A Brisbane Home Filled with Light and Treasured Collections

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If there’s one thing that most city apartment-dwellers learn over the years, it’s that you have to give a little to get a little. Even the most beautiful of spaces come with quirks and challenges, but those are just part of the joy of living in an older building in a bustling city. Nicolette and Tom know a thing or two about living with a difficult but beautiful space, and they’ve managed to turn what could have been a difficult space to work with into a warm, welcoming home.

Photographer and documentary filmmaker Nicolette Johnson shares her Brisbane home with her fiance, Tom Dawson, who is studying IT networking. They came across this sunny apartment two years ago and loved the area (just a short walk from Tom’s school, as well as the Gallery of Modern Art, the Queensland Art Gallery, the science museum and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre). The home is filled with great art deco-era details and, because it’s a corner apartment, comes with stunning curved windows and walls. While all these details (crown molding, polished hardwood floors, original hardware) sold the apartment for Tom and Nicolette, they also had to work around some small and difficult layout challenges and a few rooms that are just big enough for a few pieces of furniture. But quirks aside, Nicolette and Tom love their space and feel like they’ve created a calm, private sanctuary away from busy city life. Between their shared love of travel collections and expert thrift-shop finds, they’ve managed to not just fill their home with beautiful things, but find a way to balance their desires for comfort and function with a creative and inspiring space. The space is still a work in progress, but Nicolette loves that. “Both of us are on a very tight budget and have been for the majority of our relationship, but we have managed to slowly pick up some great pieces here and there for a relatively insignificant amount of money. I think that’s how great collections are formed, slowly and deliberately.” I couldn’t agree more and am so thrilled to share a peek inside their sunny home today. xo, grace

Photographs by Nicolette Johnson

  1. kathy says:

    I love the Aldo Lungo print in the living room. I have one of his pieces hanging I’m my living room as well. I love his charcoal pieces.

  2. I’m in love with those blue chairs and with the simple framed photo of birches – great ideas here! thanks for sharing.

  3. sunny says:

    Such a beautifully warm and inviting space. The perfect anecdote to this cold and snowy day in Boston.

  4. Cath says:

    Love this space! Love it even more knowing that it is in my home town.

  5. I love the rugs, mouldings, and the sofa, very cute place.

    1. GABBY says:

      I loved the kilim rug as well. Been trying so hard to faind something similar. The ones that I’ve seen are way colorful, very, super hard to see a perfect rug like this one.

  6. The orange pop on the middle painting really works against the golden ochre, navy, and rusty colors. Beautiful home!

  7. Taylor Kitto says:

    Love it, Grace! The pops of color are awesome.

  8. Shannon says:

    tell me about your sofa..

  9. Shehla says:

    This is beautiful! I finally finished building my dream room and it’s incredible! It’s pretty bare though so I’m looking for ideas on how to fill the space. This is some great inspiration!

    Check out my room here, if you’re interested: http://shehlagrr.blogspot.com/2015/02/turning-dusty-attic-into-bedroom-suite.html

  10. Lara Cotton says:

    What a lovely home! Lots of New Mexico in their. <3.

  11. Nicolette says:

    Such a beautiful article Grace! I’m super chuffed! Shannon, the sofa is from IKEA :)

  12. Laurel says:

    Possibly one of my favourite sneek peeks to date! Love all the layered textiles and that bed looks like a dream to sleep in. They’ve done such a good job of curating only charming good quality furniture pieces and matching each to the best space. It motivates me not to bring something into my home that i’m not head over heals in love with!

  13. Julie says:

    I love the look of this room! The ethnic touches are awesome!

  14. Jordan says:

    Such a unique home! I adore the mix of patterns and then that mask on the wall. It’s all so bold!

  15. giti says:

    so much love and emotion in this home. love it!

  16. Rose says:

    It’s always fascinating and fun to analyze why I’m drawn to some homes so much. I love this one! I think it is because of the textures – so many beautiful woods perhaps – the rug is amazing too. Also this home feels like real people live there…perhaps because of the really great art and plants? I bemoan my own light walls, but here it just looks perfect! But sometimes I do look around my own place and say, “It’s coming together!” :)

  17. Shannon says:

    Never seen an Ikea sofa look so expensive!!!

  18. Kim says:

    Great gallery walls.

  19. Kamille says:

    Any idea who the artist is for the piece above the master bed? It’s so interesting!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      yes, the credit is listed in the caption: “The print that hangs above the bed is a collection of arrowhead illustrations by Valerie Waldorf, and it’s one of Nicolette’s favorite pieces of art in the house.”


  20. aussiebushgirl says:

    There’s only one thing that doesn’t work for me. The mask! They should sell masks with warnings attached, as they can represent bad karma from really bad environments – such as death masks, voodoo masks, and so on. I would urge caution when introducing a foreign object into your own environment as it can have a negative impact on your household and occupants, unless of course you are 100 percent sure of its origin and the meaning attached to it. Research before you buy! Otherwise, Nicolette has done an amazing job in a tight spot. Love the Dhurrie rug and would love to know who she purchased it from on Gumtree. It’s a beauty!

  21. Joellen says:

    Lovely home! It makes me want to cozy up with a cup of tea! I’m also obsessed with the kilim in your living room and the large sheepskin rug in your bedroom. Where did you find them?! I’ve always searching for rugs (I’m quite obsessed ;-)

  22. Nicolette says:

    Hi Aussiebushgirl, the mask was a gift from my father from Papua New Guinea in the Sepik River region. I believe they are actually supposed to be hidden from women when not in use, but I love it and we have had no bad karma :)

    Also, the Dhurrie rug was purchased from a local who no longer wanted it, unfortunately they are not a retailer.

    Joellen, the sheepskin rug was just a lucky find at an antique store!

  23. Justine says:

    This is my first comment ever… Anywhere. I love this place and I also covet the sleeping boy print. For me the most wonderful thing is the tight budget it has been achieved on. Just a reminder that beauty doesn’t necessarily require a lot of money. Just time and vision.

  24. Maria says:

    This home is so inspiring! The vignettes and collections have me lingering on each shot. I can tell the care and creativity that went into it. The gallery wall and the shelves above dresser are my favorite displays in the home, but everything has such soul!

  25. emily says:

    love, love the art hung on the molding….adds a little sophistication. really beautiful home!

  26. Junedotbe says:

    Six years I’ve been following designsponge – and the sneak peeks in particular … this is the first time I’ve actually commented… but this home is just too beautiful not to :-) The art, the plants, the wonderful pieces of furniture, the ceramics, the textiles, the cat (!)… OMG ! And all on a budget, no less.

    Nicolette, you have a delightful home and thank you very much for sharing it with us !

  27. Erica says:

    Any idea what artist did the abstract sun painting in the living room above the sofa? It is stunning! Thanks!

    1. Robert says:

      Did you ever get a reply, I also want to know!

  28. Maxi says:

    I love this rug!! Could anyone please tell me where it’s from? Sorry if anyone’s already mentioned that. I’m just popping by and unfortunately don’t have time to skim the entire blog for this info. Thanks!

  29. Brittany says:

    I love the paint color in the bedroom! What is it??

  30. David says:

    Yeah, also interested in the paint colours on the walls and dado. David in London.

  31. David says:

    I meant the living room however and I guess it isn’t a dado. The wall hanging rail.

  32. Cindy says:

    How can I find out where to get similar dining room chairs?

  33. sara harris says:

    where is this rug from?


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