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Interiorssneak peeks

In Australia, Two Families Live Surrounded by the Bush

by Sofia Tuovinen

In Australia, Community-Based Family Living surrounded by The Bush | Design*Sponge

When Phoebe and Chris Bell found themselves trekking between the vibrant scene of Melbourne, Australia, and the more slow-paced, rural towns on the outskirts of the city, they realized that leading a suburban life in between the two areas that they loved wasn’t how they wanted to wind down. When the couple eventually began planning a family and had their son Jude, opting to move to the leafy town of Warrandyte felt like a step in the right direction.

Phoebe and Chris’ new country home, a two-story house with strong original 1970s vibes, allows the couple to return home to what feels like a remote bush retreat at the end of each day. “It’s a retreat in every sense of the word and as soon as I walk through the door, I’m immediately more grounded and calm,” Phoebe explains. “It has big windows and a very strong connection to the sprawling bush that surrounds it, making it an incredibly nurturing home.”

Over the past five years, after deciding that a career as a lawyer wasn’t for her, Phoebe has built her colorful and bohemian homewares brand, Sage x Clare (@sageandclare). In addition to carefully planning her homeware collections, she has fully embraced the process of sourcing vintage furniture and decor for her family’s home. “Moving in here has taught me patience. It’s not the sort of home you want to fill with mass-produced or new pieces. It needs vintage, soulful pieces and they can’t always be found exactly when you want them,” she reflects. On top of selecting pieces that look good, everything should stand up to the demands of family life, ensuring that the home is not only filled with beautiful items but rich with memories and full of life.

Since moving into the house six months ago, the headcount in Phoebe and Chris’ home has doubled, as they recently welcomed Phoebe’s twin sister Jemma, her husband Paul and their six-week-old daughter Nelly to live with them. “Jemma and Paul have called Jaipur, India home for many years and decided it was time to come home for a year or so to have their baby and enjoy the support of family. We’re loving having such a full house!” Phoebe shares. Both families seem to agree that the house in the bush has a special, welcoming energy. It has quickly turned into a hub for friends and family — and Phoebe and Chris wouldn’t have it any other way. —Sofia

Photography by Phoebe Bell / @sageandclare

Image above: Phoebe remembers the first time she stood at the living room windows and stared in awe at the view over the bushy landscape. “It’s spectacular and forever changing with the light and the weather. We’re so lucky to have an aspect like this,” she says. The strong 1970s bones of the house have informed the family’s design choices, which range from unique vintage pieces to bohemian details in line with the aesthetic of Phoebe’s home decor brand Sage x Clare. 

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A hat that Phoebe brought home from a Sage x Clare photo shoot in Bali hangs in the entryway. “My bag was full of samples so I was forced to wear it at the airport and on the plane all the way home. [I] got plenty of looks from fellow travelers!” she reveals. 

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Phoebe felt that the home needed some Aboriginal artwork as soon as she moved in. After months of hunting, she found this piece and knew it was the one. “So much of our decorating is based on instant connection and if we have it, then we generally bring it home.”

 

So much of our decorating is based on instant connection and if we have it, then we generally bring it home.

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Although she and Chris haven’t made many changes to the house besides updating some of the flooring, they now know the ins and outs of their home’s history and any updates made over the years. Coincidentally, after posting some pictures of the house on Instagram, the original owners found Phoebe and got in touch. “They shared some of what the home used to be and what’s changed over the years. […] We were also handed a folder, which has a detailed history of everyone who’s ever lived there and any updates that have been made. We’ve had so much fun trawling through it and piecing it together… Lots of photos and letters have been passed from owner to owner — it’s actually really special to have this passed on.”

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The vintage, perfectly patinated De Sede 76 sofa was won at an auction and is Phoebe’s pride and joy. The pillows are current season from Sage x Clare and showcase all the workmanship of talented artisans. “Everything we do is soulful, bohemian and colorful,” Phoebe explains. 

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Phoebe’s father makes twig house sculptures from the family’s workshop downstairs. “So much love goes into each one and he gave me this for Jude’s room when he was born,” Phoebe shares. 

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Phoebe and Chris used to dream of a fireplace and now have a home that boasts two. “We’d always be in awe of anyone who could light theirs up in the middle of winter. It was an absolute must-have in our new home — so atmospheric on a cold winter’s day!”

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The dining area is the hub of the home where Chris, Phoebe, Jemma, Paul and the kids catch up at the end of each day over a home-cooked meal.

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The dining room is bathed in natural light and includes some of Phoebe and Chris’ favorite vintage finds.

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The kitchen, located in the heart of the house, is barely ever empty. Although the family plans on making some updates eventually, the space works well for their needs as-is. “It’s usually filled with us all making dinner, green smoothies, homemade granola, you name it,” Phoebe shares. 

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Phoebe, Jude, Jemma, Nelly, Paul and Billy the dog in the living room.

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Phoebe and Chris’ 1970s home is set into the side of a valley. The garden reveals itself as you make your way down the path to the house. “We have 1.5 acres of natural bush but it’s also lovely to have landscaped garden for Jude to roam and explore. He loves it.”

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The walk from the the car parking to the house gives a perfect first glimpse of the property. Most days you’ll find Billy the spoodle ready to greet family members and friends with much excitement.

 

It’s a special home with an energy that is hard to pinpoint, but that everybody can feel as soon as they arrive.

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The main bedroom is Phoebe and Chris’ sanctuary, filled with linen by Sage x Clare. “We wake up here every morning to the sunrise and it’s a magical way to start the day.”

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Phoebe and Chris chose inexpensive IKEA pieces to deck out Jude’s nursery. They have also added vintage finds, including the zebra that he regularly rides on. 

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The wall hanging in Jude’s room is a sample in development for Sage x Clare‘s next range, launching in February 2019. The large Miffy lamp was the one splurge that Phoebe and Chris made to the nursery before Jude was born. 

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The oversized print in the stairway was given to Phoebe by her parents on her 21st birthday. “It’s followed me to every university share house, apartment and now to my family home. Wherever this print is, I know it’s home,” she shares. 

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The family moved to their current home from a much smaller space, and have picked up several pieces at flea markets, like this modular velvet sofa with a fish scale pattern.

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“I wouldn’t change a thing in this sweet powder room. It’s got original painted cedar paneling and the sweetest sink.”

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The TV room is a more laid-back part of the house, designed for kicking back and relaxing together as a family. The Mandala artwork by Lumiere Art + Co matches the cushions perfectly.

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Jude and I sit here reading books most days. He’s a ferocious book-lover, even at two years old, and these floor cushions are great for kids,” Phoebe shares. 

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Jemma and Paul’s room offers views across to the family’s veggie patch. You can even spot the occasional wallaby and kangaroo hanging out in the garden!

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All linens in Jemma and Paul’s room are by Sage x Clare. “We’ve been told by a previous owner that come fruiting season, you can pick fruit right from the window,” Phoebe says. 

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Since moving to the house, Phoebe and Chris host guests all the time. The spare bedroom has been decorated to offer visitors a serene weekend getaway.

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A corner of baby Nelly’s room, featuring felted wool garlands and pieces from the Sage x Clare baby range. 

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“We’re delighted to have a newborn in the house again, baby Nelly. She is Jem and Paul’s first baby and we’ve showered her with Sage x Clare swaddles and play mats of course!” Phoebe shares. 

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“What I love most about my home is the energy.” — Phoebe

SOURCE LIST

Entryway

Vintage cabinet
Plant stand – IKEA
Flower rug – Sage x Clare
Photographic print – Kara Rosenlund

Living Room

De Sede 76 leather sofa
Vintage Kartell side table
Vintage Moroccan Berber rug
Aboriginal artwork – Kayi Kayi Nampitjinpa
Vintage arch lamp and carved wooden hand – Waverley Bazaar
Cushions and blanket – Sage x Clare
Twig house – Twiggargerie

TV Room

Floor cushions – Family Love Tree
Mandala artwork – Lumiere Art and Co via Greenhouse Interiors
Photographic print – We Are Pampa
Owl art – Madeleine Stamer
Rug and cushions and beanbag – Sage x Clare

Main bedroom

Linen and blanket – Sage x Clare
Shell lamp and cane side table – Castlemaine vintage bazaar
Macrame light shades from India
Bed frame – Freedom
Vintage side table – Kartell
Bench – IKEA

Jude’s bedroom

Cot and drawers – IKEA
Blanket, sheets, rug, wall hanging – Sage x Clare
Donkey, cane baskets, mirror and cantilever chairs from Waverley Bazaar
Artwork above cot – Jemma Bell
Miffy Lamp from Leo and Bella
Wall hanging – upcoming Sage x Clare collection (February 2019)

Jemma and Paul’s Bedroom

All soft furnishings – Sage x Clare
Cane side table – Family Love tree
Lamp and stacking boxes – IKEA
Felt mobiles from Sri Lanka

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Comments

  • I can feel the good energy radiating from the pictures! This house is so warm and inviting, and the multi-family aspect is quite lovely as well.

  • Serious house envy! Those windows! Those views! Really beautifully decorated—it looks like you’ve lived there for years.

  • I love everything about your home, especially that your walls are stretchy enough for two families. The light is beautiful, and your cane furniture seems right at home in the aussie environment. What a brilliant place to grow up! :)

  • Ok, I admit I have some PTSD from the Tubbs Fire, but this beautiful home needs to be be landscaped better to be more fire resistant. Way too much foliage within 30 feet of the perimeter. You need defensible space in the bush. It still may not save your home in event of of a wildfire but gives you a fighting chance.

  • Can you please use capitals in all references to Australian Aboriginal people? As there are many Aboriginal nations within Australia, and the language and art practices rare distinctive between nations, it would be even better if the artist cultural heritage was also identified, if known :) Australian indigenous culture is the oldest living culture in the world!!!

    • Hi Georgina

      Thanks for your comment, I’ll make that capitalization change now. There was only one artist mentioned to my knowledge, Kayi Kayi Nampitjinpa, and I believe they are a part of the Pintupi community. For any remaining tours we have coming up, I’ll make sure we look to see if we can find more specifics on indigenous artists of all countries.

      Grace

  • Such a cool house and gorgeous landscape! I love the breezy, casual feel of the decor as well. I’m swooning!

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