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Interiors

Finding Temporary Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia

by Lauren Chorpening

Home is a foundation to me — and I think it is for many. Whenever I’ve lived in a space temporarily, I’ve usually tried to fight the urge to decorate or make it mine. Thankfully, the feeling only lasts a day or two before I feel unsettled enough to spend the time making it my home. For me, that has meant painting walls just to paint them back three months later, rearranging furniture until it’s right, and unpacking beautiful objects with little function other than to make me smile. LaToya, Jeremiah and their son Zephyr moved into the second floor of an Australian Queenslander one year ago. It started out as a temporary fix but has been turned into their home.

LaToya Burton, an interior designer and organizer, moved from San Fransisco to Australia a few years ago to be with her now husband, Jeremiah Johnson, musician and songwriter. After the family returned from a seven-month trip living in a pop-top camper, they started looking for a small space secluded from the city, but they couldn’t find the right property. A friend recommended house-sitting for a mostly-empty home while the owners were away, until they could find their ideal place. They ended up staying longer than expected, as the offer to look after the home extends through this winter. “We thought this was only temporary; for a few weeks max. So we only focused on the basics — a place to sleep, a place to cook and eat, and a place for Zephyr to play. As time drew on, I started getting my space-creator urges and when we decided to stay for a few more months, I was ready to make this place a home,” says LaToya. “Slowly we started to make ourselves at home. We do not own much furniture, as we sold/donated most of it before trip. And we have not purchased any new furniture, because the plan has been to travel again, so we did not want to accumulate more things. The process is still ongoing. I am always rearranging things and seeing what we can let go of — it is amazing how little you really need. But when you have a home, it is nice to fill it with things that make you smile, things that remind you of what you want in life.” The space, though borrowed, showcases what they truly value: time together, music and peace.

LaToya has since started a business to help other people find home in their houses. “Finding Space is where I guide others in creating a nourishing home that they love. My aim is to inspire others to create space for their soul to thrive,” says LaToya. “All in all, we have embraced this space one day at a time. We stayed because of the conscience and flexibility. I enjoy the character of the Queenslander, and I do have sketches of how to make this house the one, if we owned it. But in the long run, we dream of owning property that is further out of the city and nestled in nature.” LaToya, Jeremiah and Zephyr have made this space their home for now, and while it wasn’t what they dreamed of, they’ve found reasons to love their time there. —Lauren

Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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Their time traveling and desire to live minimally has pared-down their pieces significantly. LaToya has decorated their temporary home with furniture left behind and pretty things that have sentimental significance in a lovely way.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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"This is where I am building my meditation practice," says LaToya. "I have created an altar with reminders of nature and special books and oracle cards. I do journaling here as well. I also have some artwork in progress here."
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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The view of the office area through the connected bedroom. LaToya designs and creates artwork in this space.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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"The artwork over the bed is always in rotation but the dream catcher remains. I like that the bedroom is just for relaxing, sleeping, and reading books to Z before bed," says LaToya. "The bedspread is one of my few home decor purchases since we have lived here."
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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The simplicity in their bedroom is refreshing and peaceful.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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Jeremiah's artwork on the wall. "The magic is the fun touches that make us smile, a tent on the verandah, a fish mobile in the bathroom, an altar near the desk, Zephyr's art. it boils down to: resourceful, colorful, casual. Many of the things we surround ourselves with have stories, are gifts, or we made it," say LaToya.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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"Zephyrs artwork adorns the walls," says LaToya.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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This pretty moment in the kitchen is "a chart with herbs from women's health and a photograph by a friend who was traveling in Ethiopia. We bid on it as part of a fundraiser she is hosting to raise money for a health center. She has created an art book of all her prints," LaToya says.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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"The kitchen is fairly functional. We keep things out on the counter for easy access, we only use some of the cabinet space. I have started to use more of it the longer we stay," says LaToya.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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The artwork by Zephyr and the family's manifesto hang on the kitchen wall.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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"Jeremiah was the last one to find his own space, at first it was a desk in the kitchen, and now we have made room in one of the storage areas for him to keep all his music equipment," says LaToya.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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The living room is Zephyr's play space. "At first the goal was purely function. As we have settled in more and more it has become comfort, creativity, and magic, but it is always evolving as our needs change. Zephyr stays at home with me, so it had to function as a place for him to play and learn. We wanted the space to be just as much his as it is ours, rather than making things off-limits," says LaToya.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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"Most of the furniture was already here when we arrived, so we have made the most of it, just relocating it as necessary," says LaToya.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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"We were gifted this fish mobile, but Z never really slept in a crib, but I thought the mobile was beautiful, so I wanted to put it somewhere we would see it and it could add a bit of magic or whimsy to the bathroom," says LaToya.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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The veranda is quite large and creates even more living and play space for the family.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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Zephyr's wooden kitchen on the veranda was made by Jeremiah.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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LaToya, Jeremiah and Zephyr on their veranda. "We are most thankful to have a place to lay our heads, and to to keep our things without juggling them around in the back of our car. We are grateful for the convenience of living in town, and being able to ride our bikes to get to many places. And access to creeks and rainforest minutes away," says LaToya.
Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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Finding Space in a Queenslander in Cairns, Australia | Design*Sponge
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The floor plan of their home. Some rooms are used for the owner's storage but the rest of the space is what LaToya, Jeremiah and Zephyr have made into their home.

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