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A Modern Family’s Treetop Rental Property

Homes

If you’re a regular reader of The Design Files, you’ll know all the cool kids are moving to Warrandyte. Unfortunately, rentals in the bush-like suburb (about 25 kilometres east of Melbourne’s CBD) are few and far between, so if you’re keen to secure one, you need to be quick!

Within minutes of this property being listed online, Tilly Barber was driving past the house and messaging friends to move in with her. They did, and it’s now their buzzing ‘modern family’ home, shared with her six-year-old son Mars, and friends Albee Barton and Justyn Burrows. 

9th June, 2021

The treetop lounge room. 70s modular sofa, rattan seat and light sourced through Homebody. Vita Selma ‘Arata’ chair. John Taylor painting from Martin Allen Antiques. Chain plinth by Zachary Frankel. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Bisque vessels made by the household and some friends on an impromptu pottery night. ‘Lots of free form pottery nights have followed and since evolved into the idea of transforming the garden shed into a tiny pottery studio,’ says Tilly. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Housemates Tilly Barber and Justyn Burrows. (Not pictured, Mars (6), and Albee Barton was unwell at the time of this photo shoot!) Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Vito ‘Selma’ chair. Chain plinth by Zachary Frankel. Pot by Pop & Scott. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Very old, very special Turkish tapestry found while visiting Patara, an ancient village in the south of Turkey. Ceramic vessel made by Albee. Side table sourced from Homebody. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Tasmanian blackwood timber sculpture Zachary Frankel. Hasami Porcelain tumbler. Horseshoe vessel by local potter Mark Gambino. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Tilly drove to the Victorian border to claim this table for the house. It is made from turned timber and is the household’s favourite spot to enjoy breakfast, work from or have tea with a guest. Woven mid-century chairs found by Tilly on the side of the road and restored by her. Tasmanian blackwood timber sculpture Zachary Frankel. Raffia ornament from TLC World. Weave by Anna Fiedler. Horseshoe vessel by local potter Mark Gambino. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘Blue decanter’ loop pile weaving was a collaboration between Homebody and Software Rugs. Flute side table by Zachary Frankel. Custom spotted gum bench seats made by Tilly and Zac Frankel. Table from marketplace. Pots from Pop & Scott throughout. Lumier Interiors lightshade. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The kitchen looks into the pantry. Painting by @streetshebowka depicts an ode to life at ‘Stringybark’; communal living in Eltham which Tilly, Marley and Justyn lived with close friends and their family. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A truly heavenly pantry! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The guest bathroom gets incredible filtered light – we will grow a small jungle in here,’ says Justyn. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Th guest room. Bedspread found by Albee at an artisan market in Sri Lanka. John Tailor painting from Martin Allen Antiques. Lamp from  Lumier Interiors. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Mars’ bedroom filled with paintings and drawings he has made at different stages of his life. Antique oak bed. Drawers found on the roadside and restored by Tilly. ’70s wool flokati rug found at an op-shop. Retro ‘Rochetto’ stool by Kartel. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photograph taken by Justyn. Wall hanging by Anna Fiedler. Bedding from InBed. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Some of Justyn’s analogue camera collection. Artwork gifted by a friend. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Pablo the cat, who is staying with the family with his owners are New Zealand! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 9th June 2021

‘We have coined the term ‘semi-harmonious hodgepodge!’ – Tilly Barber

According to her housemates Albee Barton (creative movement and yoga instructor, and the owner of Green Monday Studios) and Justyn Burrows (psychology student), Tilly Barber has a ‘borderline obsession’ with scanning the property market. Luckily, this obsession sometimes comes in handy, such as when she spotted this North Warrandyte home for rent in late 2020!

Tilly did a drive-by of the property, and within 15 minutes she was encouraging Albee and Justyn to apply alongside six-year-old son Mars and her. ‘We felt the open-plan kitchen and living area was waiting for our “modern family,”‘ says Tilly.

Melbourne was still very much in the throes of the pandemic at the time (still is), which meant work was uncertain for the group, but they felt strongly this house was theirs. 

‘The property spoke to our SOULS,’ says Tilly. ‘We knew the house was worth the energy and we would stop at nothing on the off chance that we might be approved. We put our best foot forward and with a stroke of luck and a lot of pressing, it was ours. We felt like we had struck gold the day the agent called to say we were approved.’

The ‘70s property with its original red brick flooring and timber ceilings is the perfect backdrop for the group’s furniture, most of which has been collected by Tilly, who owns the furniture restoration and sourcing business Home body

‘We have coined the term ‘semi-harmonious hodgepodge!’ says Tilly of their home’s decorating aesthetic. ‘It’s a real mix of vintage, handmade and salvaged furniture – quite a lot of it is revived or hard waste – complemented by art and objects by makers we admire. Simultaneously, it’s quite minimal.’

Mixing up the earthy tones throughout are deliberately inserted injections of colour and greenery, including tree-like indoor plants, artworks by Mars, and side tables by Zachary Frankel.

One of the reasons Tilly was so keen to live in this house is its suitability to entertaining. While that’s currently off-limits, outside of lockdown the property is often host to ‘feasts and friends, music and memories.’ 

‘We definitely don’t shy away from a themed dinner party or opportunities to connect with our friends and fam. We felt this was the perfect space that brings people together,’ Tilly says.

A surprising joy that supports these get-togethers is the walk-in kitchen pantry, which Tilly and Justyn say is possibly their favourite feature in the whole home! ‘I love organising and storage – satisfying is an understatement!’ Tilly says. 

The surrounding area comes in a close second with its abundant trees, river proximity, and clear night skies.  

Renting gold! 

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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