“I grew up in Montrose, at the foot of the Dandenongs. My parents were both teachers. Conveniently, there were only two schools there, and they each taught in one school. We knew everyone there, and it was a great place to grow up. I always knew when I had my own children I wanted them to grow up in a small and strong community too.
When my older brother and I were in primary school, Mum and Dad once did an international teaching exchange program with a similar set of parents. Both families exchanged lives for two years which was the most amazing experience to have as a child. The other family were from Seattle, and they came over to live in our home, while we lived in theirs – this is when I first caught the jet setting bug.
Growing up, I was really involved in all kinds of sports. I played tennis, basketball, and was always at the football club, watching my brother getting into footy. I grew up loving to dance as well; that’s really my sport – and one I’m quite competitive about!
We were a really active family. I have such fond memories of being active and ingrained in the Montrose community. The simple memories are dear to me too, like riding bikes on the streets, working in the bakery, or walking down to the local milk bar.
Montrose was seriously like Cheers, where everyone knows your name. Hashtag Montrose!
Towards the end of high school, we moved from Montrose and into my maternal great-grandmother’s house in Glen Iris. I lived with Mum and Dad right up till I finished uni.
I bought my first apartment in Armadale when I was 21. I’ve always had an interest in property – something I’ve learned from my very switched on mum. After a couple of years living there, I was ready for my obligatory ‘living in London’ stint and I rented it out and jetted off.
My job in the UK was one I thought you could only dream of. It was working from Marks & Spencer which came with a great employee discount (!), and was in the area of Corporate Responsibility/Sustainability.
It was honestly the most amazing job. I was sent all around the world to confirm their raw materials were from responsible sources. I went to Borneo to check out palm oil, India for cotton and timber, Mongolia for cashmere and China for angora. Marks & Spencer are world leaders in sustainability and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to learn from the best and bring it back to Melbourne.
After two years in London, I met my English ex-husband in 2008.
Halfway through 2010, I returned to Melbourne with my ex. We got married in the same year. It was all quite rushed as my Dad had a terminal illness, and he wanted to walk me down the aisle. Mum ended up pushing him down the aisle, but he lived to see me marry. He passed away two months later.
We went to Vegas and Hawaii for our honeymoon. When we came back, we moved into one of Mum’s investment properties in Hawthorn. I’ve always remarked how hard Mum and Dad had worked for to purchase properties on a teacher’s wage.
Initially, when we were looking to buy we were looking at properties in Hawthorn and Richmond, but we quickly realised that it was out of our price range. Secondly, it didn’t have a sense of community. Someone once said to me, if you’ve got a driveway, you’d never know your neighbours. It’s extreme of course, but I must say now that I’m here in the inner west, there’s a slight truth to it.
We dismissed the inner east pretty quickly and decided to look elsewhere. When I was working in ANZ, a guy working near me was looking to buy in Yarraville. I had never heard of it and looked up the prices. I thought ‘Maybe not.’
However, it did make me look at West Footscray and Footscray. I didn’t know anything about these areas but I could see they had massive potential. I really liked (and still do) West Footscray as they have good-sized blocks and a strong community. I didn’t like that we had to cross the main road to get to this side, and the public transport isn’t great in some WeFo pockets.
After coming home from a Footscray open inspection we were en route to the freeway back to the east and we headed down Gamon Street, Yarraville. We saw the then-Hocking Stuart on Gamon Street and I said to my ex ‘I’m just going to find out about this area.’
I walked into Hocking Stuart and asked ‘Where are we?’
A couple of months later, we ended up purchasing a home two blocks from Hocking Stuart. That was in 2011.
In 2013, we had our first child. He’s just finished prep this year. In 2015, we had our second child, and she’s currently in kinder, only a block away from home. It’s super close.
I separated from my partner earlier this year. As of December 2019, I’m in the process of determining what my new normal year would be in 2020.
What I do know is that 2020 is the year for West Home to thrive! Doing my own thing work-wise and driven by my own creative ideas has always been part of my DNA. My family joke that when I was growing up I was always found ‘doing my business’. I remember when I was about 6, I got behind the desk at a caravan park in Cobram and direct guests to their campsites and ‘push paperwork’! All my aunties would say ‘there’s Lauren’s doing her business again.’
In November 2018, I was on holiday in Bali, which was a needed break from all of my investigations in renovating our current home or looking to buy and renovate, or buy and demolish something new. It was that stage where our family was growing, and we need to form a plan on what to do next.
I explored literally all possibilities, chatting to many architects, interior designers and builders. I even went to tile shops, to find out how the tiling process works. I wanted to know all I needed to know to make an informed decision.
I also spent all my free time looking at houses in the area and that was very enjoyable indeed! I’ve never considered it a burden. You know those people who say ‘I lost my whole weekend just looking at homes!’? Not me! I’m a bit shameless just looking at homes, with no intention to buy. I find it inspiring to see what others have done particularly in the same housing context to my own.
With all my renovation and property investigating (aka snooping!) I started to think, maybe there are other people who are in a similar situation to me. So I started to put my degree in Communications to good use and started to write about what I had learned. I created a website and loaded up my content on it, with a mix of property advice, top renovating and decorating tips, and a lot of stories about renovation.
So West Home was born. The idea was just to share my experience, targeting others like me (particularly women) who are taking the lead in the buying/exploration process. My ex wasn’t interested, and this is my passion.
I found the process really comfortable, but many don’t. Most of the tradies are men, which can be intimidating for some. It’s also a technically complicated process, and I wanted to share what I have learnt – the answers to all of the ‘dumb’ questions I had asked.
That’s just the premise – to build confidence, of buying and selling, or building and renovating. But it keeps growing and taking many different directions and is also about sharing design ideas and independent advice on homes on the market.
I’ve been asked to come into the homes of locals and provide advice on their house plans. In a couple of instances, I’ve been a relationship mediator, when two partners can’t come to a decision. It’s been great to finally find a way to put my major Psychology to good use!
West Home has had a lot of momentum this year, and I’ve found myself really supported while I’ve felt my way through – always just following and sharing my passion and interest. 2019 has been a shitty year for me personally, but I want to continue to inspire and give back, helping and guiding people through these big decisions. 2020 will be a bigger and better year, with more energy!
I feel like I’ve got a good perspective from a series of life’s challenges, I know what shit looks like. I can bounce back from things, it has just taken the right attitude.
My first fun fact! I have met Prince Charles twice, and I’ve danced for him once. The first time, I met him was when I was working at Marks & Spencer. Prince Charles is passionate about sustainability so I was invited to his home Clarence House to discuss a number of sustainability issues. Dancing for him came prior. I was on an international dance tour for my high school and he was in the crowd at the last performance. So to clarify, it was a personal dance experience!
My second fun fact! Actor Johnny Depp told me he likes my hat. I was wearing this trilby hat back in 2009. Dad was really sick with brain tumour then, and he and Mum were living in New York at the time (long story). I was flying between New York and London just to see them, and every day Dad and I would wander down to the David Letterman show to see what celebrities were turning up. Once, Johnny Depp was there, and it was one of the biggest crowds they’ve ever had. Johnny couldn’t be a nicer guy; he stopped with everyone, signed autographs and even said ‘I like your hat’. The girl next to me said ‘Give it to him!’ and I was like, ‘Fuck off! I’ll never take this hat off now!’
On Monday nights, I can be found at Clubbercise in Yarraville Senior Citizen’s Club, channeling my inner dancer. On weekends you can find me snooping through people’s houses. I do like Augustus Gelatery; I’m down there every week with the kids. My favourite local café would be Advieh. Their smashed avocado is great and the best soy chai latte in the area. You can also find me in one of the many parks, playing hide and seek with the children an incessant number of times.”