Gemma and Duncan’s Dated Disaster Turned Modern Melbourne Apartment

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

Name: Gemma and Duncan Patford-Legge
Location: Brunswick; Melbourne, Australia
Size: 2 bedroom
Years lived in: 3 years; Owned

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After buying their apartment in the inner-city suburb of Brunswick three years ago, rope vessel artist Gemma Patford and graphic designer Duncan Legge were determined to turn it from drab, rundown, dated disaster to something light, airy, welcoming, and altogether more modern—with a touch of nostalgia. It was an uphill battle—the carpet was horrific, the kitchen unsightly, and the oven was sitting in the middle of the room—but the pair were determined to make something of it.

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The ’60s Tessa leather armchair and cowhide rug are both from thrift shops. (Image credit: Sophie Timothy)
(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

Rookie renovators, but with a good design sense and a fair amount of courage, Gemma and Duncan pulled down a partial dividing wall, ripped up carpet, filled in holes, created a custom galley kitchen with French doors opening onto a little courtyard, and brightened up the whole place. Now you would never guess the state it was in when they bought it. Light streams into the plant-filled space, giving the whole apartment a warm, cozy feeling.

When they bought the apartment, Gemma began using the second bedroom as a studio for her creative business hand-making and -painting rope vessels. Now that there’s a baby on the way, the pair have moved the studio out and set up a cute little nursery for baby Patford-Legge. In the peaceful room, elements of their own ’80s childhood (Cabbage Patch doll!) sit next to sleek, modern plywood furniture and a stunning Shibori blanket. Olly the cat seems quite at home in there, but only time will tell how he reacts to his new playmate…

The couple love to fill their space with objects that have a story. Pretty much everything in their place is from a thrift shop or is some kind of trade with an artist friend, according to Gemma. In fact, the kitchen has its own story. Sadly, Gemma’s dad passed away a few years ago, and Gemma had treasured a modular table he made for her. But while building the kitchen, a family friend found the table, mistook it for spare wood, and turned it into a cupboard door. Gemma says it’s all forgiven, because now her Dad’s handwriting is there whenever she opens the door—a little constant reminder.

(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Our style is very personal. Our apartment is a mix of vintage and custom-made furniture decorated with our friends’ art and family antiques. Duncan is a designer and has a great eye for where things look good. To his displeasure, I have a great eye for knick-knacks and tacky porcelain cats from the thrift store.

Inspiration: I find myself really inspired by space. The space inspired us a lot. As it is only a small apartment we really had to be creative. We tried to keep most of the furniture low-lying and the art at eye level.

Favorite Element: Our kitchen! Definitely our kitchen. Because we were space-poor, we borrowed elements from a galley kitchen in a vintage caravan. We have pots hanging from hooks and a section of the bench [counter] rolls out to be 6-person dinner table for entertaining.

Biggest Challenge: Renovating! Duncan and I were living in the house during the renovations. We were washing our dishes in buckets and eating a lot of jaffle toasted sandwiches! But this was also one of the best times in our lives. It was while we were eating breakfast in our camp/makeshift kitchen when Duncan asked me to marry him. It was pretty special.

What Friends Say: Our friends always comment on how welcoming it feels, which means a lot to us. We wanted to keep the space inviting by keeping the space open with splashes of color mixed with natural woods.

Biggest Embarrassment: I’m pregnant and constantly eating. Yesterday I couldn’t find my phone. I was convinced I lost in in the city, but when I logged into iCloud, it started beeping FROM THE COOKIE TIN!!! That was pretty sobering.

Proudest DIY: Our kitchen.

Biggest Indulgence: I wouldn’t really call this an indulgence, but I can’t recommend enough getting your art framed at a good quality fine art framer. It is worth indulging on custom framing.

Best Advice: Ride the wave, do not get hung up on what you perceive as perfection. This was the advice given to us when we were planning our renovations and our wedding. Leave some wiggle room for creativity and the end outcome will always blow your mind!


(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)


  • Dulux B6 Lexicon Half
(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)


(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)


  • Pots: Le Chasseur French oven
  • Subway tiles: Bunnings Hardware
  • Porcelain sink: IKEA
  • Kitchen stools: eBay
  • Drawers and cupboard: Castlemain Tip Shop
(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)


  • Bed linen: IKEA, Shuh, Gravel & Gold
  • Bed throw: thrift store
  • Danish chest of drawers: thrift store
  • Glory chest: made by Gemma’s father
  • ’50s desk: thrift store
  • Weaving: Brianna Martin
  • ’60s map of Europe: thrift store
(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)


  • ’60s Tessa leather armchair: thrift store
  • Pyramid shelves: Like Butter
  • Crib: IKEA
  • Plants: Mr Kitly
  • Cupboard: eBay
  • Chest of drawers: thrift store
  • Taxidermy fish: caught by the Patford-Legges
  • Baby bed linen: Mr. Draper
  • Shibori throw: Bind | Fold
  • Toys and books: thrift stores, Gemma and Duncan’s childhoods
  • Custom watercolor portrait of Olly: Dawn Tan
  • Weaving: Maryanne Moodie

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Thanks, Gemma & Duncan!