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Amber and Ben Clohesy and Family

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 22nd October 2014

This unique home in Melbourne’s leafy suburb of Hawthorn belongs to designer and retailer Amber Clohesy (of The Woodsfolk and Down to the Woods), her partner Ben, and their young children Willow and Tilda. With its versatile layout and distinctive circular internal courtyard, this clever little house channels an almost mid-century aesthetic, though it was designed and built a little more recently, in 2000!

The Clohesy family have been here exactly five years, and are the third owners of this slightly unusual 2 bedroom home.  Orginally from Sydney, Amber and Ben found their home without exactly intending to.  ‘We’d recently moved from  Sydney and were renting in Hawthorn, but were house hunting in Richmond’ explains Amber. Whilst they really loved the Hawthorn area, the big houses and blocks had factored them out in terms of price, so neighbouring Richmond became their focus.  However, this place just turned up in a search one day and intrigued Amber.  ‘At first we thought the place looked crazy, the furniture was really at odds with the architecture – all heavy antiques and giant old persian rugs. We had a laugh at this funny little house, but on a second look at the pictures we stopped laughing and decided to go look’.

From pictures, Amber and Ben had assumed the house was from the 70’s (and assumption I also made at first!) but once they got inside they realised it was ‘new-ish’ and didn’t need any renovation. ‘By the time we got to the bathroom and I spied the marble bath surround, and amazing opportunity to open the bathroom right up to the central courtyard, I fell in deep, deep love, and we decided to buy it there and then!’ says Amber.

Though modest in size, the home is deceptively easy to live in, and endlessly versatile.  Each rooms flows effortlessly into the next, and what the space lacks in floor area it certainly makes up for in  ingenuity.  The home is full of unexpected details, such as the transitional ‘walls’ which are in fact oversized doors that open to reveal functional spaces (such as the study nook adjacent to the bedroom), and clever hidden storage.  Amber and Ben say they have had to do very little since purchasing the place.

The house is so unusual, from its circular central courtyard filled, open and closing walls, it’s introspective outlook and the way the tree paints dappled light across the dining area of an afternoon.  Living in something unique is really fun’

Amber describes her style as ‘Scand-American’. ‘I love to mix blonde timbers and I’m a bit obsessed with mountain and forests on everything’ she says.  A colour enthusiast, Amber has  filled her home with bold colour, treasured artwork and souvenirs from overseas trips, and of course a fair bit of stock from her own range of homewares, and her well loved Hawthorn store. ‘I would burst with boredom if I ever felt the house was ‘done’, and owning a homewares businesses means things can change pretty fast!’ she says.

‘There are a few pieces I absolutely cherish’ says Amber. These include the Ercol candlestick dining chairs, lovingly restored by Grandfather’s Axe, and a pair of paintings in the living room which depict the Cinque Terre, where Amber and Ben had celebrated an anniversary before they were married. ‘Coincidentally the artist Laurie Mossuto had visited Italy the same year we did, and then painted after his visit’ explains Amber, adding ‘more importantly, the artist Laurie is also my very ace step-father, but these works were done before he and my mother got together!’.

If you love Amber’s fun, eclectic aesthetic, do check out her store The Woodsfolk , which has a brand new online store that just went live this week!   It’s a beauty, full of styled photography and Amber’s signature mix of bold, cheerful homewares –  well worth a little look!

Front garden.  Corten wall panels designed by Amber in collaboration with Corten – ‘it was their prototype says Amber. ‘This spot is our sun trap and is where we read the weekend papers’. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


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