Our Art Director's Tiny Terrazzo Palazzo!

You know that girl you work with who is always two steps ahead of the game? The ‘cool girl’ with the BEST Pinterest boards, the most extensive wardrobe (local labels, of course) who always knows the latest shop/designer/artist of the moment? Annie Portelli is that girl.

Annie is our tireless and supremely talented art director. Unsurprisingly, her DIY-renovated two bedroom apartment in North Melbourne is picture perfect, and full of unique creative flair!


Lucy Feagins
Supported by Dulux

A little preview of Annie Portelli‘s BELOVED bench top! The sand colour chunks of marble are off-cuts from the kitchen in Annie’s family home. The wobbly pink vase with flowers was made by Annie’s good friend and neighbour Jessilla Rogers. In amongst the bits and bobs on the shelf is a swan watercolour by Annie’s Dad when he was in high school. Beside it (right) sits  Alice Oehr’s annual Christmas cards, with wall lights from Beacon Lighting. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

Another of Annie’s treasured items is this custom kitchen table which was collaboratively designed by Annie with the extremely talented Thomas Lentini. ‘I really cherish this piece of furniture, I have become so attached to it – I plan to have this one for life!’ says Annie. The woven leather chair is by Douglas and Bec. The chairs in-between are second hand. The mustard hanging pendant light is Verner Panton’s Flowerpot lamp, from &tradition. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

 The cute coloured vase on the window is by  Jessilla Rogers. The fruit bowl was picked up from a second hand shop in Geelong. Wall sconces are from Beacon Lighting. Annie’s mum found this kettle for her about 5 years ago, when she still lived at home! Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

‘Every morning my apartment fills with light from these windows,’ says Annie, ‘the balcony is bathed with sunshine which makes for the perfect spot to have a pre-work cuppa!’ Here you can see the -edge-to-edge custom-built carpentry and shelves designed to make the best use of space. The armchair is from Muji, The stool/side table is from Dowel Jones. The very cute desk chair is by seriously talented friend Dustin Fritsche of Softer Studios. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 



‘Some of my most cherished possessions live on these shelves including this ridiculously friendly ceramic monster which my brother Matt made when he was 11. I love this thing so much! It’s also how we found out Matt was mildly colour blind (he thinks it’s green…).’ The watercolour behind it is a self portrait by Annie’s Dad – circa 1971. The dancing doll is a treasure brought back from a trip to Sri Lanka. The wobbly vase in the top right hand corner is by Tessy King. All other bits are a mix of gifts and op-shop finds. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

Gorgeous Annie in her living room! (She wanted us to give special thanks to our photographer Caitlin Mills, who let her change her outfit twice!). Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

The desk also doubles as a TV cabinet as it faces the couch, so she can use her Mac as a TV (*editors question – does anyone under 30 own an actual TV these days?). Chair (Annie’s favourite ever!) by Dustin Fritsche of Softer Studios. The Abraham Lincoln crayon drawing is another piece by Annie’s Dad. Her mum bought the ceramic life sculpture on the right, titled ‘The Thinker’ (but you must say it in a Maltese accent so it’s pronounced ‘tinker’). Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

Up close and personal with one of the first tests for Annie’s famous terrazzo bench-top! She decided to turn this piece into a coffee table, using an old table base which her Mum found in hard rubbish. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

Looking over the kitchen table – into the living room. Windows on all sides!  The rug is one of the first things Annie bought for this space, by Lrnce. The couch is from Gumtree (‘scored it for $150!’) The cushion was a sample colour way from the TDF Goods x Bonnie & Neil x Elizabeth Barnett collaboration a few years ago. The beautiful painting on the wall is by Emily Ferretti. The pendant light is by Nordic Tales. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

Ikea bed (and rug). The table is yet another terrazzo trial (!) – re-purposed to be a bedside table. Ceramic face is from the Gorman x Connie Lichti collaboration a few years ago. The pillow is by bfgf. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

Yes. MORE terrazzo!  Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 


Print by one of Annie’s favourite artists Mark Alsweiler. The handpainted vessel is from our TDF Goods collection, the Miranda Skoczek x Robert Gordon collaboration. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

The dresser is a result of a trade with the super talented Dustin Fritsche of Softer Studios. The drawers are stained pastel pink on the inside! Beside the dresser sits a woven leather chair by Kiwi designers Douglas and Bec. The beautiful hand carved mobile hanging above is by another Kiwi, Walk In The ParkPhoto – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli. 

Lucy Feagins
5th of September 2018

Both at home and at work, Annie Portelli’s creativity knows no bounds. But after purchasing her first apartment two years ago, her creative spirit really was unleashed in a major way! She wasted no time in making her sweet two-bedroom pad comfortable, cosy and uniquely ‘Annie’.

After taking possession of the apartment, Annie got straight to work on a DIY renovation, with the help of her Mum, Dad and a few handy helpers.

‘When I first moved in I gutted the entire place, and then had a mini melt-down when all that was left was a cold box with concrete floor and popcorn ceiling!’ she recalls. Design decisions were made mainly based on cost and efficiency – such as the simple kitchen cabinetry, using robust marine-grade plywood. Annie did get a little carried away on one thing though… *that* kitchen bench top!

‘My kitchen benchtop is my absolute favourite thing in my house!’ Annie enthuses. ‘It’s as heavy in kilograms as it is in sentimental value. This benchtop was the first thing I started fantasizing about when I first started designing this place… It’s my pride and joy!’ With the help and support of her amazing Dad, Annie created this incredible piece using broken shards of stone and marble sourced from all over town, and even off-cuts from her parents’ kitchen – ‘so I will always have a little bit of my family home right here in my house.’

Then, of course, came the styling. ‘You would think that working for The Design Files would make the process of decorating and furnishing a blissful one, but I must say, this was often not the case!’ Annie admits. ‘With all of the beautiful houses, objects, and art we feature every day, my wishlist was a mile long before I even got the keys!’ Annie was quick to realise that she needed to put the blinkers on and work with all the things she had already accumulated over the years, building her style from there.

The apartment is furnished with a mix of affordable pieces from Ikea, Muji, and Gumtree, along with a few treasured items by local makers and friends. ‘I’m super lucky to have a bunch of friends who love a good trade,’ Annie explains. ‘My dining table by Thomas Lentini and desk chair and lovely dresser by Dustin Fritsche of Softer Studio were all based on trades – carpentry skills in exchange for my graphic design skills. Win-win!’

The apartment complex itself is also pretty unique, and another brilliant example of good old-fashioned mid-century design at its best! Described as an ‘Urban Forest’ when it was first built back in 1959, the apartments, known as ‘Hotham Gardens’, were originally designed for the Housing Commission to replace substandard housing. Designed by architects Anne Reynolds and John Mockridge in collaboration with landscape architect Beryl Mann, the development aimed to enhance the wellbeing of the residents through an extremely considered use of space and a deep connection to surrounding gardens.

The complex is made up of a number of small apartment buildings, just three-to-four storeys high, with only one apartment per level, connected via an outdoor spiral staircase. The apartments are essentially stacked one on top of the other, allowing every room to have windows – meaning LOTS of natural light, and in Annie’s case, a small balcony and views out to a leafy shared garden!

‘It’s not every day that you can find an apartment complex buried amongst lush surrounding greenery. You would never guess you’re on the shallow outskirts of the CBD,’ says Annie. ‘I feel so lucky to call this my first home! I have become such a huge advocate for apartment living – yes they are small, but when they’re designed right, they can be mighty!’

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