A Weaver Uses Unconventional Storage Beautifully in Her Melbourne Home

published Oct 26, 2022

A Weaver Uses Unconventional Storage Beautifully in Her Melbourne Home

published Oct 26, 2022
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Name: Mary Burgess and dog, Abbey
Location: Clifton Hill — Melbourne, Australia
Size: Two-story townhouse
Years lived in: 22 years, owned

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“When I was looking for a new home for my teenage daughter, we wanted either two living spaces or three bedrooms — one for an office/studio,” begins handweaver Mary Burgess. “I managed to get both with this apartment. It’s a two-story townhouse in a block of six with shared front gardens. I love how the different spaces work for me, and have evolved with my changing needs over the years. My home very much reflects my work with its weaving equipment and textiles as decoration, but much of it is also practical and in regular use.” 

Mary says the neighborhood her townhouse is in feels a little bit like a “time warp — people walk a lot, chat to each other, help each other out and know the names of each other’s dogs and the shop keepers!” But the home that she’s lived in for 22 years has a timeless quality, filled with special items collected over the years, and with an interior that has a strong focus on textiles.

“So much of my wall decoration and blankets are woven textiles I have collected on my travels,” she writes. “These pieces are a constant inspiration. I also collect old weaving equipment such as shuttles and bobbins. They have the wonderful patina of use and mainly come from France, the UK, and Laos. My three weaving looms are also beautiful old objects in their own right, specially my 75-year-old floor loom made from a beautiful Australian timber called Silky Oak.”

And while Mary’s handwoven work is beautiful visually, it’s also beautiful in another way: “For the last eight years my business Woven Memories has focused on weaving with the clothes of loved family members who have died. What I make depends on what each of my clients would like made to hold precious memories and honor their loved one,” she explains. “We work together to create woven items for the future. My current project is a bedspread for a woman whose husband died unexpectedly and far too young.” 

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My style has gradually evolved and become more defined with time. The basis is always to use warm older timber pieces where possible as furniture and decorate with interesting vintage textiles on walls and over chairs, couches, and beds. From there I have added art, mostly landscapes and old prints, including some of my own very amateur water colors. For storage I have gone for woven baskets, old rusty metal grape washing boxes, stationary files, drawers, and cardboard boxes and folders from the 1930s and ’40s — including one of my father’s. Wherever possible when I need something I will aim to get something vintage rather than new.

Inspiration: My daughter bought me Sibella Court’s book “Bowerbird” for Christmas probably 10 years ago. This spoke to me and legitimized my collecting and helped me realize it could be carefully curated to create specific looks. Then I discovered her other books at my library. Instagram has been a huge influence and my excitement at finding “The Natural Home” by Hans Blomquist has not abated — I bought it as soon as I discovered it.  His capacity to use plants, a subtle highlight color and controlling a color palette are such powerful lessons. However my greatest inspiration in the few years has been Lynda Gardner and her recent book “Curate.” Learning how to choose and layer items on shelves and attach them to walls in a casual apparently haphazard way has changed how I decorate. Her style always gives the sense things have somehow just falling into place by themselves!

Favorite Element: Hard to say, but I think it is looking at a different beautiful Eucalypt out of every window of my apartment and I love having a view of the city at night from the upstairs bedrooms.

Biggest Challenge: I’m a collector, and originally would buy without thought of where something would go or why I wanted it. I inevitably had too much stuff! I learned to be far more selective, and go for quality not quantity. In fact when shopping in a vintage market my question to myself now is “Would Hans or Lynda buy this?” If the answer is “no” I don’t purchase it!

Proudest DIY: I wanted a cupboard with open drawers for my studio but I wanted an industrial aged early 20th century look. I bought old painted timber shelving with 10-deep square spaces — it had probably held rolls of fabric. It was too big to get up my stairs! First step was the help of a neighbor who cut it in half, reducing the depth. It then sat in my courtyard covered up through endless lockdowns and winter. Finally it came inside and made it up the stairs! Then I sourced 10 old rusty grape washing boxes as the drawers.  Each one has a luggage tag hand printed with the contents. It is exactly how I visualized it, but it took two years to achieve!

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? The spaces have been very much interchangeable over the 22 years or so I have been here: the primary bedroom was my daughter’s when she was growing up, second bedroom my office. Now I have a guest bedroom where the home office was and my home weaving studio in the primary bedroom. I’ve also focused my courtyard into an outdoor room, with spaces for eating, sitting, and a vintage French metal day bed. I love this flexibility.  

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Lots of storage to keep the practical things that don’t fit with your aesthetic out of sight. I have used old industrial shelving and cupboards, old file boxes — often covered in great papers, and cardboard boxes with patina. Storage does not need to be plastic!

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? I shop mainly in vintage markets and shops. Have a list of the things you are still looking for when you go shopping. That way you can make fast decisions when you see one of the things you have on your list. It also helps to reduce impulse buying.

Thanks Mary and Abbey!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity. 
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