Australian Homes

Paula and Pete Mills

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 10th December 2014

This colourful, crafty and creative family home on the edge of Warrandyte State Park belongs to Paula Mills, illustrator and stationery designer at Sweet William, her husband Peter, a lawyer who works for Vestas Wind Turbine company, and their three daughters Lia, (12 years) Rosie (10 years) and Liberty (8 years), and Bella the pugalier!  The family have lived her for just under 4 years.

OK I have a confession to make. Until recently visiting this beautiful, colourful little home perched on the edge of a nature reserve and surrounded by trees in Melbourne’s North East, I had never actually been to Warrandyte.  Ridiculous, I know! I was pleasantly surprised to learn that despite feeling a world away from the hustle of the city, with it’s village atmosphere, towering gum trees and beautiful State Park, Warrandyte is just 30 mins from Melbourne’s CBD. It feels like a well kept secret!

When Paula and Pete first purchased this home they were looking for a change. Having arrived in Melbourne in 2007 from South Africa (and London before that), and after renting for a few years in the Eastern suburbs. when it came to the big decision of buying their own home, they knew they wanted more space. Priced out of the market in Kew and Balwyn, where they had been renting, they started to look a little further afield.  ‘We initially started looking at land around Warrandyte with a view to build, but one day we saw this little cottage for sale and fell in love’ explains Paula. ‘Although it is not a big home, it is surrounded by bush, and definitely had the sense of space we were after’.

Indeed, the proportions of this home are by no means extravagant, but are perfectly suited to the Mills family.  One large basement rumpus room beneath the main living area has been turned into a shared bedroom for all three girls, whilst two modest bedrooms positioned just off the main living area serve as a master bedroom and Paula’s home studio respectively. A large deck adjoining the main living space acts as a generous outdoor living / dining room, surrounded by towering trees.

Soon after purchasing the home, Paula and Pete set about making a few essential cosmetic changes.  As a starting point, they knocked down internal walls to open up the kitchen and living room, and painted almost everything white, including the floor boards (which Paula says were previously a very orange pine).  To liven things up, one wall in the living area was painted a pretty washed out turquoise blue. which provides a striking contrast to the white timber boards throughout, and creates a focal point around the vintage mantelpiece in the main living room,

‘I do love our old open fireplace’ says Paula, who picked up the vintage Tasmanian Oak Mantelpiece on the way back from a camping trip, at a junk shop along the Princess Highway!  ‘Thankfully we had the trailer with us, so we just strapped the mantelpiece on the back and kept going!’ she says.

With a decorating style that is relaxed and eclectic, Paula and Pete have created such a warm and welcoming home here.  The space feels artfully cluttered and lived in, comfortable and creative, adorned with vintage finds and Paula’s own illustrative artwork.  Downstairs, the girls’ bedroom is an explosion of PINK (!), punctuated by pretty details and colourful craft projects.

Paula and Pete love living here.  After many years living as expats in both London and Melbourne, after leaving their native South Africa, it feels good to have settled in Warrandyte and to ‘grow roots’ here, surrounded by a vast canopy of trees and bushland.

 ‘I love so many things about living here’ says Paula.  ‘We are surrounded by nature. The bird life here is amazing. My kids walk down the road to school. We have a state park behind us. I have a light filled studio to work from home in. We can walk down to the Yarra river with Bella. You see people walking around – there is a sense of community, you always bump into someone you know at the local IGA. I could go on!’

Huge thanks to the Mills family for sharing their idyllic family home with us!

Front door. Bella the pugalier!  Decals on door from Shanna Murray   Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


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