Souvenirs from many years living and working abroad embellish a charming bungalow in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

During the best part of two decades living overseas management consultants Kailash Attawar and Melinda Waters have ranged across some of the world’s more exotic locales. Their home addresses have ranged from Russia and Uzbekistan to Amsterdam, Germany and the UK. Little wonder then that when they finally decided to return to Melinda’s hometown of Melbourne, they brought with them a treasure trove of carpets, cushions, artworks, photographs and other souvenirs from their many travels.

Add into the mix Kailash’s history of being born of Indian descent in Malawi in southeast Africa, and countless holidays the couple has taken across Europe and Asia, and it’s little wonder that visiting their new Australian home feels a bit like reading the synopsis of one of Michael Palin’s world adventures. “When we arrived in Melbourne we found this house in Armadale and we’ve been gradually settling into it ever since,” Melinda explains. “We knew the house had good bones, but it needed an injection of fresh air to make it the perfect setting for our collection.”

Scouring the internet for design inspiration, Melinda came across, a blog run by interior designer Naomi Freier. Naomi also has an interesting back story, having trained as a lawyer and studied journalism before she started her family. Friends who admired Naomi’s design flair asked for help with their own homes and eventually Naomi started her own business, Naomi Freier Interiors and gave up law altogether. “As soon as we met I knew that our aesthetics were very similar,” Melinda says. “We’ve not structurally changed anything, but the whole house is now so much lighter and brighter thanks to Naomi’s input. We couldn’t have done it without her.”

The couple decided to stage their renovations in two parts and have left the kitchen and bathroom for the next round. “We fight one another for the right to cook,” Melinda explains. “So it’s hard to imagine going without a functioning kitchen for the time a renovation will involve. We’re lucky we inherited quite a workable space with an island bench in the centre.” The revamp began by taking a leap of faith and pulling up all the floor coverings. “It’s a bit of a risk when you’re not sure what’s underneath,” Kailash says. “But in our case it turned out to be Victorian ash in quite good condition. We had to replace a few boards, but then we just stained and polished them. Where we did need floor coverings we opted for sisal matting instead of carpet. It’s just so much fresher looking.”

This story was originally published in the May/June 2014 issue of Australian Country magazine. Subscribe to the magazine here!

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Words and styling Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass