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Hong Kong Meets East Melbourne

Oct 8 2015 • Leave a comment

I’ve often driven through East Melbourne and oohed and ahhh’d at the amazing terrace houses that line the streets. I’ve wondered who actually lives in them and what they’re like inside. Well, today I’m pleased to be revealing a living and breathing family home that’s full of warmth, playfulness and culture.

Today’s spectacular home belongs to accomplished marketing director and children’s book author Joanne O’Callaghan, her husband Craig, nine-year-old daughter Sophia and four-year-son Xavier. The family lived in Hong Kong for 12 years prior to East Melbourne, so this home has been strongly influenced by where they have lived and travelled. Many objects in the house hold a story. Objects aside, as always it’s the people and their energy who make a home come alive. Joanne has such a lovely down-to-earth nature. It is evident how hard working both she and Craig are and how truly grateful they are for what they have. In fact, the week I took photos of their house, Joanne was excited to be volunteering for a mobile laundromat that washes clothes for Melbourne’s homeless. It was an absolute pleasure being in her home.

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Hallway Entrance. The family loves living across the road from a park. ‘We have baskets in the hallway filled with balls and frisbees. We recently pitched a small tent in the park for an evening of star gazing and viewing of the full moon (all part of a school assignment)’ says Joanne. Artwork called ‘Grey 1’ by Carla Fletcher. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Living room. Four-year-old Xavier plays with his train set. ‘We like to have pre-dinner drinks in the living room before a night out at a nearby restaurant. We invite friends and then just walk to our dinner destination. We also like to play board games’ says Joanne. ‘Margaret River Vine Leaves’ woodblock prints by Ralph Kiggell. They were commissioned for the couple’s wedding in Margaret River. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Dining room. Joanne and her son work together on some craft for a friend. ‘The slate floor in the dining room was in extremely poor condition, we bought a Missoni designed Bolon ‘rug’ which has been highly practical. We love the graphic element it adds to the space.’ says Joanne. Dining room chairs from Thonet The object on top of the shelves is an Aboriginal fish trap from Western Australia. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Sideboard nook. Danish designed Hans Wegner Wishbone chair, inspired by Chinese Ming Chairs. The family own two Wishbone chairs. They admired them a few years ago at the Copenhagen Design Museum where they were on display completely deconstructed – laid out like a puzzle. Joanne’s gorgeous children’s books sit on the desk ‘When it comes to music my husband would say I am stuck in the 1980’s. But we do like listening to lots of different digital radio stations such as Buddha, Koffee and KOOL. The children love pop-up digital radio station Elf Radio, which broadcasts non-stop Christmas carols – it is incredible how many Christmas songs there are!’ says Joanne. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Joanne’s four-year -old son Xavier shows me some of his artwork. The koala artwork is called ‘Meditate’ by Carla Fletcher. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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The couples nine- year-old daughter Sophia really seems to have a passion for cooking. ‘She has prepared a few dinner parties this year for family and friends. She uses a white board to write up the menu and make place cards for our guests. She enjoys making homemade cannelloni with rocket and parmesan salad (with homemade salad dressing), and rhubarb and apple crumble. It is really wonderful to see her confidence grow in cooking’ says Joanne. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Bespoke storage was designed and made to fit perfectly under the stairs. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Four-year-old Xavier’s artwork. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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The study. Outside of her corporate career, Joanne is one of Hong Kong’s favourite children’s authors. Her much loved and bestselling children’s books include ‘My Hong Kong’ and ‘The Swimmers’. Her most recent book ‘Found in Hong Kong’ will be published in November. Joanne is also collaborating with Julie Kennedy of Pip Dot Art on a book project. Yay…go girls! This amazing koala piece is called ‘The Alchemist’ – original pencil on canvass by Carla Fletcher. Carpet from Pakistan, ‘purchased in Hong Kong with the negotiation assistance of a Pakistani friend!’ says Joanne. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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‘I found the 18th-century chair in Central Hong Kong. It had been cast aside as rubbish. I was catching a taxi home after work and decided to put it into the boot and give it a new home. I recently replaced the original horse hair fabric seat, as it was in a poor state’ says Joanne. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Front hallway. On the right colourful artworks from Joanne’s ‘My Hong Kong’ book are displayed. Turquoise ceramic vase purchased from an antique store in Beijing. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Upstairs Landing. Portraits of Maureen (Joanne’s mum) and Sophia (Joanne’s daughter) were created by Carla Fletcher. Carla Fletcher is a 2015 Archibald Prize finalist. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Carla Fletcher artwork close up. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Sophia’s bedroom. On the wall, paintings by Joanne’s father that were painted for her room as a child. Hand crafted octopus purchased on holiday in Sri Lanka. ‘The kids are into lego, lego and lego! They are making hotels, schools, supermarkets, a car wash and anything you can imagine’ says Joanne. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Xavier’s bedroom. ‘The Gruffalo’ by Xavier created at Pipdot Creative Art Classes. Children’s red chair from Zhuhai, China. Missoni blue blanket.Photo by Briony Skeen.

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The bathroom. ‘The towel holders remind me of a ship’ says Joanne. We are exploring how we may be able to reuse some of the materials in the house when we renovate. The travertine marble bench tops in the bathrooms can perhaps be resized to make outdoor side tables’.  Photo by Briony Skeen. 

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Master Bedroom. On the left, artwork ‘Desert Landscape’ (edition print) by Sidney Nolan (Joanne’s first art purchase from her first job) and on the right ’Wilderbeast’ by Sidney Nolan. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Master bedroom overlooking the park. Antique Chinese elm table purchased in Hong Kong, at the foot of the bed. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Master Bedroom. ‘We have a rather special view over the park from our bedroom. We love to see people using the park – walking dogs, rehearsing plays, juggling practice, parties picnics and practicing yoga’ says Joanne. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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That chair. An untouched beauty from Modern Times. Joanne plans to recover it, when she can decide on a fabric. Tripode floor lamp. ‘We were lucky enough to buy these great wardrobes at a Poliform sale’ says Joanne. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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House Facade. The house was built in 1880, three terraces were built together at one time. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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Bradford Terrace. Photo by Briony Skeen.

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The park is literally across the road! Photo by Briony Skeen.

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From the park looking back onto Bradford Terrace. Photo by Briony Skeen.


Joanne and her family bought this stunning home called Bradford Terrace in 2009. The family were living in Hong Kong at the time and really didn’t know when they would be returning to live in Melbourne, but Joanne saw the house by chance on a Melbourne visit. Her husband Craig made a follow-up trip a couple of weeks later to inspect the house and attend the auction. They were both immediately taken with the large proportions of the rooms, lovely internal light and position of the house opposite a park. Sold! They moved into East Melbourne in 2012, when they returned to Australia.

The house has been home to Don Dunstan, former South Australian Premier, famed for his progressive views and for his for his safari suits. At the time Don Dustan lived in the house (in the early ’80s), he was Director of Tourism for Victoria. A nearby neighbour told Joanne that he hosted many marvellous parties at the house, he was a great cook (author of a cookbook) and he enjoyed playing piano for his guests in the front room.

When asked about what changes they’ve made to the house, Joanne says ‘The first thing we did was replace all of the mission brown taps in the bathroom and kitchen! Next on the list was storage’. The family will soon embark on a significant renovation that will see some new spaces added and a new kitchen and bathrooms. The design includes a 50-square-metre deck space on the first floor where they plan to grow vegetables and read newspapers in the sun. It will also be home to an outdoor cinema. Sounds terrible doesn’t it?!



Joanne and Craig love to walk into the city for a meal in Flinders Lane followed by a movie at the Kino Cinema. The family also enjoys their proximity to Smith Street, Gertrude Street, Victoria Street for Asian food, and ever-evolving Richmond. Proximity to the CBD means that friends and family visiting from overseas and interstate also enjoy the location.

The family regularly walks through Fitzroy Gardens and Treasury Gardens to the city. And of course they love living across the road from a park. ‘This aspect of our life in Melbourne is in stark contrast to Hong Kong, where there are very few places where you can actually sit on grass’ says Joanne.

East Melbourne is also so close to Melbourne’s activity hub. They can easily walk to the MCG, the Australian Open, concerts at Rod Laver Arena, events at Birrarung Marr, ArtPlay, Sidney Myer Music Bowl and MPavilion. ‘There is a great atmosphere in East Melbourne whenever there are major events on at the MCG or at the Tennis Centre’ says Joanne.



  • Kere Kere Green – A social enterprise cafe located in Fitzroy Gardens. Great toasted sandwiches and space for the children to play quoits or kick a ball.
  • Hard Pressed Coffee – French Press coffee & Latino-inspired sandwiches.
  • Square and Compass – Coffee and food. New to the neighbourhood. The same owners as ‘Barry’ in Northcote.
  • All Press – For the coffee obsessed.
  • Lemon Middle and Orange – Lovely spacious cafe in a former paint factory
  • GG – For dinner a very short walk away, we enjoy GG in Clarendon Street. Tender slow-roasted lamb and chicken is a speciality.
  • Shizuku – A current favourite for modern Japanese ramen and craft beer.
  • East Melbourne Library – For inspiring reads, family events, yoga, and wonderful staff. A modern space with a great community feeling.


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