Australian Homes

Lee Mathews and Family

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 9th October 2013

The Sydney home of fashion designer Lee Mathews.  Concrete top table made by a friend… ‘we can never move it, it is too heavy but very useful’ says Lee!  Chairs and french school stools from Ici et La.  Navajo blanket from South West Trader – ‘I have a few of these things, I LOVE THEM’ says Lee…. ‘and a Parker side board… I know, everyone has one!’.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Loungeroom detail.  Anglepoise lamp from Ici et La, a favourite vintage girl guide blanket on the arm of the sofa. Poster from Lee’s ex-husband, vintage retailer Guy Mathews, and signage sourced over the years.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Another view of Lee’s amazing loungeroom – and that library! French school stools and anglepoise lamp from Ici et La.  Navajo blanket from South West Trader.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Dining area.  Metal cabinet from Doug up on Bourke. Chairs from Ici et la. The glass on all these first floor windows are louvres, so Lee had the ‘doors’ built to close over them and add an extra sound/ wind barrier.  ‘I like how they have domesticated the environment somehow’ says Lee.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

If you’ve ever set foot in one of fashion designer Lee Mathews‘ magical stores in either Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, these shots of her incredible warehouse home in Sydney’s Balmain will delight but probably not surprise you!  With a clear affection for all things vintage, antique or otherwise pre-loved, Lee’s eye for detail extends beyond her eponymous fashion label and eclectic retail stores, into the industrial open plan living space she shares with her partner, and teenage daughter Matilda.

Lee first launched her fashion label in Sydney in 2001, with a simple desire to make feminine, easy to wear clothing for women.  Her timeless designs, constructed in high quality silks, linens and cotton, shy well away from fleeting fashion trends, and are instead characterised by a relaxed wearability and vintage inspired aesthetic.  I can say with absolute hand-on-my-heart honesty that I have been a HUGE fan of Lee’s  clothes for many years, having first been introduced to her label by my Mum not long after the label launched (hey, Mums know about these things).  Despite her incredible success in the Australian fashion industry over the last 10+ years (she now has 6 retail stores and over 60 national stockists), there has always been something ‘different’ about the Lee Mathews aesthetic –  its hard to pin point, but I think in very general terms there is an understatedness and relaxed sense of confidence about her work which really gives the whole brand a unique personality rarely seen in high street fashion stores.  These are qualities which I now realise also very much describe Lee as a person, and in turn, explain something of the eclectic, hyper creative yet distinctly unselfconscious home she has created here.

In fact, its not entirely surprising that Lee’s home is so aesthetically in line with the look and feel of her brand and her stores – as it happens, this amazing space, the first floor of an old saw tooth factory, was once the headquarters for Lee’s fashion label.  ‘Having used the space as an office for 2 years, and having outgrown it, I was reluctant to move because it was such an unusual find’ explains Lee.  Instead, she moved in.  ‘It was open plan when we moved in, so we built two bedrooms and created ‘living’ spaces with moveable walls to create separate areas for sitting, eating and a little office’ she explains.  The flexibility of the space allows for Lee to bring her work home at least a day or two each week, and also accomodates her almost-grown-up kids, Matilda and Charlie, who divide their time between Sydney and Melbourne, where their Dad, vintage / industrial trader Guy Mathews is based.

Having moved here from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Lee was originally a little concerned that she would have trouble adjusting to the inner city ‘no garden’ and ‘no beach’ environment here, but it didn’t take long to settle in.  ‘The space is so calm and light filled, it really has not been as traumatic as I imagined!’ she says.  ‘I don’t know if my daughter agrees, but I like it!’.

Of course, it’s not just the generous proportions and natural light that makes this place so special.  Lee has collected what appears to be far more than a fair lifetimes’ worth of vintage and industrial furniture, antiques, artwork and textiles, all displayed to maximum effect in the most fabulous mish mash of colour, texture and detail!  An avid collector of many things, Lee is particularly fond of her varied collection of soft furnishings.  ‘I love textiles old and new – blankets, rugs, quilts, and colour of any kind’ she says. ‘We have rather alot of rugs, which I am very fond of’.  All the stunning rugs pictured in Lee’s home have come from her good friends I+B Perryman in Sydney.  ‘I have learned much about the rugs of the world from them’ she says.

It was so lovely to have the opportunity to meet Lee and spend a morning photographing her amazing home – I do hope we’ve been able to convey some of its magic here!  For Melbourne Lee Mathews fans, I just have to let you know that she has a stunning new store in Lygon street Carlton, opened just a couple of months ago – well worth a look if you haven’t already popped in!

Lee’s study, adjoining the open plan living area – where she works when not in the office.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Entrance hall.  Vintage safety poster.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen details – a mix of old signs and paintings from friends, and general ephemera. ‘Apart from a rice cooker and a blender, I don’t have a lot of kitchenalia, although I do cook all the time’ says Lee.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bedroom – Souzani on bed, a gift from a friend, blanket from South West Trader.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bedroom details.  Souzani on bed – a gift from a friend, blanket from South West Trader.  Lamp and stool from Ici et La.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Sitting area in master bedroom. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Paintings by Sonja Delaunay. ‘I really love Sonja Delaunay and have a couple of her lithographs. She made beautiful clothes and beautiful pictures and I have always loved her work of any kind. I guess you could say she has been an influence over the years.’ explains Lee. The dark Anne Judell Painting was a birthday present. ‘Modern Italian side board by who knows who???’ says Lee! ‘Its not something I would usually have, but I like it…’  A vintage rotary food canister sits alongside.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Entrance stairwell. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 9th October 2013


  • Pamela 3 years ago

    Gorgeous home!!

  • Andy Dinan 3 years ago

    Loved seeing where this work of Anne Judell hangs now !
    The perfect spot -what a lovely warm home and a beautiful creative hang !
    Anne has a solo show on now at the public gallery, Bayside Gallery, Mid Brighton of her new work.
    Worth seeing x
    Andy Dinan

  • jo 3 years ago

    this house is bonkers!! utterly perfect!

  • Trish 3 years ago

    Love it.

  • Melissa de Campo 3 years ago

    A well collated collection of floor rugs adds consistency to this eclectic decor.

  • sarah 3 years ago

    What I love about Lee Mathews’s clothes is the beautiful little details like a dropped puff sleeve and the superb attention to finishing off all those details.

  • Love the book shelves. Just gorgeous!

  • jane 3 years ago

    And so nice to see the books (probably) arranged by subject / author, rather than by colour!
    Books are to be read, not decoration.

  • Anytime I come across anything in a blog/mag that’s gorgeous…it usually traces back to Ici et La or Doug Up On Bourke…this post is a classic example! :) Also…how awesome is that vintage food canister! :)

  • Kate 3 years ago

    Just magic! Love everything!

  • Tali 3 years ago

    Love those rugs! Love all the books. ahhh…
    Beautiful home!

  • Barbara 3 years ago

    I love Lee’s relaxed style, and thanks for the tip off on the new shop. I also couldn’t agree more withJanes comment. If people’s bookcases are too neat I’m always suspicious that they don’t actually get read!

  • Maya from House Nerd 3 years ago

    One of my Design Files favourites. It looks so warm and comfortable and unpretentious. I can practically hear the creak of the floorboards and smell the scent of old wood just looking at the photos. Beautiful.

  • Samone 3 years ago

    Love the light and colour in this home. Beautiful, airy and free! The fingers safety poster is fantastic – and terrifying!

  • Loobylou 3 years ago

    Great post – love liveable spaces. Homes are where you display your lives and loves – and this one nails it! I love most the abandonment of any genre – it’s a cohesive rule breaking and beautifully curated home (as opposed to showroom).
    Classic re: book comments. I have to disagree. As an ex-stylist (now candle maker and Artspace curator) EVERYTHING for me is visual. I will always recal a books color and cover before its name and author. I’ve loved having my books in colour order – it looks great, and makes me read more.
    Different strokes I guess…

  • Marie M. 3 years ago

    Neat and totally my taste! Loving the many carpets and the vintage industrial pieces. Great selection!

  • Lee Matthews is my absolute favourite designer.. I always want everything from every collection! Her house is equally amazing!

  • Katie 3 years ago

    I love the vintage posters scattered throughout the home!

  • Lily 3 years ago

    Oh my! The vintage rugs, posters and other goodies scattered throughout have me feeling some serious envy! Gorgeous home.

  • Robin 3 years ago

    What a cool house it has huge personality!

  • Diane 3 years ago

    when can I move in? Absolute corker of a gorgeous home – where the beautiful things only make it more homely and not a museum!

  • gem 3 years ago

    love the art. nice place!

  • mel 3 years ago

    Gorgeously eclectic!

  • Annie 3 years ago

    Perfectly captured. I too have been a long time admirer of her work – thank you for sharing!

  • Elin @ My Own Art 3 years ago

    A home filled with a lifetime of beautiful and personal collectables . The love of pattern, textures and fabric shows. Simply gorgeous.

  • Kirsty // OTIS & OTTO 3 years ago

    WOWSERS! One of my favourite TDF homes! Beautiful everything..! Thanks for sharing! X

  • pauline 3 years ago

    a lovely home with depth and personality – and as far as I am concerned . . . life is too short to colour-code your bookshelves!

  • pauline 3 years ago

    a lovely home with depth and personality – and as far as I am concerned . . . life is too short to colour-code your bookshelves!

  • hayley kessner 3 years ago

    I love this. The gorgeous pictures show that someone lives here. Would love this home and everything in it! My fave so far for sure.

  • Hanni 3 years ago

    This home is so livable! I am so in love with the comfy and eclectic atmoshere they made.

  • Julianne 3 years ago

    Decadence = all that light, height, space & texture.

  • The Room Illuminated 3 years ago

    Amazing home. Books really do make the best artwork…

  • Claudia Arends 3 years ago

    Such an awesome house! I love the brick walls, rugs on the floor, wooden floor, old and vintage furniture, lots and lots of books… I would move in right away ;-) Great photos!

  • name 3 years ago

    very Bromleyesque

  • Emma 3 years ago

    Love, love the bookshelves. We’ve been waiting to ‘do our bookshelves’ since we moved in 6 years ago, and I think this is the perfect, not super expensive in case we renovate solution. Be nice to have my old friends down from their cardboard boxes!

  • Jade 3 years ago

    Stunning, stunning, stunning! Love the kilim rugs!

  • kimmy 3 years ago

    I’m with you Lucy – one of my favourite homes ever featured on The Design Files! Totally nailed the industrial/eclectic look. I’m pinning madly as we speak…

  • Paulina 3 years ago

    The rugs are totally enviable! Stunning colours and patterns. Any advice on where I could source something similar?

  • michele 3 years ago

    Lee Mathews is such an amazing designer… and artist. Her love of colour, texture… and history is truly reflected in every single piece in her home. Oh – and I love the work of Sonia Delaunay too … xx

  • Donna 3 years ago

    What a treat to finally sit down with a coffee and read this post start to finish! Love the posters, the vintage pieces… and the lovely ladder that breaks up the bookcases and leads to a little door… possibly a place to hide away and read a book. Colour coded, of course!

  • Lily 3 years ago

    Love it! The ladder leading to the tiny door is almost a little “magical” It has a little bit of a “Sibella Court ” feel to it with all the vintage pieces.

  • jennifer 3 years ago

    Gorgeous home! The backward hung flag is a pet peeve though…

  • Sue Caporn-March 2 years ago

    I love what I see. being a fabric lover and lover of rugs, light, space I could really feel at home in Lee’s Space which she calls home.
    Thanks for letting us share in the richness and eclectic collection of all things yummy.
    Ciao, Sue

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