Setting The Scene With Victoria McKenzie

This mid-century marvel in Caulfield North is brought to life with the exacting eye and curious collections of Victoria McKenzie. The celebrated set decorator and art director has brought her expertise of working on films (including The Lord of the Rings!) to this vibrant, treasure trove of a home.

Victoria shares her tropical-inspired, handcrafted paradise with her two ‘fur babies’, Bengal cats Daphne and Fergus.

Lucy Feagins
Supported by Dulux

The wonderfully layered and eclectic home of set decorator and art director Victoria McKenzie in Caufield North. This is the casual dining area. In the foreground is a mid-century modern swivel chair Victoria found on the side of the road, and some of her shell necklaces hang across the top of the doorway. In the background through the door is a peek of her collection Victoria’s Pacificana grass skirts! Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Woven Ikea ceiling lamp and shelf lamp. Some of Victoria’s extensive basket collection from the Pacific Islands are stacked on top of the shelves, and within the shelves are treasures from Tarlo and Graham. Horn birds and beautiful lithe teak cats. Vintage vinyl chairs bought on eBay. ‘To me vintage is the beauty of craft and industrial design from other era and countries. I love that vintage wares are still intact after so many years. They are often better made and I enjoy the patina of wear and age. It is very satisfying to find a new delight to add to my different collections’, Victoria shares. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The sunroom, featuring a small part of her shell necklace collection of over 350 (!) hangs above the garden window. More pacific baskets and kete adorn the wall. ‘I re-covered the lampshade with vintage cotton fabric, the standard black base is from Exhibit.’ The sofa cover is woolen and hand stitched from Ikea. The floor rug is vintage flokati. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Kitchen wall. Various artworks with an ocean/beach/port theme. The glass in the door is the now unavailable ‘raindrop glass’. A little gathering of teak animals lives in the gap in the wall which was originally to accomodate a fish tank! Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Victoria at home. Dress by Lee Mathews. Cardigan by Andrea Moore (from NZ). Boots by Trippen. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Corner of the lounge. A partial view of Victoria’s horn and shell boat collection (all op-shop finds). ‘The floor covering is the salvaged carpet from my old house across the road. The carpet restorer was amazed at the quality of the 50-year-old carpet’, says Victoria. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Victoria’s horn + shell + brass boat collection, collected from second-hand shops. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Left: Corner of the lounge. A small portion of Victoria’s collection of horn birds on the built-in teak shelves. ‘As much as I love each individual piece, it is seeing them relate together and interconnecting that excites me.’ The glass flower vase is from Exhibit (now closed) in Toorak. Right: Lounge window sill. A rainbow of glass collected from many different op shops.Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The whole view of the lounge. The ceiling light fixture is chrome and cast glass, reclaimed from Victoria’s old house. The chairs in the foreground are from a set she dressed for the TV series Romper Stomper. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The bungalow. A collection of woven trays on the wall. The drawers are Australian made Alrob from the 1960s. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Casual dining area wall. Vintage original Australian oil landscape paintings. The lamp base is a carved tree fern trunk, on a vintage desk with gold and black speckled Laminex top. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Kitchen detail. Beautiful unusual tile plates found at a favourite op shop in Carterton, NZ. The utensils are part of Victoria’s orange melamine collection, which is mainly housed in the caravan (read on to see!) Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The Pantry. Orange containers collected over many years from op shops. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Bedroom. Green ‘depression’ glassware on the bedside table. ‘I have been collecting this glass since I was 18’, tells Victoria. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Victoria’s fabulous bathroom, featuring much-loved wallpaper. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Separate from the house is a 1970 Franklin Regent caravan that Victoria has completely refurbished! The ceilings are covered with her old travel maps. The bench seats are covered with a Mexican cotton fabric. Marimekko cushion cover. Vintage woolen travel blankets. Handmade curtains made by Victoria from vintage fabric. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A closer look at that incredible caravan! Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Victoria with her fabulous caravan. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
4th of September 2019

Victoria McKenzie’s home tells many stories. The NZ-born set decorator and art director moved to Australia in 2001 with ‘little more than her collection of handwoven baskets and shell necklaces.’ The exacting design eye that landed her the role of head of set dressing for The Lord of the Rings (!!!) is also on full display in this stunning mid-century home in Caulfield North. 

Prior to moving into this home (relocating from a rental just across the street – Victoria loves the area!) she had the lounge/dining and hallway wooden floors sanded and polished, and painted the vinyl wallpaper in the master bedroom with Dulux Integrity. A fresh set for Victoria to dress, with her incredible collection of objects and artworks from across the globe. 

The 1930s house initially didn’t appeal to Victoria, but after being convinced by a friend to take a peek in the windows, and when she discovered the late 1960s makeover within, was completely sold! She describes, ‘…and that was before I ran to the back of the house and discovered the garden, the porch and the sunroom extension with its wild tiles and built-in cupboards. I was completely beside myself and just had to move in!’ 

Victoria’s inventiveness, resourcefulness and artistry are on display in every corner of her home. Burnt orange drapes from the op shop are matched with 60’s orange carpet patches that Victoria paid her old landlord $100 to cut two large pieces out of the floor with a Stanley knife. Dulux Oolong and Beige Royal in the bungalow work with the colour of the lino, and the floating shelves in the sewing room offer a perfect display space for her Pacific Island doll collection. Victoria’s favourite piece in the house is her black vinyl four-seater couch with orange wool cushion seats, from Lost and Found Market in Collingwood.

Victoria explains ‘my home reflects the reverence I have for things handmade from natural materials. Nothing is new, everything is vintage, and I do love to see collections of objects en masse.’ She highlights that while the home is full, it doesn’t feel cluttered as the tonal groupings, plants and large windows provide an open and light feel. 

Victoria draws attention to the 50-year-old sunroom wallpaper print of ferns, calla lily, kentia palm, marguerite daisy, snowdrops, ivy, and fan palms, and she enthuses ‘I could not ask for a better backdrop to my flax basket collection and shell necklaces!’ With her collections of carved wood birds, hula skirts, straw paintings, tapa cloths, glass animals (just the tip of the iceberg of Victoria’s interests), this home is a true bowerbird’s delight, and a fitting residence for one exceptionally creative character!

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