An interview with Bonnie and Neil

Bonnie and Neil have achieved a bit of a cult following for their fabulous homewares. THAT fluro pink watercolour table cloth was everywhere (including my table) last year.

I chatted with with one half of the Melbourne duo, Bonnie Ashley. She’s a textile designer whose partner, Neil Downie, is a carpenter. Their two very different skill sets have come together to create a homewares range that features both timber boxes and tea towels and somehow works perfectly!

Neil Downie and Bonnie Neil

Neil Downie and Bonnie Neil

“We’ve worked together (outside our day jobs) for a long time, so looking back, it seems it’s always been obvious to us,” says Bonnie. “It’s just happened naturally. We officially started in February 2010, putting together the range to launch in August that year.”

Bonnie says working with Neil is really fantastic! “It’s great having complementary but different skills – it helps us look at things from different viewpoints. We don’t need to explain things too much to each other, so we work quickly.”

Doing what they love, with creative independence, and doing it together, has been a dream come true. And it’s not just good luck which leads to many of their products selling out quickly. “I put a lot of research into colour, which is the starting point of all our ranges. Nature and botanicals recur in our designs, so it’s not necessarily based on what is trendy or popular, more what I think our customers would love to have in their home.”

Everything is made by hand at Bonnie and Neil‘s their Melbourne studio. Not surpisingly, Bonnie takes care of the screen printing, while Neil makes everything timber. Their shadow boxes (below) suggest a whole new, more 3D way of displaying your favourite treasures and even plants. I love how they’re made from reclaimed Tasmanian oak from old houses across Victoria and feature geometric and botanical designs. Storage cubes can be stacked or used  as bedsides, the possibilities are endless!

“Australia has some really clever people doing retail, so we’ve been fortunate in being stocked at some great stores,” says Bonnie, who cites Sibella Court, Amanda Talbot and Liane Rosler as people she admires in the industry. “If we’re considering a new retailer, we look at whether there are already stockists in that area, as well as how our products will sit with what they carry.”

Their own home is a cottage in Brunswick (see it here on the Design Files), full of plants, pattern and colour. “It is pretty full, as we both collect/hoard things such as tapestries, fabric and books. Neil renovated it himself a few years ago. It is filled with cushions, textiles and things we make.”

Fluorescent pink was their most popular colour last year, and they’ll be sticking with brights this year. “We print onto natural linen and it is surprising how many colours it goes beautifully with. Oranges, sunset yellows, fresh greens, blue and white.”

Bonnie’s 3 tips for creating a home that says something about the people who live there

  1. Display the things you treasure and mean something to you, like artwork and photos
  2. Colour is a great way to show personality – use it bravely
  3. The most interesting homes to me have a mix of things that tell you something about who lives there.

 Photos by Armelle Habib and Trudy Schuringa


  1. says

    I’ve been feeling somewhat blah recently about all the pictures daily downloaded onto my machine. But this – this was like a sock in the jaw! (in the nicest possible way). So I shall HAVE to have that glorioso pink and white floral tablecloth, and probably at least one thing with a Major Mitchell gracing it. And I shall HAVE to paint my living room in that deeply mysterious, shadowy indigo, which I’ve been dithering about for..oh…at least a year.

    Thanks Jen. I feel more awake now!