Getting creative with spaces, furniture and styling is in my bones. Ever since I was young I’ve been addicted to transforming what’s in front of me, whether it was a thrifted dress, a sofa or a whole space. I blame this on my parents! My mother taught me the art of digging deep in second-hand stores, seeing past all the awful pieces and finding the diamonds in the rough. Every weekend we could be found searching high and low in thrift stores, refuse stores, garage sales and anywhere that one man’s trash could become two women’s treasures. My father, although not a fan of second-hand stores, was a bit of an inventor and was always tinkering in his shed, searching for new ideas. These two influences powered my creativity, and help me to think outside the box about how I can recreate or make something myself. To this day, my first thought whenever I see something I like is, ‘How can I make that?’ I’ve found that with some basic skills and a bit of time you can make so many of the things you love.
Although I have always been creative in every aspect of my life, I have to admit that my first love was fashion. It was on the back of my fashion DIY projects that I started my website and wrote my first book. It was fashion that gave me inspiration to share and reach a community. But as I started investing my creativity in our (quite frankly) awful rental apartments, I wanted to share that, too. And I have a brilliant partner in crime! Toby, my partner for the past 12 years, is an interior designer, and also the most capable person I have ever met. In his head he carries a seemingly infinite number of answers to any question I have, from designing a house and making furniture to styling a space, matching decor styles and even picking a doorknob. It’s from this fountain of wisdom that I’ve gleaned much of my technical knowledge about interiors. And it’s exactly why I chose to renovate a whole house with him! People warned us about renovating together, but in all honesty (and don’t hate m
e) we didn’t have one disagreement in the time that we completely transformed a tiny cottage into a two-storey house. Toby and I have shared the amazing experience of renovating our first house. We had bought a crumbling old cottage and were excited to make it our own. The main goal for the architectural design was to keep as many of the original features as possible – the original flooring, the iconic verandah, the tongue-and-groove walls and the details above the doorways – while also extending and opening up the spaces and adding much-needed light.
In terms of decor, we wanted light, bright spaces in which we could integrate colour, but we found ways to do this that weren’t too overwhelming, such as adding colour to cupboards, cabinets and doorways. Another major goal was to integrate a range of DIY ideas and hacks – simple updates to off-the-rack items and vintage pieces that made the house feel high end and unique, without blowing the budget. Being DIY obsessed, this was my favourite part!
Our biggest inspiration when styling the space was to mix and match different eras and items to give the house a lived-in and bespoke feel. We mixed rattan, mid-century furniture and industrial pieces so that the house felt like us, and not like a showroom. This is something that Toby specialises in, both in residential interior design and in his commercial projects – mixing styles and decor so that a space feels comfortable, cosy and lived in. In all honesty, I would have included a lot more rattan, but Toby convinced me that a splash of any one type of material has more impact, and he was right.
We’re so happy with the end result. I think we’ve managed to maintain the details of the cottage that we loved so much, while also being able to modernise and meet our goal of having a really functional house. We don’t have a huge garden, which is something I’d love to have one day, but we had to choose between internal versus external space, and in the end chose to lay out the house itself really well.