hard to put a label on this look, except for to say that it’s totally “Alex McCabe.” What was your design inspiration when decorating?

I had some fairly practical drivers – I wanted to be warm in winter, and cool in summer, but light filled all year around. It’s a small block so the architect had to be very clever with the space to achieve something that’s open and feels spacious. I think he nailed it. Beyond that, I think the design is very ‘Australian’. Open plan living is very much the standard here, and I think more and more people are about positioning their homes to take advantage of their garden/outdoor view because we are lucky in Australia to often have one. Our home is really centred around the garden, and we’ve done our best to bring the garden inside too with an permanent indoor garden above the kitchen and lots of indoor plants.

pink and gold stone kitchen open concept colorful living space in melbourne australiaabove: throw pillows from Kip&Co

Tell us about your totally unpredictable kitchen. What are these materials?

Brass cabinets, pink concrete island bench, and a crocodile bamboo stone splash back. It is WILD but I absolutely love it.

My tip for mixing colors and materials is don’t try and stick to too narrow a color palette or you’ll be limited in the interiors options you have. Each space can have a bit of a different feel, thats fine! As long as you love everything, it will work!

Do you have a favorite spot in the house?

Where I am right now! Sitting on the corner of the couch, with my feet up, looking out huge glass doors onto our gum tree, with the light streaming in.

fun texture and color tile in melbourne australiaabove: towels from Kip&Co

open shelving and shelf decor modern and colorful home in australia dining room

modern and warm fireplace living room area

Above, a piece of art by Fred Fowler. Alex says, “We commissioned it for the space because we have this really long 5m wall. It took him 9 months to complete but was so worth it!”

What’s your favorite way to spend time at home?

We had a baby last year so the use of the house has definitely changed – beautiful little keepsakes are being moved higher and higher up out of reach, and toys seem to be bursting out of every cupboard and drawer we have. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am loving watching baby Quincy explore her world, we play on the deck together, water the garden, and sit at the island bench going on a food safari. Every inch of the house is new and exciting again (even the washing machine to her!)

It’s the little things! We should all show a little more appreciation for our washing machines.

What does summertime look like at your house?

Doors wide open, a glass of Rosé in hand, some seafood, Quincy kicking around on the grass, music playing on our record player. Me, Bobby and Quincy. Heaven!

pink and purple paint colors with wood floors

These paint colors are both calming and playful. What are they?

The pink is called Peach Cascade and is as it sounds! The hallway is painted Eyrie Blue – a super pale blue.

Any tips for choosing great colors for your walls?

It’s hard! I think just relax into it. The great thing about paint is that if you really hate it, you can always change it, so experiment with the few sample pots and throw in some wild cards!

colorful bedroom with pink walls and patterned bedding from kip&coabove: bedding from Kip&Co

clever wall storage for modern bedroom

Who are your dream house guests?

Ohhh good question! I’d really like to hang out with Tim Winton (an Australian author), my partner Bobby is a real brainiac so he would want some politician I think, maybe Obama, and I’d have to throw in a vote for Quincy of Mickey Mouse.

What are your favorite design resources and places to shop?

I really love Instagram, and I go through massive phases with Pinterest. We’ve got some great stockists now in the US that I am really enjoying shopping at! Night Palm in LA and Dyphor in Brooklyn come to mind.

What was your biggest design challenge for the space?

Finding enough secret storage!

modern bathroom design modern bathroom design colorful bedroom with pink wallsabove: bedding from Kip&Co

cute powder room with purple walls

What’s your number one interior design tip?

Make sure the home feels like “yours”, put your stamp on it, whether that’s by doing some of it yourself, or collaborating with an interior designer. You don’t want a cookie cutter house!

Describe your home in 5 words or less:

Colorful, light, joyful, warm, calm, open.

Fill in the blank: A well-designed home should _______.

bring you happiness.

alex mccabe's home in melbourne