In 2011 Alex McCabe fell in love with a shabby, unassuming weatherboard cottage in Melbourne’s inner city of St Kilda.
The mother of two had just started Keep & Co, a home furnishings business, and had big dreams of turning the run-down shack into a beautiful sanctuary.
But the place needed a lot of work. In 2016, when he finally saved up money for major renovations, his friends warned him.
The extension would cost $49,000, according to the DA in September of that year.
His friends called him crazy and asked him to scale-down the intense project: it only made him more determined to make the four-year dream a reality.
From the street this quaint little cottage looks like thousands of Melbourne’s St Kilda
But inside it is larger than life and drenched in light
Pink kitchens have become one of the most popular on Pinterest
Style your home like Alex: here are FEMAIL’s favorite Keep & Co pieces
‘I spent all that time working on beautiful houses, dreaming of the day I could have something like that too; It took so long to save money and get a firm idea of what I wanted in my mind,’ she told Domain.
And by his description of the old house it’s easy to see why.
‘It’s so hot inside in the summer and I could see my breath in the winter,’ she said.
The accommodation had brown tiles and wood paneling – the real highlight was the location and adjoining community garden.
But before long the mum-of-two and businesswoman’s dream was becoming a reality – and she had the ‘most pinned kitchen on Pinterest’.
The ‘same’ two-bedroom white weatherboard cottage sold for $1.62 million in June, well above the market average for similar homes in St Kilda and double what he bought for it.
When it hit the market in early June, the charming home wasn’t described as rundown, a renovator’s dream or a quirky home with lots of potential.
Alex McCabe transformed the house – despite friends warning him his dreams were too big for the place
Now every room is drenched in sunlight and bursting with color – echoing the style of Kip & Co’s founder’s homeware empire.
The earlier films are much less glamorous
The house felt dull and cold
It was sold as an inner city retreat, quiet, calm and beautiful – a paradise hidden behind a modest exterior in a sleepy cul-de-sac in one of Melbourne’s most sought-after suburbs.
FEMAIL was given a look inside the home before it went on the market – and it’s anything but cold and damp.
Alex’s signature bright and bubbly style, seen in his Keep & Co collection, is reflected in every area of the home.
From pink and copper, Pintrest-famous kitchens to fun bedrooms and open-plan living spaces that flow to the backyard.
Alex was thrilled when he found someone willing to make his dream a reality.
The house now flows from the front where the bedrooms are to the backyard
The pink kitchen replaced a sad, brown paneled kitchen that had dated quite badly
The renovations combined old-school charm with modern architectural elements that allowed for more light
He explained that he didn’t want to see the same ‘cookie cutter’ white cottage everywhere.
And wanted a bright and warm space to reflect her personality.
Her architect Michael McManus was on board and helped her flood the cottage with natural light and push the boundaries.
She also enlisted the help of her boyfriend at the time, Bobby Babb, who later became her husband and father to her children Quincy, 5, and Pearl, 3.
Mom wanted every room to have its moment—not just the spectacular kitchen.
Alex didn’t want to have an ‘it room’ in the house so he made sure the bedrooms were just as individual when renovating.
Structural renovations cost only $49,000, according to a DA
It remains his favorite part of the house though – and he’s proud that the stunning features haven’t aged the house in the years since it was installed.
When Covid strikes the family leave the quaint cottage – relocating to the Mornington Peninsula where they decide to stay.
They put the property on the market after renting it to two separate tenants who paid $850-$900 per week for their little piece of paradise.
Alex has decorated the house in his Keep & Co products to make it ready for sale
She told FEMAIL ‘hope it helps’.
‘I really wanted to bring the property to life so that the lucky buyers could see their future in the home. I think styling the house beautifully also showcases the property’s incredible architectural features, which was important,’ he said.
She added that most of the styling was the same as when they were at home which made styling easier.
‘We’ve recently moved to the Mornington Peninsula but it’s very true to life how we’ve set up the place ourselves and we’ve kept all our own favorite pieces at home. The real difference was having a queen bed in the spare room rather than the chaos of the girl’s nursery.’
He adds that there are some non-structural changes that people can make to give their space a facelift.
‘Great rugs anchor a home, I think they’re really essential. Good dark wall colors are the basis. And of course great bedding – it’s the easiest way to give your bedroom a complete makeover without shelling out for a reno.’
He said color is a big thing for him — people need to choose what feels livable to them before starting a renovation.
‘Start with the bones: pick colors and textures for the walls and floors,’ she said.
‘I think really successful styling makes you feel something – so I fill my room with moments that remind me of good times and are conversation starters. And finish with beautiful furnishings that are comfortable and give you a sense of rejuvenation and expression.’
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