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An Interior Designer’s Mini Converted Warehouse That Feels Like Home

Homes

At the end of a laneway in inner Melbourne is a small, freestanding warehouse with a loft bedroom and a tiny roof garden. ‘What’s NOT to love?!’ says interior designer Leigh Ellwood, who moved into the rental property in the heart of Fitzroy along with her cat Yama a few years ago.

After hearing more from Leigh about her small but mighty home, filled with a lifetime of special things – we’d have to agree!

16th June, 2021

The freestanding warehouse now home to Leigh and her British blue, Yama, has been a secret bar and a photographic studio in past lives. Artwork leaning on end wall by Sophie Calle from Perrotin Gallery. Pink linen “Ghost 12” sofa by Gervasoni from Anibou. ‘Tolomeo Tavalo’ table lamp by Artemide. Vintage Eames coffee table. ‘InOut’ ceramic stool by Gervasoni from Anibou. Carved cypress acorns from Whitehill Gallery, Dromana. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘I love beautiful textiles and in particular my string bags and baskets, woven by many female First Nations weavers from western Arnhem Land NT, collected over the years,’ says Leigh. Pink linen “Ghost 12” sofa by Gervasoni from Anibou. CH29 dining chair by Carl Hansen from Cult.  Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Pink linen “Ghost 12” sofa by Gervasoni from Anibou. Dilly bags from western Arnhem Land. ‘Tolomeo Tavalo’ table lamp by Artemide. Vintage Eames coffee table. ‘InOut’ ceramic stool by Gervasoni from Anibou. Carved cypress acorns from Whitehill Gallery, Dromana. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Toio floorlamp by Flos from Euroluce. Vintage Danish oak credenza from Great Dane. Artwork (left to right): untitled by Eleanor Louise Butt represented by Nicholas Thompson Galleryuntitled by Louise Gresswell, represented by Gallery 9; framed poster from Copenhagen Design Museum. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Framed poster from Copenhagen Design Museum. Vintage Danish oak credenza from Great Dane. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Ink and guache painting on bench by Joe Furlonger, represented by Liverpool Street Gallery. ‘Picasso in Breton stripe’ ceramic maquette by Susie Hansen. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Noguchi pendant lamp. Vintage Lunar sofabed by B+B Italia found on Ebay and recovered. Various cushions from Svenskt Tenn, Sweden.Thong ceramic on dining table by Gerry Wedd represented by Maunsell Wickes Gallery. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Shelf detail. “NOW” by Rose Nolan, represented by Tolarno Galleries;  “Déesse” vase by La Soufflerie Paris; ‘Bathers at Wylies’ by Matthew Martin. Issey Miyake lamp by Artemide. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Top shelf: Vitra dolls; David Band maquette; vintage vase; ‘Lambchops’ painting by Lewis Miller, represented by Australian Galleries; Lego NY skyline. Bottom shelf: “NOW” by Rose Nolan, represented by Tolarno Galleries;  “Déesse” vase by La Soufflerie Paris; ‘Bathers at Wylies’ by Matthew Martin. Issey Miyake lamp by Artemide. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Bedlinen is a mix of Society Limonta Italy and Cultiver. Elephant cushion from Svenskt Tenn, Sweden. stool 60 Artek from Anibou. ‘Tolomeo Terra’ floor lamp by Artemide. ‘Magpie’ by Miles Howard-Wilkes, represented by Arts Project Australia. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Leigh looking fierce in her laneway! Car is a 1971 Lancia Fulvia coupe. Leigh wears La Fetiche knit and Martin Grant denim. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 16th June 2021

‘I’ve always found it enchanting that the things you love just seems to belong together.’ Leigh Ellwood.

In past lives, this little converted warehouse at the end of a laneway in Fitzroy has been a secret bar and a photographic studio. Now, it’s the home of Leigh Ellwood – an interior designer who has rented this little beauty for the last few years, along with her beloved British Blue cat, Yama.

When Leigh first went to inspect the property, she remembers ‘there was a swarm of cool cats already looking at it’. Classic Fitzroy! ‘I loved the place… so I was sweating, wondering how on earth I could be the successful applicant’, she says. Luckily she was – and Leigh and Yama have been living happily here ever since.

The location of this home was a massive drawcard for Leigh – not only for its proximity to delicious food and coffee, and a short stroll to the movies in Carlton or the pool in Fitzroy, but also because it was close to where her adult daughter lives. ‘I wanted a place big enough for her to come and hang out, or have friends over for a meal, but small enough that it didn’t feel cavernous when I’m just there with Yama’, she says.

As an interior designer and lover of design, Leigh has collected art and furniture for her entire her adult life, which meant she was able to fill the small space with colour and texture pretty much straight away. Grounding the space downstairs is a cheerful pink “Ghost 12” sofa by Gervasoni from Anibou, and behind it, a wall covered in hanging baskets and Dilly bags woven by many First Nations weavers from Western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, making a striking textural display. Although Leigh hasn’t made any major changes to the space (it is a rental, after all!) she notes that the glow of light through the washi paper of the Noguchi pendant hung over the dining table made a massive difference, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Leigh doesn’t really consider her space to have specific or definable aesthetic, but is more guided by intuition, and things that make her feel good. ‘I’ve always found it enchanting that the things you love just seems to belong together’, she says. This theory is certainly evidenced in her own home, which is the perfect showcase for the special things collected over the years. But at the end of the day, the things that make Leigh feel at home aren’t necessarily ‘things’ at all. There’s nothing like her cat Yama lounging on his favourite armchair (or turntable… another beloved napping spot!) to put her at ease.

We’ll leave you with this sage advice from Leigh – ‘don’t worry if you don’t have lots of art or great furniture. Beautiful things make your spaces look beautiful, for sure – but it’s the feeling of a home that people remember… the warmth you bring’, she says. Words to live by!

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net