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A Collingwood Warehouse Transformed With Paint + Plants

Homes

When an artist and creative director of a plant design studio get together, it’s pretty much guaranteed their home will be a knockout! 

The Collingwood warehouse of Ellen Porteus and Ryan Klewer is just that – a colourful wonderland filled with plants and art, reflective of the creative couples’ work and eclectic personal style. 

Today, Ellen and Ryan share how they transformed this previously empty warehouse into one truly unique home!

2nd September, 2020

The large Port Jackson fig to the left, like many of Ryan’s large plants, are tirelessly sourced from the most overgrown corners of Melbourne’s nurseries. Wall unit custom built by Ryan. Armchairs from Vinnies. Lounge from CCSS. Coffee table from an antique store in Geelong. Artworks by Ellen Porteus. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘We created the custom-painted arch and smashed a lightweight concrete block into smaller pieces and painted them,’ say the pair. Bust of David from CCSS. Custom wall unit built by Ryan. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Because the ceilings are so tall, Ryan chose big statement plants to create grandeur. Walls painted with Dulux Colourbond Cottage Green. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘Ellen had a lot of building materials left over from an installation, so we had the idea to make a step-up bed base, which separates the sleeping area from the rest of the living area. We spent a weekend painting this terrazzo inspired pattern on it,’ says Ryan. Walls are painted in Dulux Colourbond Cottage Green. Bedhead from CCSS. The bookshelf, unit and dining table were all vintage finds from Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. Artwork by Stephen Baker. Planters are custom-painted concrete pots. Panther statue from an antique store in Ballarat. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Brass planter from Nook Vintage. Bookshelf sourced from Gumtree. Artwork by Stephen Baker. Mirror from Ikea. Walls painted Dulux Colourbond Cottage Green. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

‘The large ficus benjamina was another one of Ryan’s nursery finds which had been neglected and was in need of a lot of love,’ says Ellen. Walls painted in Dulux Colourbond Cottage Green. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

This wall was built using salvaged materials from one of Ellen’s exhibitions, then painted during stage three lockdown. ‘Sprawling plants were chosen for the hanging planters, so over time when they grow it will feel like we’re under a canopy!’ says Ryan. Bean bags and floor pillows by Sage and Clare. Planters from Lightly and customised concrete pots. Lanterns from The Hub General Store. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Artwork by Stephen Baker. Lamp from Ikea. Custom-painted concrete pots. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Ellen Porteus and Ryan Kweller. Ellen painted this mural during stage three lockdown in Victoria. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

A little built-in shelf above the bed displays an ever-evolving collection of plants and objects. Planters from Lightly, Leaf and Thread and Studio Arhoj. Artwork by Ellen Porteus. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

‘We built in a simple laundry and painted big terrazzo shapes on the wall and cupboards. The cupboards from Ikea were made of pine wood, which we decided to paint to keep costs down,’ say Ryan and Ellen. Planter from Lightly. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

‘The kitchen was really, really, really beige when we moved in,’ says Ellen. ‘We changed out the laminate bench top for a wooden one, added an island, painted the cupboards, and it made a huge difference. We love food (Ryan used to be a chef) so we wanted to make the most of a small kitchen and make it a friendly and functional space without having to rip it out and start again.’ Planter by Leaf and Thread. Fruit bowl by Lightly. Artwork by Ellen Porteus. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

The gym locker was bought on Gumtree, and used to be bright orange! It is now painted in Dulux Colourbond Cottage Green. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Ryan converted the garage to his nursery. He uses these plants for client jobs and personal projects. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

‘It was exactly what we were looking for – a big, fun, creative project.’ – Ellen Porteus

It’s hard to imagine now, but when artist Ellen Porteus and Ryan Klewer, creative director of interior plant design studio Plant Charmer, first inspected this Collingwood warehouse, the property was essentially a bare room. ‘It was a pretty much an empty shell with very few amenities.’ says Ellen. ‘Just one large room, with a kitchenette and toilet in the back, and a garage.’ 

While turning this space into a home might have daunted some, the warehouse was precisely the kind of property Ellen and Ryan had been searching for. ‘We weren’t deterred by this at all. It was exactly what we were looking for – a big, fun, creative project,’ says Ellen. ‘We were looking for a space where we could experiment and combine our styles, try new things, and not worry about getting it perfect.’ The only challenge was where to begin! 

The first thing the couple did after securing the lease was decide on a paint palette – a mix of ‘70s inspired mustards, terracotta, salmon pink, sand and Dulux Colorbond Cottage Green. These colours have been applied in various ways throughout the home, including on the wall mural created by Ellen, which depicts the couple walking through a field of flowers! ‘We love customising things using this palette, including the terrazzo inspired paint jobs on the bed frame and kitchen wall,’ says Ellen. ‘We would have spent hundreds of hours just painting.’

Other updates include a bathroom renovation, required for the space to function as a home. ‘We got help renovating the bathroom, transforming it from a cubicle toilet to a full bathroom with a shower,’ says Ellen. ‘We’re lucky to have quite a few tradie friends who helped us in the process.’ The couple undertook their own DIY makeover of the kitchen, installing new wooden benches, an island, and storage space. Ryan also converted the garage into a nursery. 

Part of the reason Ellen and Ryan have been so keen to experiment here is because the property is sadly due to be demolished in the near future. ‘Like most Collingwood warehouses, it’s had many different lives!’ says Ellen. ‘We’re happy to be giving it a bit of a last hurrah before it gets developed.’ 

Having your bedroom, creative studio, dining and living room all in one big space might not be everyone’s ideal situation, but for Ellen and Ryan, they wouldn’t have it any other way! 

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.