African style decor creates a chic contemporary home
Picture: Marc Ash

Two days after The Block Sky High auction last year, WA contestant Matt Di Costa was busy tackling an even bigger project - transforming a late 80s-style home in Carine into an African-inspired holiday retreat.

Mr Di Costa said homeowners Scott and Doulene Walker thought that with his eccentric style and no-fuss attitude on The Block, he was the man to achieve the look they were after.

The Walkers - who own Active Migration Australia - live in the home with their 15-year-old daughter, Nicole, and their 18-year-old son, James, stays over every now and then.

"I was born in Zimbabwe and I have a very strong connection to Africa," Ms Walker said.

"It's a place you can't get out of your blood. I took my husband to Zimbabwe last year, he had never been to Africa before and now he is hooked."

She described the look they were going for as "modern African safari lodge".

"I was hoping to have a classy yet rustic African feel with soft, dusty, blended colours," she said.

The project began in August and was completed in October.

"We began by styling current pieces they wanted to keep, then we began dissecting rooms," Di Costa said.

"The house is amazing, with four different levels and a tonne of room for imaginative design."

His first task was to rid the house of dead space, ensuring 100 per cent of the livable area was maximised. "We turned a dining room into a walk-in robe, a lounge into a kitchen, a study into a dining room, a kitchen into a study, and so on and so on," Di Costa said.

Rezoning created adult spaces upstairs, including a main bedroom, walk-in robes, a new ensuite, study and fireplace.

The middle floor became a shared open-plan space with new bi-fold doors to the pool area, a spacious kitchen, new dining room and sunken lounge area complete with a fireplace.

The back of the house is now Nicole and James' domain.

Di Costa said he drew from his architecture studies to reimagine each room in the house.

"I remember thinking two things: 'Wow this is going to be a lot of work', and 'How do I make African modern?'"

In blending modern architectural and African aesthetics, Di Costa was very selective about his design choices.

"Each room has a distinct architectural feature and a distinct African feature," he said. "The rest is a collage of colour and texture."

Authentic and natural materials were central to achieving the theme.

"We selected strong, natural, architectural features balanced by a dusty colour palette and styling," Di Costa said. "These two would work together to replicate the intense feeling of gazing across a dusty African plain."

The palette consists of dusty greys, creams and mauves alongside timbers (such as beams used to create a divider between the kitchen and dining room) and polished plaster.

Di Costa's polished plastering company applied a combination of clay plaster and verve finish to the walls throughout the home. "These finishes are natural, as is the horizontal use of timber panelling on the walls," he said. "It was important to combine as many natural timber elements as possible."

A casual African-inspired vibe was created by draping curtains to the floor, using throw rugs and hides throughout the home, and pulling paintings off walls and sitting them on the floor leaning against the walls.

Di Costa also lowered the main bed and all pendant lights to create a relaxed feeling that was a reminder of Africa. "We removed the legs to the bed base and by doing so lowered everything to suit - the pendants, bedhead," he said. "This further contributes to a relaxed feel."

The Walkers have become avid entertainers since the makeover was completed. "Now that the kitchen is downstairs we entertain more. We like to open up the bi-folds to host in the kitchen and outside area," Ms Walker said.

"However, I would have to say our bathroom and the kitchen are my favourite areas of my home now that we have lived in it a few months."


Style file

Polished plaster: Sky High Renders, 0401 487 654, skyhighrenders.com

Sofa and table lamps in lounge: Blu Peter, North Fremantle, 9433 1782, blupeter.com.au

Kitchen pendants: Enoki, (08) 8271 5500, enoki.com.au

Timber floor refinishing: MI Floor Sanding, 0420 512 179, mifloorsanding.com.au

Pendants, stools: Globe West, 9259 5597, globewest.com.au

Dining setting: Freedom, 1300 135 588, freedom.com.au

Tiles in ensuite shower: Tile Boutique, 9244 2422, tileboutique.com.au

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