After Julia Treuel and Sasha Wright-Neville renovated their first home in 2013 (click here to view) – three years before their memorable appearance on The Block – it only took two years of living there to realise that their love for refurbishing outweighed the abode itself.
“There’s something intoxicating about coming up with a design and seeing it to fruition,” admits Sasha, who works in IT sales.
Armed with Sasha’s management and budget smarts, alongside Julia’s knack for designing complementary spaces, the couple sold their home and indulged their passion as contestants on television show The Block in 2016.
“It confirmed what we already knew,” says Julia, a PR professional turned interior stylist. “We loved renovating and wanted to do it again and again.”
Following their success as first runners-up, the pair launched their own design venture, Abbey Collective, in 2017. They also purchased ‘Little Willow’ – a tiny Edwardian home on the lush grounds of Melbourne’s historic Rippon Lea Estate mansion.
The estate’s original three-bedroom gardener’s quarters “had been loved for generations and needed a pick-me-up,” Julia recalls.
“Given we were flipping the property, our goal was to add as much value as possible. Our best bet was to create a four-bedroom home with space for a growing family.”
But as the renovation began, unanticipated challenges surfaced.
“The weatherboards in the two front rooms (formal living and master bedroom) had had their day,” says Sasha. “Plus, the timber frame was rotting and crooked – we had no choice but to tear it apart and rebuild in its likeness. It was the only way to ensure the house looked the same from the front, just with a new ‘skeleton’.”
In the end, the reno proved another blockbuster for the pair: the home’s back section was removed and a new prefabricated open-plan living space was added, along with a first-floor extension. “The footprint almost doubled, yet we managed to retain the backyard,” says Julia. The home now features four bedrooms, three bathrooms and two living areas – all while maintaining the vintage high ceilings and bay windows.
“There’s an elegance associated with Edwardian homes – we carried that through via marble tiles, Shaker-style cabinetry and gold tapware.”
Julia and Sasha pride themselves on their ability to blend design elements of different eras, describing their style as “classic meets contemporary with a luxe vibe”. This is superbly evident in ‘Little Willow’ through the use of contemporary-shaped marble tiles in the bathrooms and laundry; elegant no-handle joinery in the open-plan kitchen and living room; and ageless champagne-gold tapware in the kitchen, laundry and bathrooms.
Meanwhile, modern appliances, furniture and lighting enhance traditional floorboards and a deep gutter cornice that extends throughout the home.
Crisp white is the backdrop for a palette of lilac, soft pink and plum accents, paired with white, black and grey neutrals. “The property has a timeless appeal because of it – but pops in the right places,” says Julia.
“We had a lot of fun with the lilac front door,” says Julia. “It’s in the shade ‘Lavendula’ by Taubmans and is utterly divine. The brass hardware from The Door Store takes it to the next level and sets the theme for the rest of the house.”
Julia and Sasha credit their Block adventure for helping the renovation come to fabulous fruition, particularly when it came to management. Says Julia, “Our experience made it far easier to project manage and anticipate when different fixtures and fittings would be required.”
Julia also acknowledges The Real Estate Stylist, whose styling prowess aided in the recent sale of ‘Little Willow’.
The couple has since relocated to Seattle, following Sasha’s acceptance of a job opportunity. But no distance could ever dampen the Abbey Collective spirit, Julia assures us: “Our philosophy is simple – create something beautiful wherever you go. There’s no reason that can’t extend to the Pacific Northwest. Watch this space.”