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Through the keyhole of a converted Melbourne cottage

PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:26 07 September 2016

'While Simon has done the building work, my input has been the interior decor.  I feel I have an eye for what works and what goes so I chose all the fabrics and paints.  I love the Farrow & Ball Stone White paint in the sitting room - a very subtle green.  The wood burning stove is from Robeys. The sofas are from Sofa.com and that wonderful painting of a dancer is from an art fair in Nottingham.  We fell in love with it immediately.'

'While Simon has done the building work, my input has been the interior decor. I feel I have an eye for what works and what goes so I chose all the fabrics and paints. I love the Farrow & Ball Stone White paint in the sitting room - a very subtle green. The wood burning stove is from Robeys. The sofas are from Sofa.com and that wonderful painting of a dancer is from an art fair in Nottingham. We fell in love with it immediately.'

Ashley Franklin Photography

The desire to create a true home in Melbourne for their growing family led Simon and Gemma Bond to take on a challenging conversion, with tremendous success. Ashley Franklin reports

Gemma relaxing on the large York stone patio on Mazzaro Home's Luxury Bilbao Rattan chairs. To the left are Amalfi Stone table and chairsGemma relaxing on the large York stone patio on Mazzaro Home's Luxury Bilbao Rattan chairs. To the left are Amalfi Stone table and chairs

In conjunction with this article, Mazzaro Home is offering Derbyshire Life readers 20% off. Visit www.mazzarohome.com and enter code DL20 at check out.

It would appear that fate guided the hand of Simon and Gemma Bond when they went house-hunting in Melbourne 13 years ago. Although there was purpose to their walk down Penn Lane – ‘We had heard it was the loveliest lane in the town,’ says Gemma – serendipity presented them with a cottage that they would otherwise have rejected as too small. As chance would have it, the matching cottage next door was also for sale.

One of the two cottages on Penn Lane bought by Simon and Gemma.  Both were built in 1840 on the site of an old breweryOne of the two cottages on Penn Lane bought by Simon and Gemma. Both were built in 1840 on the site of an old brewery

Refurbishing one cottage would be a sufficient test for anyone; buying two adjacent cottages elevated it to a challenge. It took two years to make the house a ‘liveable home’ and in the subsequent decade Simon and Gemma have made it not just liveable but lived-in: theirs is a true family home shared with three children and two dogs while still appearing elegant, classic and tasteful, enhanced by the fact that Simon and Gemma have an evident feeling for design through Simon’s events company and the couple’s interiors business, Mazzaro Home.

My first glimpse of their Penn Lane home is a reminder not to judge a book by its cover. In spite of the attractive sash windows and warm stone, the frontage is modest and unassertive. However, step inside and you see why Gemma saw ‘huge potential’ in the property. Step outside the back and huge takes on literal meaning: the garden stretches the length of two tennis courts and the width of the adjacent three houses.

‘The enormous garden was a clincher for us,’ Gemma explains. ‘Simon loves a challenge!’

Simon and Gemma had a clear vision for the interior. ‘We wanted to create a sense of space and make the house feel like a Tardis,’ says Gemma, ‘while at the same time achieving an interior that felt homely and stylish. Another aim was to create a cool, neutral colour palette with nothing garish or loud, giving us an overall look that is pretty timeless.’

'We love the fact that the kitchen is so light and simple. The black granite tops are from Plan It Granite of Burton and the stools were found at Newark Antiques Fair''We love the fact that the kitchen is so light and simple. The black granite tops are from Plan It Granite of Burton and the stools were found at Newark Antiques Fair'

The colour palette has been carefully thought through by eschewing wallpaper and going for complementary Farrow & Ball paints. This is especially evident in the handsome kitchen where the combination of Farrow & Ball’s Bone for the units, Pelt for the breakfast bar and Clunch for the walls is very harmonious. The units themselves – all handmade – are striking in their Shaker style simplicity.

As the Jona Lewie song goes: ‘You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties’. ‘The kitchen extension is our pride and joy,’ says Gemma. ‘It’s the focal point of our lives as a family and even when we have friends for dinner or our kids’ friends come for sleepovers, we seem to gravitate to this space. Actually, it’s fun to watch Simon cook – he’s brilliant with food and it’s quite something seeing him utilise every pan in the kitchen!’

It would appear that Simon is also rather brilliant when it comes to renovation, especially as he hadn’t done any work on this scale before. He installed new hand-made windows and doors throughout the house with oak for all the floors, all in sympathy with the period of this mid-19th century property. He is quick though to pay tribute to their late friend Nigel Dipple who helped with much of the renovation, and one of the most distinctive features in the kitchen is a glassware cabinet that is the handiwork of Simon’s father Jim.

There is yet more well-crafted work in the sitting room. All the joinery was done by family friend Evan O’Keefe, with another friend, Will Statt of Manorhouse Stone in nearby Ashby de la Zouch, supplying the simple but prominent mantelpiece. This surrounds a rustic free-standing stove, while above is an exquisite mirror resembling a giant flower, one of the exotic accessories from their own company Mazzaro Home.

'Pippa's bedroom walls are painted in Church from Farrow & Ball and the rocking horse is a family heirloom''Pippa's bedroom walls are painted in Church from Farrow & Ball and the rocking horse is a family heirloom'

‘I wanted to create a cosy and relaxed feel here,’ says Gemma, ‘and when we plunge into the plush sofa to watch a video with the kids, especially in the winter with the log burner ablaze, it is just the comfiest place to be.’

Between the kitchen and sitting room is a dining area simply furnished with a plain wooden table and chairs and an eye-catching antique pine dresser, set off by a pair of Mazzaro Home Rococo lamp stands and an orange dachshund figurine – one of several statuettes around the house in deference to their dachshund, Boo. Their other dog is Tilly, a working cocker spaniel.

In this and other rooms the prevalence of personal photographs in disparate frames enhances the family feel of the house. As Gemma points out: ‘Our daughter Pippa (aged 7) and son Herbie (aged 2) were born while the house was taking shape, and with our elder daughter Ellie (aged 18) living here, we knew we had to grow our family in this home, as well as ensure there was room for them!

‘Having three children in the house means there is a constant flow of people arriving and leaving – not just our family but our kids’ friends and our friends and neighbours. It means the house feels alive the whole time, which we love.’

The children’s rooms upstairs are all individual. The blackboard in Pippa’s room along with a rocking horse and doll’s house suggests a play room as well as bedroom while Ellie’s room – a ‘hideaway’ on the third floor – doubles as a study, and there is a pleasing harmony of blue and white in Herbie’s neat and stylish bedroom.

Ironically, in spite of the tasteful elegance of Simon and Gemma’s bedroom, Gemma’s favourite upstairs room is the spare bedroom with its en suite bathroom designed by Simon that has a bath edged with Derbyshire limestone and limestone floor and wall tiles. ‘There are great views of the garden from this room, too,’ adds Gemma.

For a medium-sized cottage, the garden is more befitting that of a large country house with sufficient lawn space to hold a fantastic Frisbee match and still have room for a game of badminton. There is also a ‘man shed’, designed and built by Simon, and an attractive patio area surrounded by flower beds and vegetable patches. ‘The garden has been a long labour of love for Simon, who had a lot of help from his mum, Jenny,’ says Gemma. ‘It’s not finished either so I’m still spending many a happy hour relaxing in a chair watching him work!’

The patio is graced by two sets of luxury garden furniture from their Mazzaro Home collection. This recently launched company represents a further flowering of Simon and Gemma’s talents in retail and design. Simon has been running and growing Simon Bond Events Ltd for 20 years. Events include weddings, private parties and corporate functions.

‘Simon’s business has been a tremendous success because of his incredible attention to detail,’ Gemma points out. ‘Also, he doesn’t just organise events: he creates them, and due to his ever-growing contacts list, he can offer everything from old-fashioned pole tents to the newly in-demand yurts and tipis. Each marquee is tailored to the individual requirement of the customer.’

Gemma helps Simon with interior styling – tea lights, candelabras, lanterns, vases and faux olive trees – most of it sourced from Denmark where, says Gemma, ‘They create some amazing decorative items.’ However, it was a buying trip to a Delhi trade fair that led to Mazzaro Home.

‘We saw such beautiful table decorations, candle holders, furniture and glassware,’ recalls Gemma. ‘We were so excited that we went back to India as a family and sought out furniture, textiles and accessories in Delhi, Jaipur and Jodhpur. That led to us setting up mazzarohome.com alongside our friends and business partners Adam and Lizzie Devey-Smith.’

Ironically, the name Mazzaro has not an Indian but Italian connection. ‘Mazzaro is a beautiful beach in Italy,’ explains Gemma. ‘We immediately thought it sounded sophisticated and classic just like our collection.’

Since launching with furniture and accessories from India, Mazzaro has cast its global net wider, sourcing from a wide variety of skilled, independent craftspeople who supply hand-made items and furniture from sustainable wood. Their range includes elegant armchairs, sofas, side tables and ottomans, stylish consoles, luxury garden furniture and highly individual mirrors, lampstands and faux flowers.

With business booming, might Simon and Gemma be thinking of moving on to a bigger, even better property? ‘Actually, we’re so busy with our businesses that another project would be a mistake,’ affirms Gemma, ‘but as it is, the house is as perfect as we dreamt it could be. It’s also very private here with very little passing traffic and we don’t feel overlooked at all which is important given we live in a busy town. And, as a town, Melbourne has a great sense of community – another good reason to stay. There are so many great events held here which means lots of activities for the children and there’s a sports centre just about to open, which is exciting. We’ve got excellent restaurants, too – we are regulars at The Bay Tree and Amalfi White.

‘So, we love both the place and the property. We’re thrilled with the work we have completed here and I can’t see us going anywhere for a very long time.’

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