Home of the week
Generation game … "I remember family meals at this table at my grandmother's house from age five."
Entering Bonnie Ashley and Neil Downie's home, with its interior decor featuring cockatoos, galahs, kangaroos and native flora, visitors could be forgiven for assuming it belonged to a couple of born-and-bred Australians. But for Ashley, from New Zealand, and Downie, a Scotsman, an appreciation for their adopted environment has inspired their interior style – and informed the designs for their homewares company, Bonnie and Neil.
Eight years ago, the leafy garden attracted the couple to the two-bedroom weatherboard home in Brunswick, Melbourne. "It had some well-established trees – jacaranda, magnolia and fig," says Ashley, an ex-florist and keen gardener. "Another drawcard was the location; it's a great mix of industrial and residential, and the community is eclectic."
Downie's skills as a designer and furniture maker have been well utilised in the renovation of the home. "Neil built a new kitchen and bathroom, and because we wanted to stay true to the original house, we used as many salvaged materials and fixtures as possible," says Ashley. "Often we'll bring home new furniture or new cushions from the studio, which will prompt a change in the colour or layout of a room."
The home's hub is the dining room adjoining the kitchen, with its tapestry feature wall. "For years I've been collecting tapestries, and each holds a story about when and where it was discovered," says Ashley. Another wall is lined with Tasmanian-oak bookshelves made by Downie, and central to the room is a beautiful 1940s dining table.