Rosy and Refreshed

Charlie & Rose founder Benjamin McCarthy and his celebrity blogger wife Geneva Vanderzeil give us a peek into their newly renovated Brisbane home


Twelve years ago, while working together at architecture firm HASSEL’s Brisbane studio, sparks flew between designers Benjamin McCarthy and Geneva Vanderzeil, who soon became a couple. After heading off to the Glastonbury Festival on a whim, they decided to move to London, then on to Hong Kong in 2010, where McCarthy set up Charlie & Rose — the interior design firm responsible for more than a dozen F&B projects in Hong Kong, including Mr & Mrs Fox, Stockton and Limewood. That same year, Vanderzeil founded A Pair & A Spare — a DIY and design-focused blog that was listed among the Top 50 Fashion & Lifestyle Blogs by The Times UK. McCarthy and Vanderzeil now split their time between Hong Kong and Brisbane where they’ve recently purchased a built-in-1871, traditional Queensland cottage, and transformed it into their bright and breezy new home.

Located in the inner-city suburb of West End, it took them seven months to turn the once claustrophobic, run-down cottage into a spacious 240-square-metre abode with flexible, open-plan living areas, and plenty of natural light and fresh air. The house, which was ready in time for the arrival of their first child Frankie, has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a versatile kitchen connecting the main living room with an outdoor dining deck on the upper level. The lower level was designed as a “studio apartment” that contains two bedrooms, a kitchen and a large, open workspace.

McCarthy and Vanderzeil, who did the redesign themselves, retained much of the old cottages’ original structures the flooring, bullnose veranda, tongue and groove walls, and the details above the doorways but raised the house, and extended it to increase useable floor space.

‘The original house had very little light inside, so we opened it up using large windows and skylights. Doing this really improved the layout. Because I have a studio with staff in Hong Kong, this new home in Brisbane is where I spend most of my down time,’ says McCarthy.

Pastel shades of pink and pistachio are subtle features on the cupboards and cabinets, and a section of the original front door was painted a cheerful, rosy pink. A range of DIY solutions helped keep the renovation costs down.

‘What I learnt from Ben was how important it is to mix eras and aesthetics when decorating. This helped to make the house feel lived in, and not like a show room. We mixed midcentury vintage, rattan and industrial furniture to fully reflect what we love. I think it’s this mix that gives the house a really inviting feel,’ says Vanderzeil.

Because they both travel often in search of antiques for Charlie & Rose projects, they had a few spare items, which they included in this home. ‘We actually discovered an incredible industrial workbench in a vintage store in Brisbane, and based the entire kitchen design around it. We also integrated pieces from west elm, Lounge Lovers, and rattan furniture from Koko Collective. For the artwork, we made the amazing Anthony Lister monkey painting the focus of the living room. We're both such big fans of Lister that we couldn't wait to put it up!’ says Vanderzeil.

Text / Michele Koh Morollo
Images / Geneva Vanderzeil