An Artist’s Charming Blue and White Australian Cottage

published Sep 7, 2018

An Artist’s Charming Blue and White Australian Cottage

published Sep 7, 2018
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Name: Michelle Grayson and family
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Size: 2,874 square feet
Years lived in: 10 years, owned

Atop one of the highest residential streets of Brisbane grows a huge fig tree, and beneath its leaves is a nearly 100-year-old home. Inside this house, behind its stained glass front door, is the cozy and inviting home of Michelle Grayson, one half of the genius behind Sprout Gallery. She and her family have lived here for a decade now, and it’s a light, bright space filled with everything from family heirlooms to smart IKEA purchases.

Michelle works from home as a watercolorist, so having a beautiful and tidy space to paint in is important to her. In fact, her home is a big inspiration on her work, and vice versa. Her innate love for the color combination of blue and white shows up not only in her paintings, but also throughout her home’s furnishings. “I love to paint timeless iconic things,” she says. You will find in her paintings any number of classic elements, including hydrangeas or magnolias, a patterned teacup and saucer, or a bottle of Chanel No. 5.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: “Family heirlooms and vintage hand-me-downs meets Cape Cod.” I’m not a matchy-matchy person so I love eclectic things and anything blue and white. I have a soft spot for stripes and ticking. I’m not a leather couch person. I like couch covers and fabric. I also love white shabby chic furniture all chipped and scuffed.

Inspiration: Other like-minded artists and creative souls in general. I adore chinoiserie patterns and use this throughout my work and decor. A lot of the patterns are blue and white, which of course is my favorite to work with.

Favorite Element: I love the fact that the our house is almost 100 years old. I think it’s technically known as a Workers Dwelling or Ashgrovian—a style of home built back in the 1920s. I love the wide floorboards, the original stained glass windows, the VJ walls, high ceilings, and the French doors that open up and let all the breeze through in summer. Being perched on a hill it can get a tad windy. The verandas take up a lot of the house. That’s how they use to live. All the living was done on the verandas. There is so much character and it was all done by hand. The workmanship is amazing.

Biggest Challenge: Working within a limited space. Being an old house we lack built-in cupboards. Running my business from home makes it hard to find adequate storage. It’s amazing how creative you get when using anything and everything as storage. We also inherited beautiful old furniture heirlooms from my husband’s late mum’s childhood home. The furniture originated from a beautiful old homestead in Toowoomba. The furniture was too precious to leave but we struggle with space at present.

What Friends Say: Bright and breezy but like an old Hampton beach home with an organized clutter of artwork and eclecticism. Lots of blue and white of course.

Biggest Embarrassment: My bathroom grout. I like the bathroom replica washstand cupboard I painted but the white grouting (or should I say dirty white grouting) is embarrassing. We are keeping the existing replica washstand cupboard, changing the basin to stand atop, and laying some groovy black and white tiles (with charcoal grouting) and having a freestanding bath installed. It will be more in keeping with the house than the bathroom done in the late ’80s.

Proudest DIY: I paint a lot of furniture so it’s hard to pick out one DIY proud moment. If it’s not an expensive antique, it usually gets a hit of a white spray can. I was pretty happy with the bathroom washstand painted in Monument Grey but I was over the moon when we had the old 1920s Genoa chairs professionally reupholstered in a linen colour fabric with white piping. To protect them even further we had blue and white ticking covers with piping made for them.

I think also putting out my first range of blue and white chinoiserie cushion covers was up there as well. It was an area I hadn’t branched into.

Biggest Indulgence: Probably blue and white ginger jars or ceramics. I have so many now my husband doesn’t even know when I’ve bought a new one.

Best Advice: Because I work from home I need to start the day making the beds and tidying the kitchen and lounge after the kids go to school. I work all over the house painting, packaging, etc., so if it’s not tidy I don’t work well. It’s like starting each day with a clean canvas.

Dream Sources: Any websites showing chinoiserie ceramics or textiles. Instagram, Pinterest, interior websites (like Apartment Therapy ha ha). I love following other artists and textile designers. I still have a soft spot for Ralph Lauren and Stuart Membrey.


House exterior painted in Zinser Drought with Alabaster white trims
Front door painted in Dulux Monument Grey
Chair originally — IKEA
Blue and white check throw — Laura Ashley

Vintage blue and white ticking Genoa Chair
EKTORP white couch — IKEA
Cushions — Villa Deluxe Boutique; My Treasure Trove; Calico House and Country Road
Coffee table — Freedom Furniture
Artwork — Sprout Gallery
Vintage lamp base spray painted white with blue and white
Sachs and Cornish lamp shade from Paddington Antique Centre

Old hutch — Paddington Antique Centre
Dining table — Family antique
Chair and bench covers covered in blue and white ticking fabric from The Brisbane Fabric Market
Blue and white rug Zanui
Artwork — Sprout Gallery
Ceramics — Robert Gordon, Assortment of vintage Spode Willow Design, China from Paddington Antique Centre, Centre Bowl from Early Settler

Black and white stools — Provincial Home Living
Blue and white couches — EKTORP from IKEA
Cushions — IKEA and My Treasure Trove

Blue and white bed cover and pillows — Peacocks and Paisleys
Artwork — Sprout Gallery
Ticking cushions and window box seat — Made by local dressmaker

Washstand replica — Painted in Monument Grey
Towel and bathmat — Aegean Loom
Towel artwork — Sprout Gallery

Desk — IKEA
Spotted throw and cushion — Laura Ashley
Watercolour Elephant Artwork — Sprout Gallery
Desk chair — Freedom
Little drawers on desk — Officeworks

Alphabet doona cover — Country Road
Bed — Freedom Furniture
Star, red, white and blue throw
Lexington Cushion on chair in corner
Shelving — IKEA
Artwork on walls — Sprout Gallery

Thanks, Michelle! And a huge shout out goes to Rachael Honner for assistance in styling this home!

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