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May 25, 2018

A place for life

When Emily Humphreys and Jeremy Ryder had kids, everyone expected they would leave their city home behind. Instead, they’re doubling down on creating a life for their family on the Square Mile’s west side.

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  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: Jessica Clark

Emily Humphreys and Jeremy Ryder bought a small city cottage in 2009, but the decision to live in the CBD was more practical than emotional.

“When we looked at similar houses in Parkside – very similar, same sort of semi-detached places,” starts Jeremy. 

“They were actually more expensive – like a $100,000 more than this,” finishes Emily.

We obeyed the sign and stuck to the threshold of Charlie and Henry’s room

And then they kindly invited us in for some music

With the help of a friend who had experience buying run down properties to renovate, the couple picked their home on the city’s west side and set about bringing it up to scratch.

After floorboards were removed and replaced, paint was stripped and refreshed, and the back half of the house significantly remodelled, they had a house which felt like it could become a home.

But what surprised them was they also suddenly had a lifestyle that they never expected.

“We literally live just in the city,” says Emily.

“I call it the life tax, because Jeremy can leave to go to work at quarter to nine. He doesn’t have to leave at 8 o’clock, he doesn’t get home at 6 o’clock. I can go work in any café throughout the day. We don’t have these additional bits like a commute that add on.”

Even after Emily and Jeremy had their first child – Charlie – they were loath to give up the rhythms of city life. So, they didn’t.

And while their home is only a two-bedroom cottage, the arrival of Henry, their second son, a couple of years later didn’t trigger a move either.

“When we were renovating the back part of the house, we moved out and lived with Jeremy’s mum and dad in their beautiful, five-bedroom house in Urrbrae,” says Emily.

“It was such a good experience because I realised that actually when you’re going nuts at home with two children – it has nothing to do with the size of the house, it’s actually that you just have cabin fever, no matter what the size.”

Instead of retreating to the suburbs, Jeremy and Emily have created a kid-friendly life in the city.

Emily works from home, running WickedLab, a start-up she co-founded a few years ago, while Jeremy is rolling out an art program with the Department of Corrections from a city office.

In between, they shuttle around the city with Henry and Charlie – from school and child care to the park or the Market, usually on two wheels or on foot.

“For us with kids, we have to get out every day and we use public spaces,” says Emily. “We go to the park, we ride somewhere, we’re walking somewhere, because otherwise we do get cabin fever and I think that’s just typical of living with small children.”

A postie bike is perfect for a quick city trip

“And we just ride everywhere,” says Jeremy. “As soon as Henry could sit up, we bought a bike trailer. We consider it our second car.”

The little home does bustle with four people inside, but through a strict policy around acquisition of new possessions Jeremy and Emily are managing to keep a hold on the space they have.

New furniture is only bought if it’s something they “really love,” says Emily, and most of what they accumulate seems to be art, which doesn’t take up much room at all.

“For art, I especially really like when I get to know the stories and I can connect with the artist. That is very important to me,” says Emily, touring us through a collection that includes works from plenty of Australians, like Doreen Champman, Joel van der Knaap, and Chris Town.

There’s no regret in Emily and Jeremy’s voices as they talk about the furniture or other possessions they’ve decided not to buy over the years.

They’re happy with a functional, minimal home – it has everything they need, just like the city it sits within.

Introducing the bin cubby

Henry and Charlie don’t have an enormous backyard to play in, but Jeremy and Emily have made sure the available space is used to its full potential.

On a platform above the family’s wheelie bins, they’ve constructed a cubby where the boys swing, climb, cool off in a bath-that-doubles-as-a-pool during summer, and bring imaginary worlds into being.

“We came across this play equipment that had a tree fall on it and we salvaged some of it, and that was the origin of the bin cubby,” says Jeremy as Charlie and Henry climb enthusiastically across its façade. 

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