Michelle Campbell and Katy Rickards rent a house in Kensington, Melbourne, with their cocker spaniel, Ziggy. The creative couple work as a photographer (Katy), and copywriter (Michelle), and together own the in-home pet photography business, Dogfolk.
It’s hard to imagine now, but when Michelle and Katy first moved into this home over four years ago, it was rundown and unloved.
“Kensington has gone up in value since and is really quite sought-after now, but when we moved into this place it had been sitting empty for a month. That’s pretty unheard of now,” Michelle says.
“We actually got a reduction on the rent because it was that bad,” Katy says.
The addition of cosmetic updates, such as screwing several small hooks into the weatherboard walls to support indoor plants to grow across the kitchen, has made a huge difference to how the home appears today. Among these plants are two devil’s ivies, one of which was originally found neglected on the side of the road with just two burnt leaves, and the other that was Katy’s first ever plant purchase.
“The thought of moving it actually gives me anxiety!” Katy says.
There’s a lack of built-in storage in the home meaning most items are on display. The furniture is an assortment of items bought from the Camberwell Sunday Market, Facebook selling groups, Ikea, garage sales and pieces found in hard rubbish. The kitchen looks out through windows to a sunroom that has been filled with plants.
“I’m obsessed with scrapbooking, so I kind of feel like the walls are my own scrapbook pages,” Katy says.
Katy is undoubtedly the home’s main stylist, but Michelle steps in on occasion, mainly to act as a practical voice of reason! They’ve recently started observing ‘three Ps’ – price, purpose, placement – in order to justify any new items brought into the home.
“I’ve hardly had to lift a finger! Katy has put a lot of time into making our home what it is – I love all her thoughtful little touches. Although I did choose the matching pair of timber wall shelves that we drove all the way down from Byron when we had zero space in the car. I really had to convince Katy to get them, and in the end, they were the perfect fit for our space!” Michelle says.
“I could not look after plants on my own but I’m so glad that Katy loves them because I definitely appreciate it. It makes the place feel more like a retreat.”
Home is of great importance to Michelle and Katy. Not only do they spend most of their days here working from home, but this is also the first place the recently engaged couple have lived in alone after years in share houses across Melbourne and London.
“We’re both creatives and work from home a lot of the time, so it’s super important to us to live in a space that helps fuel our creativity. It’s nice to just look around our home and feel inspired. Mostly though I’d say it's the homely, welcoming vibe of our space. There’s a lot of love in our house and I think you can really feel that,” Katy says.
The couple still love walking around the neighbourhood and appreciating the area’s charm and varied houses (which remains somewhat of a novelty to Katy who’s originally from the UK). In the long term they imagine possibly moving buying property and establishing a life in Byron Bay.
Top rental styling tip?
Katy: Allll the plants! And when you think you’ve got enough, get more. Plants instantly bring life and a beautiful energy to any space. We are super lucky that we are able to hang things on our walls, but if that wasn’t the case, photographs and Washi Tape would be essential household items.
Michelle: Double-sided tape to keep floor rugs in place!
What are your most frequently searched home-related terms online?
Katy: Half the tabs on my internet browser are for ‘op-shops near me.’ Regardless of where we are, I always try to get a sneaky look in. For individual items, I feel like I have a new obsession each week. Last week was vintage wall hangers, this week it’s vintage baskets. ‘Plants for sale’ for would probably be my constant though.
Michelle: ‘How to create space when your partner is addicted to collecting hard rubbish’ ;)
What are your favourite furniture and homewares stores?
Katy: Ohh tough one! I’m pretty loyal to Savers but I love all op-shops. When it’s your time to find a little magic, any which one can deliver at any time. I did discover Hunted Antiques in Kilsyth the other week; the sheer scale of the place and its collection of vintage wares was incredible, you need the best part of the day (and all the coffee) to fully explore it. There are just so many beautiful little shops and markets to explore in Melbourne, I think I just love them all equally!
What’s the best thing about renting?
Katy: For us, probably the ability to live in Kensington at this stage in our life. House prices are so high that there’s no way we could buy here. We are in love with this area and our home, so we’re incredibly grateful for renting.
Michelle: We’re the kind of people who love our freedom and don’t like to feel too tied down, so even though we absolutely love Kensington and our home, it’s nice to know if we were ready for a change, we could move on without too much fuss. But I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.