February 29, 2024
People & Places

Side by side

Alisa and Lysandra Fraser rose to fame on reality television, but their perseverance and astonishing work ethic has turned their 15 minutes of fame into a multi-million-dollar interior design empire.

Lysandra and Alisa Fraser in a rare quiet moment. The dynamic duo pride themselves on working hard in business and are constantly working across their many projects.

Alisa and Lysandra in Alisa’s light-filled kitchen with Al.ive Body products, a company they conceived when they couldn’t find a handwash they liked to style a bathroom.

Sitting next to each other in Somerton Park, two beautiful homes may seem perfectly identical from the exterior, but step beyond the tall, heavy doors and the interiors tell two very different stories.

The home on the left opens to a light, bright, sweeping staircase and airy abode beyond, and on the right, the moody hues hint at deep, dark luxury.

As vastly different as they are, it’s impossible to label one the victor – walk between the homes and you’ll find favourite spots in both.

The owners of these beautiful properties are no strangers to a building project and the past 10 years of their lives have culminated in this very special endeavour.

Twins Alisa and Lysandra Fraser stepped into the spotlight as winners of reality television renovation show The Block in 2013 and in the intervening decade, they’ve created an interiors empire.

It’s a life that’s far-removed from their early years, growing up in a Morphettville Housing Trust home with their single mother, Ailsa.

Now, they spend their busy days with a luxury brand, ambassadorships and brand deals. From the outside, it’s an astonishingly meteoric rise to success, but to the girls, it’s a path they always saw themselves walking.

A common theme that has run through the twins’ lives has been an incredible intuition and from the start, they knew they were destined for bigger things, even if they didn’t yet know what form that would take.

It was the mid-1980s and the girls were two years old, when Ailsa began making money by flipping second-hand baby furniture and selling it in her shop, New Mother’s Cupboard on Marion Road.

“That’s where we got our business brains from, for sure,” Lysandra says.

The pair recall Saturday mornings driving around in a van with their mum, collecting furniture for Ailsa to restore.

The business came about when Ailsa tried to find affordable furniture for her own babies, and she ran it for more than 20 years.

The girls also remember an early interest in interior design when they found inventive ways to make the most of the aesthetic of their rental property home.

As young girls they were then exposed to a life they envied – but also aspired to – when Ailsa enrolled them in family day care in an affluent household.

“It was almost like we lived two lives,” Alisa says. “We lived like them part of the time and that was nice because it exposed us to how the other half lived. But it was a double-edged sword because we were envious. But Mum did it for a reason – we were surrounded by good people.”

From early on in life, the twins knew they were destined for great things, a gut feeling that never left them as they grew older.

The girls went to Seacliff Primary School and then Brighton High via the volleyball program; they agree that sport was their saviour growing up.

Lysandra admits it was hard comparing her life to that of her friends, but even then, she had a laser focus, and that was to become a police officer.

Alisa decided to join her sister on her career pursuits and ended up joining the Police Academy before Lysandra, who had taken a gap year.

The sisters were in the South Australian Police Force for seven years and they say they enjoyed the first few years, but having children changed their outlooks.

“It was definitely in our blood and suited our personality,” Alisa says. “At the time, I couldn’t have imagined doing anything else. Interior design definitely wasn’t on the cards.”

Nevertheless, the pair were huge fans of The Block and decided to apply for the show while watching the grand final one year.

“We thought, ‘We’re cops, we’re twins, surely, we’ll get on’,” Lysandra says.

Whether it’s a gut feeling or confidence, that positivity remained all throughout the show, despite how challenging it was.

“It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” Alisa says. “We were the only contestants without a trade, but we wouldn’t change it.

“We went in naively and without any preconception of what it would turn into, but as cocky as it sounds, we knew we were going to win.”

The most surprising thing about filming the show was the lack of assistance – no food, no coffee and even showering at the Aquatic Centre when they could. These days, they say, it’s different.

Gluttons for punishment, after their initial 128 days of filming, the twins were back again three months later for The Block: Fans v Faves.

Knowing their leave with SAPOL wouldn’t extend to another round of filming, they handed in their resignation.

Between filming for the shows, the twins experienced their first taste of publicity and the celebrity that came with it.

“I never had anxiety in my life before then, but now I have it,” Alisa says. “We didn’t go on it for the fame and were such strong characters on the show – we weren’t entirely happy with how we were portrayed.

The twins with their mother Ailsa, who started a business selling refurbished second hand baby furniture.

“Then you get all the hate that comes with social media and it was just awful. Reading all that stuff caused my anxiety.”

Only in more recent years has the idea of reality show contestants’ mental health become a priority, but the twins say they bore the brunt of how ruthless people can be online before it started being censored.

It’s been a decade since they first aired, but the pair are still recognised in public and it’s a constant thought in the back of their minds.

They acknowledge that the recognition also comes with positives and it’s because of all that support they’ve been able to branch out beyond The Block.

As the girls tell their story, they’re in Lysandra’s impossibly chic living space, trying to ignore the constant ding of emails and messages coming their way.

This Somerton Park project was unlike anything they’d done previously – not only was it their own homes, but they were to be designing homes as next-door neighbours and selecting polar opposite styles.

The overall brief of light and airy for Alisa’s home was her husband Daniel’s contribution, but the rest was well and truly all her own. The result is a space with light timbers, white details, brass accents and soft marble.

Throughout, the palette remains consistent and textures provide the warmth and layering.

You can see it in the lush carpeting, the linen bedding and the stunning marble in the kitchen from CDK Stone that’s not too cool-toned, yet not
too warm.

The cabinetry and flooring sit in that perfect tonal in-between, as does the render at the top of the wall and ceiling, which extends to the bar area off to the side with arched details and textured tiling.

The marble is mirrored in the living space, where it surrounds the television, and appears in details such as shelving.

Over in the dining area, a Ralph Lauren pendant from Montauk Lighting illuminates the booth seating which incorporates a table that Alisa had custom made, with matching pieces for the coffee table and hallway table.

The use of space outdoors is clever – it’s not a sprawling backyard, but perfect placement means the pool, cabana and outdoor kitchen with pizza oven, barbecue and roasting dome can sit comfortably, giving a Palm Springs vibe with its bright white palette.

If Alisa’s home is calming, next door at Lysandra’s, the only way to describe the feel is luxe.

Bronze mirrors, black details and dark timber floors create what Lysandra says is a house that comes alive at night time.

Alisa and Lysandra in front of their new Somerton Park homes; of which the process of building is now the subject of a YouTube series Design Duo.

“Alisa’s house comes alive during the day because it’s light and airy, but this feels as though you’re in a luxury hotel at night.”

The layouts of the homes are almost the same – one of the only differences is Lysandra opted for a smaller laundry to accommodate a wine room.

It creates a stunning backdrop to the kitchen, which is fitted with dark cabinetry, brass elements and a light marble kitchen island and splashback.

The dining area is simply stunning, with booth seating along the wall and dining chairs on the other side of the table.

EasyCraft Silhouette Cove wall panelling creates a statement with texture and is a great example of Lysandra’s use of layering.

Upstairs is a haven for her two boys – Emerson, 13, and Cohen, 11 – with a lounge space to themselves, study areas and a gaming room.

“I designed this area to be really teenage-friendly so they can sit on the couch and make a mess.”

Of course, there’s also the pool area in the back yard, with a curved edge that reflects the shape of the cabana seating.

Lysandra’s boys and Alisa’s sons – Dash, 7, and Nate, 12 – can easily visit each other via the fence door that joins the two pool areas.

There’s also a fake turf basketball area – a bit of a concession of Lysandra’s. “This is about understanding there are things I can have that are really pretty and some things that have to be functional and low maintenance,” she says.

“As much as it kills me to have this bright green grass, seeing the kids out there makes it all worth it.”

The best part of living next door to each other is the twins get the best of both worlds – why not enjoy lunch over at Alisa’s with the light streaming in, and then over to Lysandra’s for a cocktail as the sun sets?

As if building their homes wasn’t a challenge enough, the twins decided to film it all for their online series, Design Duo.

This is their third in the series – they’d renovated in Melbourne and Queensland – but this was the first they intended to live in.

The girls have barely been apart their whole lives, growing up together, then entering the police force, going on reality television together and now building businesses together, but they say they couldn’t do it with anyone else.

Alisa and Lysandra handed in their resignations from the South Australian Police Force after their first appearance on television show The Block.

“We definitely fought and clashed,” Lysandra says of their time on The Block together. “You can’t talk to your friends like that. We can yell at each other and get over it.

“I think we are really lucky in the sense that we’ve got each other and not a lot of people have that.

“They might have a business partner or husband but I think this is different. Quite often, one of us will be having a hard time and the other will try to step in. We recognise it in each other and go, ‘What can I do to take that load off you?’

“I don’t take that for granted.”

Lysandra adds that they’re not affectionate twins at all – they don’t say happy birthday to each other and certainly don’t buy each other gifts.

They learned very early on in business that they had to work separately as much as possible.

“We’re both strong and we need to own certain spaces,” Alisa says. “You can’t have two chiefs, so we both do our own things, knowing our strengths and weaknesses, while still being collaborative where we need to be.”

Lysandra adds: “I think sometimes we should have been triplets”.

Alisa laughs: “I couldn’t handle another one of us!”

Lysandra takes the reins on the design side of the business, while Alisa heads Al.ive Body, a project that was created as a solution to a problem.

In their first online series in 2018, they were styling a bathroom for the Melbourne property and couldn’t find a handwash bottle that looked nice.

In the end, the project wasn’t a success – they’d bought at the wrong time, sold at the wrong time and they say they made a lot of mistakes along the way.

If that property had sold well, they say they would have jumped right into the next one, but the failure made them change tack and begin thinking about an aesthetic hand-care brand.

Launched in 2020, Al.ive Body cleaning products, hand and body wash, lotion, hair products, fragrances and baby products can now be seen sitting in the kitchens, laundries and bathrooms of some of the country’s most stylish homes. Further proof of the brand’s success saw Alisa accept the 2023 InDaily 40Under40 “First Among Equals” honour on behalf of the Al.ive Body team back in June.

That success from failure is something the girls cherish – even if that appreciation comes after the fact.

“I feel as though, in our lives, everything is challenging and we’re now at the point where we can see there’s a lesson in it,” Alisa says.

“Even with the houses, there are things that have gone wrong and we’ll say, ‘There’s something to learn here. We may not be sure what it is right away, but it’ll show itself eventually.”

Lysandra agrees: “There’s no success without that. You can’t be successful and not have gone through those failures. Initially, we’d be devastated when we got knocked down, but now we know something better will come from it – and it always does.”

Life has been getting busier lately, but they hope now that their homes are complete, they can settle in and enjoy the work they’ve put in, but they fully acknowledge they can’t keep firing on all cylinders.

“It’s not healthy,” Lysandra says. “We can’t keep maintaining this level, we’ve got to get help.

“We’ll blink and the kids will be older and we will have missed it.

“You’re working and grocery shopping and taking the kids to sports and trying to spend quality time with them, but you find you’re not actually getting any enjoyment in any of it.

“We’re just hanging on and I think as women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I know I could be a better mother; I could be more present.”

Despite the challenges, the girls are so thankful for the opportunities they’ve been afforded and they’ve made the absolute most of them all.

“We’re exactly where we’re meant to be,” Lysandra says. “We always knew that something was going to happen in our lives that would put us in the position we are now.

“I remember thinking that the whole time we were growing up and I remember sitting at work at SAPOL when I was in the intel department thinking, ‘This is not how our lives are meant to turn out, I know there’s something bigger’.

“We might not be the smartest people but we’re the hardest working. We can out-work anyone, that’s why we are where we are.

“That’s why we’re fortunate to have had the upbringing we did. At the time, we didn’t love it, but you look back now and recognise we wouldn’t be where we are now if it wasn’t for that. Nothing’s been handed to us.”

This article first appeared in the October 2023 issue of SALIFE magazine.



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