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Home Stories: Stephen Tsakalos

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On this festive day, Ashley and Cass head to the Queanbeyan home of Stephen Tsakalos for a Home Stories filled with art, plants and design.

About six months ago I was selling an Eames bird décor item that no longer fit on my shelf next to the cooking books and Stephen showed up at my place to buy it.

We knew each other from both previously working at the NGA, so it was a great opportunity to reconnect and strike up a conversation about mid-century design, home projects and our mutual admiration of F!NK homewares.

As we kept talking, I eventually asked if he also needed the Eames bird to wedge in-between cooking books, but it turned out that the purchase was needed to bring a bigger vision to life. And that vision was to fully refurbish one side of a duplex that his parents have owned since the 90s in Queanbeyan.

Just like many of us, Stephen got bitten by the ‘let’s fix things around the house’ COVID bug but, judging from the size of the project, it seems the bug that bit him had quite the case of monsterism.

Following our Eames bird exchange, Stephen spent the following six months working non-stop to ensure he could celebrate a December completion. And now, here we are—and Cass and I can definitely report that Stephen is up for a celebration.

Firstly, he got all his major work complete, despite the challenges that this year has thrown us all. Secondly, he did it all to his vision without compromise. Thirdly, he is proud of and happy with the outcome. Lastly, and probably most importantly, my Eames bird was displayed in a prime position.

I asked Stephen what his biggest lesson was from undertaking this project and at first, he sighed deeply and then said ‘budget’. He originally pencilled in about $20,000 for the work, which even to me seemed rather low considering I know a guy who knows a guy that spent more on his tats than that.

It ended up being about twice that, despite using a single multi-skilled contractor—but then if we consider that the refurb included a full kitchen, bathroom, tiles throughout, décor, electrical and plumbing work and painting, then that’s quite a bargain.

Stephen was also very thrifty. He secured various materials and components for the home and managed to play Tetris with a complicated build project by keeping his mid-Century inspired, simple and cosy vision firmly in mind.

He found the bath at half the price on a sale, picked up the tiles at a run-out clearance, produced the custom kitchen out of eight on-sale IKEA benchtops, built side tables out of the wood boxes the tiles came in and even picked up cheap Eames décor from some dodgy guy.

The only part left over is reworking the backyard with a Palm Springs inspired cactus garden. If you look closely at Cass’ pics, you’ll note the recycled concrete from the build as part of the formation. It seems that Stephen has a knack for making the most of reusable elements.

And speaking of reusable, I did ask Stephen whether he would take all those skills and lessons he has learnt and now look to refurbing the other side of the duplex. He sighed again and said, “I think I’ll enjoy my home for the moment”.

But then, after thinking a little more, he smiled and added ”Actually, you know, I’d really like to as there were definitely more upsides than downsides and I would recommend the journey to anyone. Also, why? Do you have more things to sell?”











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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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