AKI Design founder and director Charis James welcomes est inside her Paris-inspired home in Melbourne’s South Yarra.

Charis James instantly recognised the potential of this run-down, 1890s terrace when she laid eyes on it four years ago, initially planning to flip it with her husband, Steve. But with its high ceilings, intricate cornices and double-arched hallway, Charis knew she couldn’t let the house go. So, lifting cues from the home’s Victorian bones, Charis channelled the sophistication found in the typical Parisian apartment into a functional abode for herself and Steve, with room for their children and two young grandchildren.

To maintain the building’s original intent and footprint, Charis kept the hallway and front rooms intact. A small extension was inserted at the rear of the home to make way for a larger open-plan living and dining space that backs onto a compact courtyard, complete with a built-in outdoor barbecue and wine fridge. Charis honed the feeling of stepping out onto the Piazza Massena Square in Nice in this space through French steel-framed doors and checkerboard tiles. 

The hallway references the original plastered archways and reinterprets them through the steel-frame fluted glass door, allowing the three bedrooms to be closed off from the rear of the home when entertaining guests. It’s in the hallway where some of Charis’ favourite pieces are on display. “They all have meaning and are representative of a time and stage my husband and I were at in our lives,” Charis explains. Artwork displayed on this wall includes pieces by esteemed Australian artists Kerry Armstrong and Ash Holmes.

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“To me, great design and family are the perfect combination and balance of home.”

– Designer Charis James

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The kitchen is an elegant meeting place for Concordia marble, bronze tapware and the Articolo Scandal pendant. Charis continued this curved theme in the kitchen with custom-designed kitchen cabinetry. Chocolate limestone paint sets the master suite apart from the rest of the home and is where Charis feels the most at peace. “Our bedroom makes you feel as though you’re in a boutique hotel somewhere in Italy or Spain,” she says.

Charis’ family home has a deep connection to its former life, cultivating where, as she puts it, good design and family form the perfect combination. “Home is where you’re surrounded by things that make you feel like it’s your safe place, but also make you feel alive and inspired,” Charis adds.

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AKI Design founder and director Charis James