Paula and Pete Mills are very well-travelled, having lived in 12 homes and three countries in their 16 years of marriage. So clearly it would take something extremely special to have them stay put… well let me tell you, their gorgeous Melbourne home doesn’t disappoint!
Situated 25 km out of the CBD, this weatherboard backs onto Warrandyte State Park. Surrounded by bush on all sides, Paula immediately fell in love, and as a result they’ve only done minimal work in their five years of living there. “We just made small changes as we thought we may do a big extension one day,” she explains. “We took down two internal walls and opened up the kitchen and living room and then we pretty much whitewashed everything! I find I need a clean palette when I start a project.”
While the backdrop of the house may be white, the home is the opposite of minimalist, filled to the brim with a mixture of both vintage and modern pieces and beautiful colours, pattern and textures. “My style changes, but I’d say it’s currently modern bohemian. I love Indian and Moroccan patterns; really I’m all about colour and pattern. I can’t get enough of it! But then I do also like the Scandinavian look, which you can see in the while floors. So I guess there’s a bit of everything.”
Finding her furniture and wares from all around the world (they’re both originally from South Africa and have also lived in England), Paula isn’t one for expensive high street purchases, believing her taste changes too much to invest in something that she knows she could never love forever. Rather, her favourite purchases are from quirkier spots, like junk shops, deceased estates and eBay.
“One of the pieces I get the most comments on is my pink dining table. It was a really lucky find. We went to a deceased estate auction in an old 1950s house and everything was being auctioned. I saw this pink table in the pool room and it was the last thing to be auctioned for the day, but I was determined to get it and I did!” Other great finds include their distressed fireplace — found in a junk shop on a camping trip — their living room couch off eBay and two classic couches Paula got reupholstered.
Also living here are Paula and Pete’s three girls (eight, 10 and 12), who all share the large bedroom downstairs. If it’s anything like my childhood home, I imagine this being absolute mayhem, but for Paula and her family it actually works! “We’re very drawn to the tiny house movement. We love that kind of thinking that you can learn so much from each other having to share a space. Also, it’s a big room, they’ve each got their own space and as I keep telling them, I shared a room with my sister when I lived at home! We um and ah about whether we really need more space or if it just some luxury we think that’s owed to us?”
However, what did matter to Paula was that she had enough space to run her stationery and art business, Sweet William Prints. Having transformed what was originally a bedroom into a studio, Paula gets the opportunity to work freely, spend time with the kids and, as she likes to say, have a messy room! “I feel very grateful to have my own studio. I can leave all my pens out and don’t have to pack away all my mess. It’s also got all this stuff stuck up on the wall — almost like a large pin board that will change all the time, whatever I am excited by.”
Photography by Paula Mills