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Home Stories: Deb Cook and Tony Trobe

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Why do we love peeking into the homes of architects and interior designers so much? Because it’s a perfect blend of professionalism and passion, says Ashley Feraude.

It’s so much fun visiting the homes of architects and interior designers. Not only are they keen to entertain any and every question you may have about their house, but they also speak in a perfect mix of professionalism and passion.

Most importantly though, I’ve never met an architect or an interior designer who, despite their elevated knowledge on design, isn’t down to earth. It always makes for such enjoyable encounters and Deb Cook and Tony Trobe were no exception.

Deb was a nurse before moving into the world of interior design and has owned her small ex-Govie in Hughes for a long time. Originally this red brick standard-issue Canberra design had three small bedrooms, a tiny kitchen, one bathroom and a squeezy backyard with a garage as its main feature—though that was all that Deb needed to raise a family in the city she loves.

Tony, on the other hand, spent the first part of his life as an architect in the UK, and it wasn’t until an around the world trip ended in Australia that the pair met. The Canberra connection was rather accidental.

Tony played squash with an Australian back in the UK who said ‘Hey if you’re ever in Australia, come and visit me in the capital…and by that I don’t mean Sydney’. Tony clearly took up the offer when he ran out of coin during his travels and that occurrence led him to the opportunity of working on the build of new Parliament House.

From there, Tony set up his architecture firm and Deb joined in an administrative role. I’m sure you can calculate from the Parliament House timing clue that all of this was 30 years ago.

Since then, Tony has built a superb architectural reputation (pardon the pun), Deb has found her true calling in the firm as an interior designer and together they raised four teenagers in the small Hughes home.

Now any of you with siblings and a shared bathroom would know the potential pain of this arrangement, but Deb and Tony said the discipline actually made the family closer and more respectful of each other.

It wasn’t until more recently—and with the children now moved out—that Deb and Tony turned their attention a bit more to the home. They key was not to make it any larger or extend but to repurpose its layout to make the most of its orientation and existing spaces while maintaining its original charm.

So, out came a few internal walls, replaced with long floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors, and the garage was demolished in favour of a front carport. All of this created space, light, warmth and a gorgeous backyard view.

Did you notice in Cass’s photos that there are no curtains? When I attested that this was a great ode to minimalism Tony did admit “Yes, actually we should get some curtains”. Well, I for one would love to be their neighbour and have a perfect view of their fun interiors every time I go and chase my dog when he steals my sock.

Speaking of fun interiors, I’m sure you noticed some great design classics in Deb and Tony’s home, from the F!NK pendant lamp and the Alessi kettle to the IKEA stools. But did you notice the Robert Foster’s long pointy prototype lamp just next to the sofa or the architecture chessboard? Or how about the custom split-circle wooden kitchen benchtop that’s built to cook and entertain at the same time and for people of different heights?

I guess you must have been impressed by the large indoor plants or that large vase live vanity in the ensuite? I was. And how about the Colourbond kitchen wall and base cabinets? That’s really something interesting.

Actually, I’m leading you on a bit—that Colourbond kitchen is an illusion and actually a laser cut wood surface that a joiner had to painstakingly paint and align to perfection. You have to agree it was worth it. That kitchen finish was the very first thing I noticed inside as it related to the use of the metal cladding outside of the house, as well as the entry stairs, the street number and even the chook art.

All of this seemed to pay respect to Australian country design and fit the home’s surrounding environment. When I asked about this, Tony and Deb explained that those materials age with time and show wear and tear, just like wood surfaces do.

“There is something really nice about letting things live and change with you and not aiming for perfection.” See what did I tell you? Relatable! Well, minus the no curtains thing.











Planning a move in 2021? 

Save your energy for styling and leave the rest to ActewAGL

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Editor’s note: This editorial was photographed prior to the ACT 2021 lockdown and current health directives.

Home Stories is brought to you in partnership with ActewAGL.  

Read all of Ashley’s Home Stories series here

Photography: Cass Atkinson.

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