How Josh and Jenna Densten Built Their Dream Family Home From Scratch

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans and crafters of all types by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to North Melbourne, where crafty couple Jenna and Josh Densten of The Block fame have built a brand new home.

The last time we caught up with Jenna and Josh Densten, they were living in a cosy little cottage in North Melbourne, with pink-hued brick flooring and tiled walls. Fast forward a year and now the couple – and their two children – are living in an airy and impeccably designed family home, a new build that the couple worked on… Literally on the same block as the cottage.

This was always the plan, way back when the Denstens – who shot to fame on The Block and now run an interior design course through their business The Design School – first purchased the property seven years ago. The “quaint cottage”, as Jenna describes it, was designed to be a guesthouse for family and friends. Just across the courtyard would be their dream home: soaring ceilings with lots of glass for plenty of light, textural finishings to create depth and a premium feel, and an overwhelming sense of warmth, comfort and space.

As with the cottage, Jenna designed the interiors herself. (The couple enlisted Foomann Architects for the concept and build.) “I wanted to create continuity between the cottage and the new build through the use of texture and a tonal colour palette, but maintain individual identities,” Jenna explains. “The cottage is a little more playful as it has less responsibility (with no kids),” she jokes, “but overall I opted for a soft colour palette, soft curves and calm vibes throughout.” 

The delicately curved headboard in the main bedroom – right above their Bed Threads sheets set in contrasting shades of Peach and Lilac – speaks straight to this design aesthetic. As does the delightful Frank Gehry Wiggle Chair and the sprawling vintage leather sofa, sourced through En Gold, in the living room. This is Jenna’s favourite room in the house, a space big enough for the whole family to crowd around at Christmas time, and yet still cosy and warm for afternoons together with just the four of them. “Whether we are all sitting by the fire or we’re watching the kids play outside, this is the heart of our home,” says Jenna.

Hi Jenna! Welcome back to The Makers. Tell us about your journey with your new home. 

Thanks for having me back! The cottage renovation was part one of the project and part two was the build of a new dwelling to the rear of the block. We purchased the quaint cottage in 2014 and it’s been a labour of love ever since!

What was the impetus for building it?

The cottage was built as a guest house for family and friends, while the rear dwelling which is separated by a courtyard is our family home where my husband and I live with our girls; Freddie, three, and Story, one.

How was the renovation process different to Canning Cottage?

This was a new build, so in a way it was a lot easier as we had builders on site doing the work rather than us!

Is there anything you would do differently if you could build it all over again?

We initially had decking between the two houses and quickly realised with kids that it just wasn’t practical so we changed it for artificial turf. There’s nothing else I’d really change – so far it’s functioning really well as our family home.

What are your favourite pieces in the home?

The Frank Gehry Wiggle Chair is a standout piece, although I’m waiting for the day my kids think the cardboard is for them to draw on! I also love our vintage sofa sourced through En Gold. The aged leather means stains are barely noticeable, and the scale of the piece almost looks as though it was custom made for the space. Oh and I love our custom scalloped dining table! 

Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?

I’d love to add a custom dresser to our master bedroom for additional storage and so I can showcase some of the ceramics I have in cupboards! 

Which is your favourite room in the house?

The living room. This was in our brief to the architect that we wanted this room to be big enough to host Christmas and that everyone has a seat. Whether we are all sitting by the fire or we’re watching the kids play outside, this is the heart of our home.

What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?

Design and style your home based on the feeling you’re wanting to create for that particular room. I’m all about calm vibes because my life is well, hectic! For me, a calming interior is all about a neutral colour palette where I feel most at ease, but for you it might be blues or greens. Each room can have a different ‘vibe’ or feeling, but you need to ensure there’s a link through colour, texture or materiality throughout the home. 

Create Jenna's look with Peach and Lilac in our Build Your Own Bundle.

Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to renovate?

Spend time in the planning stage. Get quotes and advice, do your research and your budget! Oh and don’t forget at least a 10% contingency. 

Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?

At Design School we’ve been working really hard over the last year to make our course more accessible outside of our Melbourne warehouse. So we’re excited to announce that we’re launching our highly acclaimed Certificate IV in Interior Decoration course ONLINE and in Newcastle! This is my third baby and I can’t wait.

For more from Jenna, follow her at @joshandjenna

Love this home tour? Tour the Converted LA Warehouse of Artist Jessalyn Brooks

Discover more of Australia's most beautiful homes in our series, The Makers.

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