A Remarkable Mid-Century Home in Eltham

Images by Tasha Tylee

This week on the Journal we’re back in Melbourne visiting a beautiful family home and two creative beings that we’ve been following for quite some time; birthkeeper & mentor Sunni Hart along with her partner Pete Baxter, cofounder of the much loved Hope St Radio. The couple live in a character-filled Alistair Knox designed home in Melbourne’s North East, it’s an ever-changing adventure for their two kids Fox (8) and Dizzy (3) and a refuge from city life often shared with friends and loved ones. We spoke to Sunni about her experience working with families, the couple’s very personal collection of art and Pete chimed in to talk about bringing Hope St Radio to life.

“This house was built in 1967 for the Diskin Family by iconic builder and mid-century designer Alistair Knox and craftsman Robert Marshall. We are the third family to live here. We live on 5 acres and there is also a beautiful two-story hexagon studio that has housed a rotation of our friends over the 4 years that we have been here.”

“We decided to move to Eltham from the inner north after Dizzy was born because I was craving trees and space. The decision was such a turning point in our lives. Being a little further out meant that we were able to put roots down and be really intentional about what we were doing. Being so immersed in nature was really special and allowed me to start deepening my own work in the birth space, healing and somatics. It’s here that Pete really got passionate about home cooking which is what led to us hosting long lunches in our garden which is where he met Jack Shaw and together they created the bar that is now Hope St Radio.”

Being a little further out meant that we were able to put roots down and be really intentional about what we were doing.

Sunni & Pete’s table is set with IN BED 100% linen placemats in navy gingham & napkins in pine.

“It is a very nourishing space especially during the lockdown as we had our own little community and were still able to share meals with friends. The thing I love the most about living here is the privilege of raising our kids on such a great expanse of land with wildlife and birds all around. The house itself is also some kind of magic. The red brick floors, mudbrick walls and huge and romantic vintage timbers possess such grandeur and beauty. The way the light beams through the floor to ceiling windows in the morning makes it quite difficult to start the day off on the wrong foot.”

Sunni & Pete’s bed is dressed with an IN BED 100% linen sheet set in oxblood & peach stripe and a duvet in stone with extra pillowslips in lake.

“Our bedroom is the most tranquil space in the house. It’s mudbrick, wood and windows so it feels organic and calming. We decided to keep it super minimal to promote good sleep hygiene and provide a refuge. In it is just our bed, a couple of Kartell side tables and a beautiful begonia and monstera plant. We also have a balcony with a little table and chairs where Pete and I share a bottle of wine after the kids have gone to sleep. To be honest I probably spend most of my time in our bedroom. I love it so much.”

Here Fox’s bed is dressed in a colorful combination of two seasonal shades; brick and marigold along with a pillowslip in our much loved midnight blue linen.

“The kids room is just adjacent to ours and is also very minimal. We are lucky to have enough space that we can have one room dedicated to sleeping and a whole other space full of toys. The toy room actually has 8 built-in bunks which is where Fox and Dizzy used to sleep but it is super open and exposed to the rest of the house as it is the mezzanine at the top of the stairs. I have found that they rest better now that they are in a smaller, less chaotic space.”

“We have so many beautiful pieces of art that have been made by our stupidly talented friends. The big painting in the lounge was painted and gifted to us by our friend, artist and author, Gabriel Curtain. We also have paintings by Nell Pearson, Julian Hocking and Lani Mitchell. One of my most prized possessions is a clay sculpture that my dear friend Amy Leeworthy created of me giving birth to Dizzy which she based off a photo. It’s so detailed and even has all my tattoos and intimate body parts! Also the Ewer vessel by Layla Cluer from Softedge Studio which I purchased in record time as soon as I saw it. Our home is full of books, objects and art that all possess significance and meaning to me whether they come from the docks of Teshima in Japan, old diners in New York or walks along the river on an especially auspicious day. I am a very sentimental collector.”

We have so many beautiful pieces of art that have been made by our stupidly talented friends.

“[I enjoy spending time by the] Birrarung (Yarra) river. Birrurung means ‘a river of mists and shadows.’ I have a deep affinity for the river and we spend a lot of time in it and by it throughout the year. I like to imagine how it would have been before settlers introduced cattle and sheep because it was a main food source for the Wurundjeri people, the traditional custodians of this land. They say it used to be verdant and filled with dolphins, sharks and eels. I feel lucky to live so close to such a powerful, ever flowing water source.”

“We also frequent the Panton Hill pub and A Boy Named Sue quite often and the Eltham Farmers Market is our weekly go to for fresh seasonal produce. Montsalvat is an Eltham icon and definitely worth a stroll around. Not too far from here, just through the Yarra Valley is TarraWarra Museum of Art which always has great exhibitions.”

“I started working as a doula after my own beautiful home births with my sons. I felt very passionate about letting people know that birth could be an amazing, empowered experience. I undertook two trainings, one in New York and one here in Melbourne and then started attending births in 2016. Since then I have had the honour of working with over 40 families on their pregnancy, birth and postpartum journeys. It has been a wild ride and deeply enriching in every way. Now that Dizzy (my youngest) is 3, I am feeling ready to expand beyond birth in particular. I am excited to take all the amazing things I have learnt about the body and mind and deepen my practice in somatics and psychotherapy over the next few years.”

While Sunni continues to extend her practice Pete has been building a home for Hope St Radio in the Collingwood Arts Precinct.

Hope St Radio started as a transient online radio station in the end of 2017, live broadcasting out of various spaces, including bars, parks, museums, and even the Melbourne Zoo. The dream was always to one day have a permanent space (the name Hope St Radio comes from a small terrazzo floored studio we rented in Brunswick on Hope St, where the station was originally formed) but this never really seemed feasible until a chance encounter with my now business partner Jack Shaw, and a last minute opening at the Collingwood Arts Precinct. Hope St has now evolved into something new altogether. You could say an amalgamation of my love of music, food and wine. It feels really special. The team is so amazing and the reception to the new space has been so much nicer than we ever could have expected. I feel really proud of it and excited to go in there each day to see what [our head chef] Ellie is dreaming up in the kitchen.”

Hope St has now evolved into something new altogether.

“2022 is feeling so great thus far! It is just so nice to connect and be with the people we love again. The success of the restaurant is allowing us to dream up fun parties and holidays for the year. We are excited to take our kids traveling and camping now that the world is opening up. Professionally I am excited to take some time off from the intensity of birth work and focus on mentoring and creating community with gatherings amongst the trees. I definitely want to spend 2022 playing and exploring with my children, connecting with old and new friends, learning about things that light me up and having a nice time eating good food and drinking superb wine.”