There are some houses that you walk into, and they instantly feel like home. The kind of place where ‘just one more cuppa’ becomes a half-day affair; you are welcome for as long as the beers are cold, and the stories are flowing. And this is exactly the kind of home Judy and Denis Hayden wanted to give to their children and their extended family—including those at the station where Denis was Senior Sargent and mentor to countless newcomers.
The home that brought two families together
Before it became a hub for afternoon catch-ups and life’s celebrations, Judy and Denis had a vision for a home that could bring their two lives together. With six children from their previous relationships, this formidable duo found the Plunkett Home design that was the final piece of the puzzle—an outdoor veranda wrapping around the front of the home, an extended kitchen that faces the lavish garden, multiple sitting areas (each flourished with its own unique style), and enough bedrooms for all the troops.
When they built the house in 1990, they planned for this home to be their haven for decades to come; however, after a life of second chances, Denis passed away in 2021 following complications from vascular surgery and a history of road accidents.
The joy and charisma that exuded from this man, larger than life itself, is littered around the home. It feels like a living imprint of his life’s journey.
From crowded foster homes to living with pride
‘Denis and I met by chance when I filled in for a friend at the Daily News’ remembers Judy, ‘I had a page of listings that I needed to call that night to try and get them to list with the paper—when I called the number for a Ford Cobra, I got, “Bat phone, Batman speaking.”’ Between laughs Judy recalls how she played along, got up the courage to call back the next day, and inevitably ended up meeting Denis (aka Batman) for a coffee that became their first date.
‘Meeting him was the catalyst in me starting a new life,’ says Judy. For Denis, the life he built with Judy was in stark contrast to the childhood that built him—from child welfare and multiple foster carers to group homes and a life of transience. And, while he never carried shame about his past, Judy saw a deep need in him that wanted to make an impression.
‘He once said to me, “You know Judy, people think that I’m probably living in a tin shed. And they come here, and they’re surprised that Denis Hayden lives in this house.”’
A landscape of colourful collections
There is no part of this property that hasn’t been given fastidious attention. It begins with the colourful garden that draws your eye up the steeped driveway, towards the iconic red brick façade and pitched roof. Then, before you get lost in a discovery of the home’s interior—each room seemingly owning a colour from the garden—you are greeted by a welcome hall decorated with memories of Denis’s police career. You can feel how this home has grown with the lives that have generously passed through it.
‘We were choosing between two builders, and in the end, it all came down to my dad’s advice,’ says Judy. ‘He spent his career as a plasterer for Plunkett, so he had insider knowledge on their quality and approach… We obviously trusted his choice.’
With Plunkett on their side, Judy and Denis made the design their own.
‘We got rid of the separate meals area to extend the kitchen and made the ensuite shower space bigger too,’ says Judy. ‘With his history in group homes, Denis wanted big, open spaces which wasn’t the typical design at the time like it is now.’
A grounds for celebrations
All of this open space played host to countless celebrations. ‘My daughter, Vanessa, had her wedding here. In a black dress no less,’ laughs Judy describing her kin’s unique style. ‘We also had our friend’s wedding up in the garden gazebo.’
This home was not only the grounds for celebrating life’s bigger milestones, it became the hub for impromptu gatherings, and ‘shift parties’ after Denis’s work.
‘People have always said that it feels like home here,’ says Judy proudly, and for her and Denis, cultivating that sense of belonging was all that mattered.