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Home Stories: Caitrin Dunn

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In our final Home Stories editorial for Spring 2021, Ashley and Cass pay a visit to a new family home in Campbell that wasn’t just built by an all-star cast of local talent— but even keeps itself clean.

We often speak of what we do for our homes, but what about what our homes do for us? We know that on a basic level they provide shelter from the elements so that we can eat and sleep—but what else?

What does your home do for you? When Cass and I visited Caitrin Dunn at her home in Campbell we soon learned what it does for her—and aside from keeping Caitrin and her family happy, her home even keeps itself tidy. But how? Let’s find out.

Caitrin and her husband bought the late 1950s home in 2011 when they moved to the ACT for work. The home was a lovely traditional three-bedroom house common in these inner parts of Canberra.

It had a lot of charm and a great view of Mount Ainslie, so the couple kept renovating to adjust to their growing family. However, after seven years it became apparent that with the family expanding to four, they needed to seriously expand. However, no matter how they planned the extension, it became obvious that the most sensible option was to knock down and rebuild.

The build took 18 months and, in one of those classic ‘one degree of separation’ Canberra stories, I know every person involved. Designed by Terry Ring from Ring & Associates, built by the team at Blackett Homes and with interiors designed by Kier Gregg from the Dept of Design, Caitrin and her husband presented the team a dream home vision based on a home they fell in love with on the Mornington Peninsula. At the end, what the team delivered was exceptionally close.

What Caitrin loved about the home on the Peninsula was its sense of space, views of nature, sophisticated modernism and intentional zoning and as you can see, this home has those things in spades. The impressive entryway staircase and the wide-open living spaces have that modern art gallery like flow-through and zoning is cleverly disguised by ceiling to floor glass panels.

This combined functionality allows Caitrin to keep an eye on her two kids playing in the different spaces of the house while pursing different activities. No need for ‘hey, keep it down in there!’.

Even the centrally placed pool, often seen in Queensland home design, offers not only a great vista from the kitchen, dining, and bedrooms but also a great way for the family to stay connected.

However, while this togetherness is great, what about moments when you want to get away? You know, some quiet time to breathe in and contemplate? Well, Caitrin has thought of those spaces too.

The first is what she fittingly calls the “Laneway of Santorini”. It’s a narrow, all-white space between two high walls filled with pots that looks onto a green wall. After one minute spent basking in the sun, I was expecting someone to hand me some spanakopita and loukoumades.

The second is the TV room—not because of the TV but rather the James Turrell-like isolated sky window above the staircase. From the couch you can look up and admire the everchanging show nature puts on—and because it’s their home, there are no gallery opening and closing hours.

Caitrin explained that she and her husband didn’t grow up in houses like this, so having the luxury of such a dream home is never lost on them. They recognise how fortunate their children are and Cillian (9) and Humphrey (6) played a key role in its design—helping with the colour palate, pool design and furniture choices. Rather fitting, really, as Humphrey wants to be an architect-builder and Cillian plans to be an AFL player who also design his own homes.

When I asked what her favourite part of the home is, Caitrin’s eyes lit up as she walked me from the living to the kitchen.

“There isn’t one thing—it’s the combination of all things that keep us calm and happy,” she explains. “Aside from the amount natural light and seeing the treetops through the large windows, it’s also things like the kitchen. Look at how minimal it is—and the best bit is, it really is like this all the time.”

Caitrin proceeded to open each door and drawer to show me how thought-out these were, ensuring that minimalism is functional and not a chore. Everything has its space. The keys and kids’ drawings in a shallow hidden space, the food jars in custom two-sided drawers and all the small appliances—toaster, coffee machine—in hidden butler’s pantry.

The end result is a house that’s impossible to mess up—and that’s saying a lot for a family with two little ones. How could you not love a home that literally keeps itself tidy?

So, there you have it. Perhaps we should ask not what we can do for the house, but what the house can do for us? Wasn’t there a political speech written about that once? I’m pretty sure there was…I’ll Google it.









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Photography: Cass Atkinson

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