Our Home Life Series is a weekly sneak peek into the homes and lives of Australia's most creative and inspiring people.
This week on the Home Life Series, we step inside the stunning Gembrook estate of creative couple, Bobby Gordon and Rowena Henry. It’s not surprising that the property oozes a curated and sophisticated style, with Bobby growing up in the renowned family ceramics business Robert Gordon, and Rowena a talented and accomplished architect. We were lucky enough to chat with Rowena about her career as architect and how the family has created a home filled with an eclectic mix of furniture and art.
1. Hi Rowena! Thank you for letting us in your beautiful home. It’s no surprise that you have such a gorgeous place given you’re an architect yourself! Can you start by telling us a little bit about you and who lives here?
Thank you for visiting! I live here with my partner Bobby and our three children - Harry, Gus and Quinn, and our dog Olive. I work for myself as an Architect, whilst also being a mum, along with my family involvement with our family business (Robert Gordon Pottery). I also love spending time at home in my large garden!
2. What is your favourite kind of brief from a client and what are some of your career highlights?
I love the collaborative process of working with a great client - the best projects are always those with clients that trust you and are prepared to take a risk or step outside of their comfort zone. As far as a brief goes, I always enjoy working within constraints - sometimes the best outcomes come from a tricky site, an existing building with lots of history or a conservative budget. I’ve been lucky to work for some great Melbourne architects over the years and have had lots of highlights working on mainly residential and commercial/hospitality projects.
3. As an architect, what were your non-negotiable when you were looking for your current home?
To be honest, our home is never the type of home I thought I would end up in! I grew up in big old homes and have never imagined I’d go down the same path as an adult - things break and they are cold! Bobby and I are both Architects, so we were both hoping to build from scratch, but in the meantime this home came on the market. We went for a sticky beak and couldn’t resist! I think what did it for us was the beautiful trees and view, along with the history and local folklore of this old house and site. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up. I feel very lucky to live here.
4. It feels like there’s a lot of beautiful history in the house, what can you share about the property, gardens and the house. Have you changed anything since you purchased / do you plan to?
Yes there is - it was once home to a local family of consisting 11 children! Whilst the home is not huge by todays standards, Bobby has early memories of it growing up in Gembrook - he used to call it the ‘White House’. As this area was largely effected by the Ash Wednesday fires there are not an abundance of old homes and gardens in this area - which is what made this home special. There are old chimney remains of an even older home on the site as well as beautiful old oak trees and rhododendrons and an epic sequoia tree. Having only lived here for three or so years, it was a win to discover I really love gardening during covid lockdowns. We are in the process of renovating and restoring the home - slowly! Next on the list are the bathrooms and laundry - it will be nice to add my own touch to those.
5. How would you describe your interiors style? Did you do all the interiors yourself or enlist some help?
My interiors style has been a long process of evolution over time. It started with a student budget, which meant lots of rummaging through garage sales and visiting places like the Chapel Street bazaar many moons ago. I’m quite a sentimental person so I love collecting things and associating them with trips or stages in my life. Bobby and I have both grown up with parents that are passionate about design so I think they have always been a source of inspiration in my subconscious as well. As an Architecture student I worked at Living Edge for many years so that also fed my interest in classic design pieces by the mid century greats. As an architect my passion generally lies in working in interiors but sometimes it is the hardest when making choices for myself, but I love creating classic, usable, robust, warm spaces - which is what I am trying to do at my home.
6. What is your favourite space and object in the house?
My favourite space in the house is definitely the lounge room - I love sitting by the fire and taking in the view of the great dividing ranges. My fav object would have to be an old drinks trolley we have out of harms/kids way in our entry hall. It has moved around Melbourne from the many places we have lived over the years - and has many great nights (mostly pre-kids) associated with it!
7. Bobby is obviously a super talented artist, as is his dad Robert Gordon. Can you tell us a little bit about the art in the house?
We have a very eclectic mix of art in the house. Mostly done by people we know ie. our family, which I love! Prior to studying architecture, Bobby was a painting student so we have lots of his old pieces around (much to his annoyance/embarrassment) and some great pieces by his peers at art school. We also have a few pieces collected from garage sales - we once found an old signed Lionel Lindsay print at a garage sale. Gold! I also have some pieces I have found on holidays o/s - mostly in antique stores. I was also gifted a beautiful painting by Sophie Witter and a print by Trevor Liddell for my 40th birthday recently.
Read more Home Life Series on the Kip&Co blog.