Tilly Barber, founder of vintage furniture business Homebody and sofa label Monde wasn’t looking for a new home, but the opportunity to rent architect Alistair Knox’s former office in Eltham was too good to pass up. ‘In hindsight, it felt like it was destined for us,’ Tilly says.
The heritage-listed 1962-63 bluestone office and its accompanying mudbrick house are both historically significant as the final and purpose-built home and studio of Knox, who was a pioneer known for creating a distinctly ‘Australian’ architectural style, characterised by low, flat roof lines, natural materials and finishes, mud brick walls, and brick or slate floors.
Initially hesitant about living in a completely open space, Tilly’s worries were immediately alleviated upon seeing the studio in person. ‘I met with the property owner and was taken through the studio as well as the incredible dwellings, gardens, and studios located on the surrounding five acres, while being told of the history and stories that come with the property,’ she says. ‘It really enriched my desire to call it home for the foreseeable future.’
Since moving in, Tilly has cleverly integrated more storage into the studio (including custom beds with in-built shelving), and installed an outdoor bath. Furniture is a mix of vintage pieces originally destined for Homebody; a blue Monde sofa (Tilly’s own label); and a table made from Tasmanian oak that was found on Facebook Marketplace. There are even pieces originally owned by Knox himself: ‘My coffee table came with the house and was originally purposed to store Knox’s architectural plans. Somewhere along the line it got painted mission brown, and I had the honour of recently restoring it back to its original condition.’ Tilly says.
A curving glass wall opens the house to its incredible landscape, which Tilly and Marley never take for granted. ‘It is a privilege to live on the native landscape of the Wurundjeri-Willam people,’ Tilly says. ‘The studio is made entirely from recycled, reclaimed and natural materials and feels as if it rose up from the land it sits upon. It feels like a natural pavilion; a harmonious dance between the inside and out.’