Kushla Ross, her daughter Tatanja Ross, and Tatanja’s partner Oliver Page-Dutton rent a three-bedroom house in Melbourne’s West Footscray.
Their home is a hub of colour, creativity and design, embodying elements of their respective passions and careers. Kushla is a graphic designer for her business Studio Cahoots, Tatanja is a photographer and videographer for her business On Jackson Street, and Oliver is an artist and textile design student.
This house has been rented by Tatanja for about two years, with Kushla joining her shortly after, and Oliver moving in more recently.
Prior to moving to this house, Tatanja had been living in various Melbourne rentals (from a share house in North Melbourne, to a homestay setup in North Balwyn), Oliver was living in Sydney where he grew up, and Kushla was living in Darwin. Originally, Tatanja and Kushla are from New Zealand.
“Darwin is full of people on their way to somewhere else…I said I’d stop there on the way to Brisbane and I was there for 10 years,” Kushla says.
The entire home is decorated with pieces that reflect each of their personalities, while still managing to look and feel cohesive.
The main living space features Oliver’s own paintings, books from Tatanja’s childhood, retro video game consoles, a kitchen bench on wheels bought off Gumtree, and parts of Oliver’s toy collection.
“I’m not really collecting a specific kind of toy or character – it’s just what I like…I got a lot of them from Japan and a place in the city, All Star Comics. The guy who runs it sells off his collection sometimes,” Oliver says.
Kushla in particular has a love of ‘randomly impractical’ decorative items. For example, she still reminisces about a huge glass jar filled with old bingo balls that she regrettably didn’t buy from the Chapel Street Bazaar.
“She has been talking about it for years. She brings it up a lot,” Tatanja says.
“I like really industrial-looking things. Things that have been well-worn, used and were once practical,” Kushla says.
Tatanja and Oliver's bedroom/studio is a particularly special space, covered in art, notes and hidden mementos. Oliver works mainly from the desks set up in this room, Kushla's office is in the open-plan kitchen and lounge area, and Tatanja rotates her workspace throughout the home to suit the the time of day and task at hand.
The backyard is large enough for their dog Rosie to play in and is also host to several thriving citrus trees, apple trees, and a huge fig tree spilling over from their neighbour’s fence.
“In Darwin we lived on nine acres, so there was lots of space and it was really lovely and quiet. I was up for city living but I came here a few months before moving properly and I wasn’t sure how I’d cope, and how Rosie would cope, with a small backyard,” Kushla says.
“So when Tatanja found this spot, it was just perfect. It’s a really nice family environment, low-key, with lovely people on the street and a big backyard.”
This household have grown to really appreciate the close-knit feel of West Footscray, which is evident in the Inner West Buy Swap & Sell Facebook page, community groups, nearby sporting clubs, and local supermarket that always has a park out the front.
“I play in a sports team that’s practically made up of people just from this street…It’s a really nice community of people – really supportive,” Kushla says.
“This is the best suburb I’ve ever lived in…We’d like to stay in the west,” Tatanja says.
This feature marks the first occasion Tatanja and her home have been photographed, as her line of work typically sees her being the person behind the camera. Her recently released book, Thanks for Having Me, is an intimate look at the workspaces of various Melbourne creatives, and is well worth having a look at!
Top rental styling tip?
T & O: Washi tape, Velcro hangers and lots of plants. We like maximalism, but everything we have has been collected over a long period of time, so don't be discouraged if you've just moved into a new space and can't fill it. In the meantime, you could put up silly drawings, love letters, pictures of your family, little mementos and clipped flowers to feel at home. Decorate your safe space in a way that is accessible, achievable and fun for you.
K: Use local networks to find character pieces that add charm to your space, without costing a fortune. They don't necessarily have to be purchased at the same time, or all fit together – sometimes what makes them work is that they're all pieces you love.
What are your most frequently searched home-related terms online?
T & O: Anou rugs, plants, Garfield plushies and pillowcases, cork bench, drum kits, comics and Japanese toys!
K: Vintage, industrial trolleys or shelves. At the moment, I'm looking for a well-loved, ex-library display trolley.
What are your favourite furniture and homewares stores?
T & O: Any place we can buy furniture secondhand or affordably! Savers for glassware, ceramics and gardening books, specifically Footscray Savers for some wild Garfield finds.
Also the side of the road. Your local trash could be our next treasure.
What is the best thing about renting?
T & O: Accessibility to move around when we need/want to.
K: Living in a beautiful home without a lifelong commitment.
Furniture and homewares in this home are from the following sources…
Independent designers and artists: Tae Parvit, The Seven Seas, Glom Press, Ryan Heshka, Robert Bowers, Dean Delandre, Ghostpatrol, Evie Cahir, Cat Rabbit, Sandra Eterovic, Nathan Nankervis, Mechelle Bounpraseuth, Daisy Watt, Lizzi Morris, Ai Nishimoto, Alice Oehr, Lee Lai, Keep Brave, Maddy Young
Other: Secondhand/opportunity shops, Gumtree, eBay, hard rubbish, Japan