Interiorssneak peeks

An Australian Home with Global Influences

by Garrett Fleming

My gut is something I struggle with trusting, and I’m not sure why. I’m never short on opinions, but oftentimes my initial reaction to something gets clouded by the dreaded “overthink.” It’s something that I continue to work on because I see such value in that initial, split second of clarity – the crystal-clear choice that, too often, abruptly zips away. Because of this, I find it very refreshing when I learn of people who’ve had a feeling, unabashedly trusted it, and never looked back.

In Melbourne, Australia, a stone’s throw from the railway line, sits this perfectly patinated bungalow that maker Sarah Murphy of Murphy & Daughters and filmmaker Matthew McCaughey have called home for the past seven years. The second they stepped inside the house, they wanted it. This proactive family wasted no time and eagerly put in a bid on the home the day it went up for public auction. No overthinking. No pondering. It was a trigger-decision that, to this day, they don’t regret. What exactly struck such a resounding chord with the Murphys? The century-old Victorian’s back garden. Hidden from the street and a total surprise, the outdoor space truly sealed the deal. It’s the cherry on top of a wonderfully laid-back, 3-bedroom house.

Not only was the garden a lucky gift, but the family knew the rustic and coastal bones of the space were the perfect backdrop for their international souvenirs. Having traveled across Mexico, Spain and Italy has given the Murphys a plethora of one-of-a-kinds to don the walls. In another stroke of serendipity, the home is located a few blocks away from an auction house. Barely a week goes by without something new coming through the front door. These new additions layered against worldly trinkets add such energy, color and texture to this home – one of my personal favorites. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! —Garrett

Photography by Caitlin Mills

An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Sarah Murphy outside the front door she doused in yellow paint found in a local shop's bargain bin. She made the chalkboard sign herself.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
As they enter the 100-year-old home, visitors bask in the soft glow of these Mexican star lanterns.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The family's living room is an arresting and eclectic mix of international accessories. The rug is from India, the mirror is from Mexico and the sofa is from Italy. Sarah used scraps of Marimekko fabric to make pillows that match her Marimekko lamp shade.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The coffee table is from the Chapel Street Bazaar.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The piano is across from the living room's fireplace. A Tom Dixon light serves as a side table when paired with this Italian, metal tray. A bear sculpture from Emma Davies sits atop it.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Sarah went on a worldwide trip a bit ago and picked up this ship artwork at her first stop – NYC. She carried it all the way home in her suitcase. The intriguing "Planet of the Apes" artwork is by Lisa Roet. The film's never looked more stylish, in my opinion.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Sarah found these lamp shades on the street one morning while walking her daughter Lola to school, and Matthew rigged some old bottles to make them into one-of-a-kind treasures. The chest of drawers belonged to Matthew's grandmother.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
As you look out onto Sarah and Matthew's bedroom from their bed, you get a glimpse of their French chandelier and swoon-worthy fireplace.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Lola's bedroom features an old French dresser, Mexican artwork and an iron bed Sarah found on holiday in Queensland, Australia. Lola has made the bedroom her own by adding personal touches throughout, like a teddy bear from her aunt, a dachshund pillow from Skimming Stones and embroidery by Jill Kellett.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Lola typing away in the bedroom she helped her mom, Sarah, craft.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Lola drew up the Victorian-era home's floor plan for us.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The study and headquarters of Murphy & Daughters is the perfect, sunny spot from which Sarah works. The orange desk chair was found on the side of the road.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Artist David Noonan gave Sarah this unique, astronaut artwork as a "thank you" for helping him out on one of his films. The fireplace's ceramics include pieces from Congo, Papua New Guinea and pottery from Great Grandfather Murphy's 1800s-era produce store.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The bathroom, sitting between the kitchen and Lola's room, features Mexican tin artwork.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The dining table was passed down by Sarah's grandmother and sits under a Mexican lantern. The table pairs perfectly with these chairs found at nearby Leonard Joel Auction House. This dining room is so beautiful on the inside, but look at that view! The gorgeous backyard serves as the perfect backdrop to family dinners.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The swan centerpiece is made of brass and is another Leonard Joel Auction House find. Most of the glassware is Italian.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Artwork by Louis Tomlinson and Wendy Foard and ceramics from Italy's Fasano decorate the dining area's buffet. The glass vase was Matthew's grandparents'.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The kitchen bar's dreamy Bonnie and Neil tiles are made from plywood and fit in nicely with the room's overall cool hues. The barstools were originally high chairs from Spain. When Matthew and Sarah's little ones outgrew them, the two cut off the sides so they wouldn't have to toss something full of so many memories.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
This quaint space connects the kitchen and veranda entry.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The laundry room sits behind that perfectly-weathered, white door. Just beyond the blue door is the back veranda.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Mr. Wrinkles, the family's "treasured fur baby," poses between two sconces from NYC's Chelsea Market and a handmade chair that used to sit on the Kyneton Post Office's porch.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The back porch is "a good spot to contemplate the garden." I adore the washed, worn-in feel the Marimekko fabric gives the bamboo couch. The woven basket is from Australia's own Eumundi Markets.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
The view from the backyard looking into the dining room. From the street, the home doesn't appear to have a garden at all. You can imagine the family's delight when they opened the door and saw it for the first time.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
Another view of the lush, back garden.
An Australian Home with Global Influences, Design*Sponge
"What I love most about my home is..."

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  • Those kitchen chairs are amazing – what is that style of chair called or what era are they from?

    Love this house!

    • The style of chair is a Bentwood. They are quite common in Australia, both as antiques, and in replica form. They were originally designed in 1859 by German cabinetmaker Michael Thonet.

  • Thank you Sarah, Matthew and Lola for inviting me for a glimpse into your magical home. Lola, your floorplan was very helpful, aiding me to better understand the flow of your home – my thanks! I love so many things about this home, but I think that my favorite thing is the way the outdoor space is really a part of the indoor space. It is all so integrated and lovely.

  • Gorgeous home. What I love as an Aussie girl is spotting a photo on DS and just knowing it is from Australia. We have a certain look or light about our homes.

    • I agree, Louise!

      It’s a look I personally LOVE! Some of my favorite homes are from Australia.


  • The house is so charming and eclectic – thanks for sharing with us! Although I do have a point of contention. Why Congo as “African Congo” in the narrative? There is only an African Congo. You did not refer to Central American Mexico or European Italy so let’s be fair to all the global influences in our writing ??. Good work!

  • Hi Sarah,
    Wow, your home is just so gorgeous. I’m totally inspired.
    I live is Australia too and was wondering if you could tell me what paint you used for the walls, skirting boards and ceiling in the hallway and loungeroom. Also, your floorboards are magnificent. Are they pine? Did you have them polished and/or stained? What’s the finish on them? I think the colours you have chosen for your walls and your floorboards really highlight the beauty of all the amazing things you’ve collected both at home and on your travels.
    What an amazing place.
    Loved this sneak peak!

    • Hi Veronica, Thank you!! It is Dulux Antique White USA on everything. And the floors are the old original pine boards except where they had to be patched in a few places, polished, cheers Sarah

  • Oh my goodness. I think this is the childhood home of one of my very best friends. It all looks so familiar and although styled very differently it has that relaxed vibe. Gorgeous.

  • love all their additions from their travels…this home has me itching to go to mexico! i also love the way they hang their art…a very collected, casual approach that is so lovely!

  • Perfection! I absolutely love the blue door. By chance does anyone know what colour that is? It’s gorgeous and I want it on everything. thanks for sharing!

  • Love your home, the glass vase from your grandparents’ is Whitefriars Glass the design is called Drunken Bricklayer. You may already know this but it’s fun if you don’t.

    • Hey Flora, thanks so much for the extra info about the vase, now you mention it, the Drunken Bricklayer seems very apt, haha

  • this home is one of my all-time-favourites – every time I see it, it makes me happy and smile :-) thank you so much for sharing!
    greetings from austria (where the thonet-chairs originally come from) to australia!

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