A Designer’s Studio Set Amongst Native Bushland
Images by Tasha Tylee
Since opening our new Melbourne store on High Street, Armadale recently we’ve been spending more time in the Garden City and meeting many inspiring locals along the way. This week, we visit the studio of Tilly Barber, the founder of bespoke furniture brand Monde and vintage reseller Homebody. Tilly’s space is one big beautiful room broken up into smaller zones using clever design and strategically placed furniture, art & objects. We spoke to Tilly about bringing the studio to life, building two businesses and restoring one very special coffee table.
Tilly wears an IN BED 100% linen Shirt Dress in Khaki.
“I live with my six year old son Marley in a large studio on the family compound originally owned by prolific architect Alistair Knox. Eltham has been home for about four years with this space being ours for just a few months.”
“The space was originally built as Knox’s architectural practice, so it’s not a traditional family home by any stretch but it’s pretty good for the two of us. Living in the studio is like living in a private bush pavilion. Although it isn't large, the facade is entirely glass that opens up to five acres of native bushland. This gives the space its openness and within it I've been able to create zones for meals and entertaining, work, sleeping etc. The use of natural materials, particularly the bluestone and raw axed timber feels really primitive, almost as if the building came up from the ground on its own accord.”
“When we moved in I was perplexed by the challenge of furnishing an open plan home. My first instinct was to have shoji panels installed to create division between the sleeping and living spaces, although I might come back to this idea, I have grown to be quite fond of how the bedroom and living spaces exist as one, it is spacious, zoned and calm. In bed I can see trees from every angle; it’s an especially nice view directly above through the skylight. In the afternoon long shadows and warm light stretch into the house, creating a really nice space for reading or taking a nap with the doors open and breeze coming through, but if i'm honest, I spend most of my down time outside in the bath”
I have grown to be quite fond of how the bedroom and living spaces exist as one, it is spacious, zoned and calm.
“Accumulating artwork is such a nice slow process; I only have a handful of pieces but they all hold a story, memory or meaning. On my walls I have; a work by Camille Moir, a few weavings by my friend Anna Fiedler, a block print by Allie Webb and a commission by Sam Steinhauer aka Streetshebowka of our former eltham home ‘Stringybark’. My dear friend Zac Frankel is the maker of quite a few of the sculptures and objects in our home as is Clare Hermon of Hermon Blue and of course there are lots of treasure, sculptures and drawings by Marley dotted throughout the house. Most of the things we own are hand made or found items from curbside collection, marketplace or op-shops. Constantly sourcing and acquiring furniture for Homebody has meant some amazing pieces have passed through our home, but a piece I feel lucky to have is our coffee table. It looks unassuming but it came with the home and originally belonged to Knox - The table lifts open to reveal a storage underneath, I was told he used it to store his architectural plans.
“Monde was originally an exploration of design & manufacturing with a friend during one of the very first lockdowns - It started with a design for a soft sculptural chair and it eventually evolved into a modular sofa system. This became possible through lots of time and research, the help of local fabricators and access to technology and machining that allowed us to extrude the shape into what is now the corner component of the modular system. What began as a lighthearted lockdown project between friends formed a launching pad for us both to explore design more seriously as a career - My business partner at the time went on to RMIT to do her degree in Furniture Design and I continued to prototype, refine and develop the Monde sofa.”
What began as a lighthearted lockdown project between friends formed a launching pad for us both to explore design more seriously as a career.
“The name Monde translates to ‘People & World’ and came about as a way to address designs that are sustainable, adaptable and universal. The shape of a Monde sofa is based on the human form and designed to contour the body. The sofas are made locally from recyclable materials and they are tailored to the needs of the consumer with a large variety of premium, recyclable finishes. We see a lot of planned obsolescence, fast trends and mass consumption in the furniture industry and I hope that Monde comes up against that. Designing a good customer experience is just as important as designing a good product. Our customers are welcomed to engage with the design process and encouraged to ask important questions - such as ‘what is this made of’ ‘Who makes this’ ‘Where is it made’ ‘How long will it last?’ How do I care for this’ ‘How can this be responsibly disposed of?’ A Monde customer will be familiar with the origins of their sofa down to its core components and construction as well as know how to maintain their product and where it can be recycled at the end of its life.”
“I work for a local ceramicist and volunteer nearby at Montsalvat, a beautiful old artists colony doing restoration work as well as a bit of beekeeping here and there. I think wherever you live your sense of belonging to a community is what makes it really special. We share a fence line with some wonderful people, and I believe having good friends in close proximity out here is what makes it really, really lovely (special mention goes to Cams Bread, a local baker who prepares and delivers exceptional fresh sourdough to doorsteps of Eltham and surrounds). There is so much to say about Melbourne's Green Wedge, it is a privilege to live on the beautiful land of Wurundjeri - Willam people. The beautiful river spots, trails, parks, artists studios, markets and abundance of native wildlife are just the tip of the iceberg. It's a very special place to live.”
“[For the rest of the year] I want to explore new mediums, I have been fortunate to take on a few commissions that have given me the opportunity and confidence to explore materials and processes that I wouldn't have otherwise and I am now curious and inspired to learn and take in as much hands-on experience as possible. I am not a formally ‘qualified’ designer so often I come up against some big challenges and learning curves but really enjoy this backdoor approach to understanding production and design and am excited to see what intuitive and inquiry based learning and exploration it brings.”