A traditional workers’ cottage is transformed by interior designer Fiona Lynch into a refined and dynamic home that reflects the identity of its owner, Melbourne artist Tom Adair.

Words and Article by The Local Project

Art by Tom Adair | Design by Fiona Lynch | Photography by Dave Kulesza | Styling by Bea and Co


Tom’s mixed-media artwork combines airbrush and hand-bent neon, inspired by his youth growing up in the Melbourne street-art scene and a keen interest in architecture and design, particularly the iconic mid-century modern architecture of Palm Springs, California. 


While, Tom explains, he did not want his own artwork to dominate Fiona Lynch’s design of the interior for the Cotter Street House, the electrical component and weight of his neon works nonetheless required careful planning of wiring and wall structure, as well as the specification of recessed, flush electrical outlets by ZETR. The influence of Tom’s work as an artist is also felt in the brief for a minimalist, gallery-like space that is enlivened by a contemporary art collection, and by the addition of playful, unexpected hidden details. 


Tom and his wife Nikki purchased Cotter Street at auction in 2010, with the house in an exceptionally run-down, barely-livable condition. Yet after searching for months in a soaring property market, they fell in love with the inner-city location, and so despite its condition, they were more than willing to renovate the property themselves. Seven years later, they embarked on the decision to undertake another renovation, engaging Fiona Lynch whose work Tom had admired for many years during his time in the role of Homewares Manager at Jardan Furniture.


“Fiona Lynch was our first choice, I had always loved the colour palette, materials and aesthetic of their work,” Tom says. Fiona Lynch re-planned the space to accommodate a guest area and intimate private suite on the lower level, opening to a secluded courtyard. Above, an open kitchen, living and dining area presents a welcoming entertainment zone complete with an outdoor deck and terrazzo-clad barbeque plinth. “The Fiona Lynch team made improvements to the floorplans, storage and joinery that changed the house dramatically and really made it worthwhile,” reflects Tom. 


True to the Fiona Lynch studio’s design sensibility, the home is richly layered with tactile materials. A sophisticated base palette of polished plaster, grey marble, white steel and natural oak is punctuated with playful bursts of rose-tinted mirror, bright colour accents and polished brass details, while the continuity of materials and detailing crafts a cohesive experience throughout the home. Tall bespoke joinery is lowered to a consistent datum throughout the interior, and low-height pieces topped with stone invite personalisation with objects and art from Tom and Nikki’s collection. 


With such an emphasis on the highly considered palette of materials, it was important to find design solutions that allowed the materials to shine and kept interruption to a minimum. Electrical outlets and switches are a necessity in every house, yet often pose a problem as they intrude on the materials and obstruct the design. As the switches and outlets also have a tangible effect on the experience of his artwork, Tom was especially invested in finding a solution to this problem.


“I’d been looking at electrical switches for some time before the house was even started, and there wasn’t much on the market that appealed”, says Tom. “All the generic brands were too clunky and the ‘fancy’ models were too shiny or fake looking with terrible designs that belong in the early 2000s!”. When he discovered Australian company ZETR, who specialise in trimless, fully-flush and recessed outlets and switches, Tom says, “I knew it was something that was going to be a non‑negotiable in the house.” — TOM ADAIR


ZETR founder Garth Elliot, who met with Tom and the Fiona Lynch team during the project, says he has “huge” respect for Tom and work. “It’s so cool to see, then, his artworks lit up with neon that’s been powered by a ZETR fixture in a very discrete way. Where the power supply cables for Tom’s neon artworks are connected to ZETR outlets, it almost appears that they originate out of a blank wall space which means we achieved our design aim”. 


Throughout the entire project, ZETR products were specified as “the power points are so minimalist that it allowed us to have more power points throughout the house for convenience,” Tom says. “No other light switch or power point compare, honestly we couldn’t be happier with the finished product. Falling away seamlessly and being flush into the materials, they allow the finishes selected by Fiona Lynch to speak for themselves,” he adds.

Nearly 10 years since Tom and Nikki first purchased the home, the Cotter Street house was a project many years in the making. The final result demonstrates a tireless yet evolving vision for what the once run-down cottage could become, with an interior that is designed down to the finest detail, striking a delicate balance between boldness and refinement.