LITTLE WILLOW

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Former contestants on The Block, Julia Treuel and Sasha Wright-Neville share their journey from big Block stint to ‘Little Willow’ revamp – thanks to an undying passion for renovating.

Photography: Annette O'Brien  /  Styling: Alana Langan  /  Interior design: Abbey Collective / Words: Beth Greshwalk

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 Julia and Sasha went with a timeless, all-white kitchen by Freedom Kitchens. All appliances by NEFF; integrated fridge/freezer from Bosch; Caesarstone ‘Calacatta Nuvo’ benchtop and splashback; Sussex tapware and Franke white sinks from Reece; skylights by Velux.

Julia and Sasha went with a timeless, all-white kitchen by Freedom Kitchens. All appliances by NEFF; integrated fridge/freezer from Bosch; Caesarstone ‘Calacatta Nuvo’ benchtop and splashback; Sussex tapware and Franke white sinks from Reece; skylights by Velux.

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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.

 White Smoked floorboards from Royal Oak Floors; chairs from Platform Furniture; original artwork by Marcus Beck; pendant light from Beacon Lighting; flowers by Kate Hill Flowers.

White Smoked floorboards from Royal Oak Floors; chairs from Platform Furniture; original artwork by Marcus Beck; pendant light from Beacon Lighting; flowers by Kate Hill Flowers.

 Julia and Sasha hired  The Real Estate Stylist  to help furnish and style the home before putting it on the market.  Sofa from GlobeWest; rug from Tribe Home; ottoman from Retrojan.

Julia and Sasha hired The Real Estate Stylist to help furnish and style the home before putting it on the market.
Sofa from GlobeWest; rug from Tribe Home; ottoman from Retrojan.

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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.

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 “These finishes are quite classic but we modernised them – for example, we’ve used marble tiles in more contemporary shapes,” says Julia.  Tiles from Beaumont Tiles; plantation shutters from DIY Blinds; vanity, Sussex tapware and bath from Reece; towels from Loom Towels.

“These finishes are quite classic but we modernised them – for example, we’ve used marble tiles in more contemporary shapes,” says Julia.
Tiles from Beaumont Tiles; plantation shutters from DIY Blinds; vanity, Sussex tapware and bath from Reece; towels from Loom Towels.

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“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.

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 Plantation shutters from  DIY Blinds , sofa from King Furniture; coffee table from Blu Dot; flower cushion in bay window from Bonnie and Neil; other cushions from The Real Estate Stylist.

Plantation shutters from DIY Blinds, sofa from King Furniture; coffee table from Blu Dot; flower cushion in bay window from Bonnie and Neil; other cushions from The Real Estate Stylist.

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LILAC DOOR

“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.”

 Julia and Sasha used Freedom Kitchens for the laundry/mudroom fitout and selected the ‘Sierra Shaker’ door fronts. Caesarstone benchtop in ‘Intense White’; washer and dryer from Bosch; wallpaper from Jimmy Cricket; ‘Carrara Bianco’ penny round tiles from Beaumont Tiles; Sussex ‘Scala’ tapware in ‘Jewellery Gold’ finish and Franke white sink from Reece.

Julia and Sasha used Freedom Kitchens for the laundry/mudroom fitout and selected the ‘Sierra Shaker’ door fronts. Caesarstone benchtop in ‘Intense White’; washer and dryer from Bosch; wallpaper from Jimmy Cricket; ‘Carrara Bianco’ penny round tiles from Beaumont Tiles; Sussex ‘Scala’ tapware in ‘Jewellery Gold’ finish and Franke white sink from Reece.

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 Sheer curtains from  DIY Blinds ; pendant light from Beacon Lighting.

Sheer curtains from DIY Blinds; pendant light from Beacon Lighting.

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Want to see this home in print? You’ll find this home tour in our Entrepreneur edition, available in newsagents in Australia and through our online shop. Click here to buy.