Ben Mooney signed the lease on this 1880s home above a Collingwood shop in early 2020. Nicknamed Ma House, the property is both Ben’s home, and a space rented out for photoshoots and events.
‘Signing a three year lease on commercial terms was terrifying, but the best decision I’ve ever made,’ he says.
Ben was attracted to this space for its high ceilings, flexible layout, outdoor area, and quirky archways. ‘There is only one door in this house (and that is luckily for the bathroom); all the other rooms are connected by these wonky archways,’ he says. ‘They still all feel like separate rooms, but I love the little vistas they create.’
Having a commercial lease has provided Ben the freedom to knock out walls, take bars off the windows, paint the floors, and remove the kitchen door cabinets to create open shelving (‘A big hack for any renter with an outdated kitchen!’).
Ben has a knack for sourcing interesting pieces to achieve what he describes as an ‘eclectic cosy’ look. He doesn’t adhere to a particular aesthetic – instead, he simply collects pieces he’s naturally drawn to. ‘I saw in another article on The Design Files where a lady said things you love will naturally look good together. I don’t get how that works, but it does,’ Ben says.
Ben estimates 95 per cent of his furniture are secondhand finds sourced from markets, garage sales, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and hard rubbish. ‘I’ve kind of got this sixth sense with furniture. I scroll eBay and Facebook Marketplace most days, but I can scroll really fast. It just takes a millisecond for me to spot that good piece,’ he says. ‘I don’t drive so I don’t know how the hell it all got here, but I’ve caught the tram with four chairs before!’
He’s also not afraid to take up valuable luggage space while travelling, knowing the pieces he collects will be cherished forever. ‘It’s actually the worst thing lugging around a dinner set for three weeks in Europe, but once I have it home I have it forever,’ Ben says. ‘You can buy some shoes or go for a fancy dinner and it’s done, but I’ve got stuff that I bought when I was five at garage sales that still sparks joy.’
The only challenge Ben faces now is finding a place for everything. With enough chairs in this apartment to seat 40 people (!), he’s constantly rearranging rooms in a Tetris-like manner to achieve the perfect furniture configuration!
Beyond Ma House, Ben is in the process of establishing Ma Supply Store on nearby Johnston Street. The shop is set to open in April, and will sell a selection of new and used furniture and homewares for design lovers, just like Ben!
‘You don’t have to be a designer to love designing your home. We get so much nourishment from our homes… surrounding yourself with things you love and that speak to you makes for a happy life,’ he says.
‘I love that people are loving their homes more these days – that homes are more thoughtful and curated. I’m not an interior designer and have never worked in the field but love that someone like me can be in a publication like this.’