Interior designer and stylist Lisa Buxton believes interiors should have a point of view, without being fussy. Her home in Elwood, a bayside suburb in Melbourne, is testament to this.
The house, which is almost 140 years old, is full of colour and character. Buxton has adorned the walls with paintings and photography by acclaimed Australian modern and contemporary artists, including Christian Thompson, William McKinnon, Noel McKenna, Emily Ferretti and Tom Polo.
“Art was really the starting point, or inspiration for the whole design of the home,” Buxton says. “I knew the pieces I wanted in each room from the start, and then I built the rest of the story around them.
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“In the dining room, where the large Steven Harvey piece is, I wanted to play off the amazing colours in the artwork so I chose different shades of green linen to upholster the chairs, and a grey paint for the kitchen cabinetry to marry in with the art.”
In the same room, Buxton has two works by celebrated Australian painter Noel McKenna. Each piece depicts well-known symbols of New York, where Buxton lived for many years. There's one of the city's ubiquitous water towers, and the other shows Manhattan's iconic Katz's Deli.
“I love Noel McKenna's work, so I was thrilled when I saw his collection of subway tiles from his time in New York. I love that he paints about everyday life, and as he says, things that are ordinary and unremarkable. The two tiles I have are both everyday things and places, but they evoke such happy memories from my time spent in the city. My husband and I went to Katz's Deli on one of our first dates in New York, and you can't go ten steps there without seeing a water tower."
Even with its vivid canvases, the home is also peaceful and meditative with a palette of greys and blues. Many of its rooms swim in natural light throughout the day.
When the house came on the market, Buxton fell in love with its bones, its potential, and its proximity to the beach and Elwood village.
“The house was built in 1880, so it came with a gorgeous history but also a few problems,” Buxton says. “When we did the renovation, we pulled up the floorboards and found newspapers under them from the early 1900s, which were quite amazing. They were in perfect condition.
“The house is totally lopsided, which we discovered when we put in joinery,” she adds. “But considering the year it was built, it’s in amazing condition.”
Name: Lisa Buxton
Lives: In a Victorian house in Elwood
With: Husband (Ari), baby (Mila), dog (Boris)
Have you made any changes to it since you moved in?
Structurally we made a few changes. We removed all the doors from downstairs, creating large openings for more flow between the kitchen and dining area and the living areas. The kitchen was a separate room, so we knocked down the wall and now the dining and kitchen are one open area. Upstairs we changed a wardrobe into a second bathroom, and also created a laundry from an outdoor storage room.
Favourite room in the house?
The study/playroom. It’s painted in an amazing shade of blue and has beautiful morning light. My daughter and I spend hours in there playing.
Favourite item in the house?
I love the sculpture of the man bending over at the entrance, which was a Christmas present from my husband. I like that he seems to be waiting for you when you open the door. We also got a fabulous wooden Apparatus light as a wedding gift, which illuminates the sculpture so beautifully. Another special piece is the William McKinnon painting in our living room. I think his works are incredibly beautiful, and somewhat haunting. This one is quite wacky, and I can stare at it for ages and see different things. I love the fluoro frog in the building, and the fact that half the painting appears to be completely black until you look at it closely.
Favourite homeware stores and art sources?
In Australia, I love Smith Street Bazaar (great vintage finds), Modern Times, Leonard Joel, MCM House (sofas/consoles/lighting), and Station Gallery (emerging artists).
Overseas, I love Apparatus (beautiful lights, and fabulous showrooms), Rose Tarlow, Obsolete (quirky showroom with wonderful lighting and furniture), Galerie Half (the most spectacular showroom, drool-worthy pieces), BDDW (quirky knick-knacks, gorgeous consoles and tables), Nicky Kehoe (great homewares), Antony Todd (beautifully curated showroom full of special pieces).
And online, I love 1stdibs (fabulous online marketplace for everything).