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An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity

by Quelcy Kogel

I’ve long thought Dr. Seuss wrote his iconic book Oh, the Places You’ll Go with the camera in mind. Long before our high-tech phones, carrying a camera — and being really intentional about what to shoot — inspired so many meanderings in pursuit of something worth capturing. “You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care. About some you will say, ‘I don’t choose to go there.’ With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.” For Lean Timms, picking up a camera truly redirected her path and sent her to so many places, down so many interesting streets, and introduced her to so many people.

Five years into a high school performing arts teacher role, Lean realized it was no longer the gig for her, but she wasn’t sure what her next move should be. In the meantime, she picked up a film camera and began to teach herself the art of travel and food photography. She began to share her work, learned from other talented friends and started working for small magazines. Before long, enough work was flowing for her to pursue photography full-time. Today, Lean spends half her time on the road and half her time in her bright, inspiring studio, surrounded by a loving partner Sophie, creative housemates and an affable furry chap named Taj.

Lean has always been drawn to her Canberra, Australia home. “The inner north has always been a favorite area of mine in Canberra — plenty of hip and happening places to wine, dine, and explore, easy access to the rest of town and plenty of old-build, wooden cottages, which I love. I’ve always preferred homes with character and age compared to newer builds, so I was keen to find something along these lines.” Finding her rental wasn’t easy, but patience paid off. Her home is one of the “artisan dwelling” timber cottages built in 1927 and is part of the National Trust (heritage listed). Of all the places Lean could go, she found her way right to a home built specifically for nurturing a creative life. —Quelcy

Photography by Lean Timms

Image Above: Photographer Lean Timms reviewing prints in her Canberra, Australia studio with furry assistant, Taj. Lean recently expanded her photography business to include a print store, where she shares her love affair with Scandinavian landscapes and design.

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Lean is especially grateful for her home studio. “I love that I can work from home, [and] that the studio is a separate building, so I don’t get distracted by ‘home’ things. It’s where I edit, email and sign and package prints from my shop.”

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Whether capturing a foggy landscape or a hillside crowded with layers of houses, Lean’s photography is so visceral. “I LOVE to explore. I’m not the most ordered person and tend to become a bit excitable when I’m traveling, so most of the time my best shots happen through spontaneity and intuition. That being said, there is nothing better than experiencing a place like a local. It would be a shame to travel without doing so.”

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Lean and her housemates joke about having shared custody of Taj. Lean muses, “I love that Taj enjoys sitting here [in the front hall] looking out to the front garden and road.”

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

When it comes to her home’s aesthetic, Lean says, “I love spaces that find the perfect balance between minimal and cozy. I’m really inspired by Scandinavian design and living, so this played a big part in the decorating process. Thankfully Sophie and my housemates enjoy this aesthetic, too! We also all love hosting – we often have dinners and overnight guests, and I love it when people can arrive in a space and feel that it is as beautiful as it is comfortable.”

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Lean’s home truly is a balance of form and function. “Although I do like to invest in unique vintage or handmade design pieces, there is also a lot of furniture in the house that was built of necessity, using scrap timber or picked up secondhand and on the cheap (e.g.: the couch was $60 from Craigslist). I’m also not a fan of clutter. Everything in our home has a purpose and is used. There isn’t anything that we are overly precious about.”

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Good, old bones and paint were the key to this house. “We were lucky enough that the landlord let us re-paint inside. The lounge and dining was previously lime green, the hallways a burnt amber and our bedroom a sort of khaki. I’m a bright, monotone, white kind of girl, so I got to work straight away painting while jumping between playlists of Billie Holiday, dirty rap and funnily enough, the After The Jump podcast.”

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Lean’s favorite part about the dining room is the afternoon light on the historic features of the room.

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Some of the more unique features of Lean’s shared home are the many nooks and crannies. “There are a number of old wooden cupboards that are tucked in and around the house and have existed since the original build, such as the pass from the dining room to the kitchen, the old wooden cupboard to the right of the stove mantel and the pantry safe on the back verandah, where the milkman used to drop off the milk delivery.”

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Lean is especially grateful for the size of the kitchen, since she and her housemates love to cook and host. They’d love to do even more with their backyard garden and fill their kitchen with fresh produce. “We have a veggie patch and a very fun flock of chickens and ducks out back, which we spend a lot of time in (sometimes too much — it’s my procrastination zone).”

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Lean loves so many aspects of her home, but the chickens rank high on that list!

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge

Lean’s bedroom strikes her desired balance of cozy and minimal.

An Australian Home Built for Fostering Creativity via Design*Sponge



Arm Chair – the “Hoshi Chair” by Skeehan 
Lamp & Vase Vintage Find in Jacksonville, Florida
Painting Kayla Piris
Lounge Craigslist
Throw blanket  hand crocheted by a friend
Coffee table secondhand, sanded & then painted with black Japanese paint stain
Brass candlesticks fleamarket find, Copenhagen

Books Wabi-Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams, Near & Far by Heidi Swanson, Perfect Imperfect by Karen McCartney, In the Company Of Women by “you know who ;)”


Linen Temple & Webster
Lamp Merci Merci Paris
Print Lean Timms
Mug Wingnut & Co
Vase Girl Nomad
Armchair Christina Bricknell
Curtains Linenfox
Sheepskin IKEA


Table Handmade by a friend
Bowl Annie Parnell
Chairs Vintage Parker
Linocut Prints Cecille Weldon
Cloth Linenfox


Cookbook Aquacotta by Emiko Davies
on kitchen island – Wingnut & Co
Island hand built by a friend
Kitchen Brushes  Iris Hantverk 
Copper kettles flea market find
Mantelpieces flea market finds
Tea Towel Hale Mercantile
Tea Pot The Press Shop
Tea Cup Annie Parnell
Tea Strainer Bellocq Tea Atelier
Coffee Grinder market find


Print Parrot Tulips by Olivia Rae James Suarez  
secondhand find Jacksonville, Florida
Linen Cary Bag IN BED
Leather Pouch  BAGGU 
Shoes R M Williams 


Lamp Kovac Family Stockholm
Prints Lean Timms
Desk Chair Vintage Parker
Couch Vintage Parker
Cane Armchair roadside find
Coffee Table Old electrical box
Pillow Case Bought in Istanbul, made from old Turkish rugs
Shoes Swedish Hasbeens
Curtains Drop cloths from Bunnings Warehouse clipped with IKEA curtain clips
Saints of Old Florida 


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  • This home is gorgeous, can’t believe it’s a rental. Her landlord must be happy with the changes. I love how she perfectly balanced the minimal and cosy look. For a minimalist Scandinavian interior lover this space ticks every box with the white walls, the warmth of the woods, and the freshness from the plants.

  • Such an inspiring post. I am a fellow Australian currently toying with the idea of leaving my full time job in education to pursue a creative career as a surface designer. I spent much of my study time listening to ‘After the Jump’ podcasts as I painted designs for my assessments! Lean’s story and work is inspiring, as too is her beautifully curated home. Check her out on Instagram, she has a beautiful feed. It gives me hope that one day I will brave enough to throw in my 9-5 and take the plunge at doing what I truly love.

  • Hi!
    I loved this post as I have often thought about discovering a small town in Australia to live and surf. Love the bright minimalism of Lean’s home– the blend of comfort and beauty as she says. I was also wondering about those subtle dark hooks that the binder clips that hold the prints are hanging from. Where can I get some? They look so useful!

    • Glad you liked it Shiuan! Living and surfing in Australia does sound pretty perfect. Lean said she sourced the curtain clips from Ikea.

  • I really appreciate the “balanced” approach to minimalism and cozy, too. You also mentioned a key tactic for pulling that off: “Everything in our home has a purpose and is used. There isn’t anything that we are overly precious.” Perfectly said. Thank you for sharing!

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