Justine Savage rents a two-bedroom unit in the coastal town of Mornington, Victoria.
This compact space is filled with hidden details, including numerous coffee table books, retro figurines, magazine clippings and plant cuttings, all of which harmoniously vie for guests’ attention.
An ever-changing arrangement of colourful and kitsch wares are on display in the home. The more collectible pieces such as the Kewpie dolls and shell vases have been purchased from online sellers who religiously seek-out these cult items, or, they have been inherited from Justine's grandmother.
Apart from the couch, the biggest ‘investment piece’ in the home is the mint furniture cabinet found on eBay.
The remaining furniture, soft furnishings and books are from local stores Greedilulu, Quirky Collective, and Page 8 where Justine works as a retail assistant. She has also recently started studying interior design and decoration at Billy Blue College of Design.
Items from larger retailers can also be found sparingly throughout, such as plant stands from Kmart, the bedroom rug from Urban Outfitters (bought secondhand) and raincoats from Gorman which serve as decorative items as much as they do pieces of clothing.
Justine’s unit is one of four on the block, all of which are owned and rented out by her friend. Having an established relationship with the landlord has afforded her the luxury to make more permanent changes than are typically allowed in a rental property. The most significant alteration has been attaching a vintage wooden mantlepiece (purchased off eBay) to the lounge room wall.
“Hopefully they sell the house to developers, otherwise I have a lot of work to do to get it back to how it was!” she jokes.
The abundance of leafy plants throughout is partially inspired by the indoor gardens of her mum’s previous homes, and Justine’s former job as a floral assistant. Recently, she’s taken to propagating cuttings from existing plants, which collectively serve as a makeshift vertical garden in the bathroom
The finishing touches on Justine’s house are those sentimental items too-often forgotten in professionally styled properties. The chipboard-mounted childhood photo of Justine and her brother, for example, was once one of several her family had on display in their home.
“I used to think that this house was never finished, but I kind of like that now. It’s a work in progress,” Justine says.
"It’s like a puzzle and it’s probably not ideal, but I like it.”
Top rental styling tip?
- Washi tape and pictures. If you aren't allowed to hang hooks, washi tape can be a cheap, effective way to hang prints or make a gallery wall of your favourite pictures.
- Greenery adds instant happiness to a room plus extreme satisfaction when your plants are thriving. Someone once told me that my place is where plants come to die! This was once true, but my fiddle leaf fig is almost two years old now. I'm not that plant killer anymore.
- Patience – buy only pieces you love.
What are your most frequently searched home-related terms online?
- A pink velvet couch! It's a dream. I have a pink obsession that's only started recently.
- Vintage lamps are another obsession. I recently bought myself a cockatoo lamp as an early birthday present, and I'm currently on the hunt for a hula girl lamp. I might have to go to Hawaii to get the real deal.
What are favourite furniture and homewares stores?
- Quirky Collective is my first stop for anything, they source the best old pieces. Someone's trash really is someone else's treasure.
- Page 8 for books, prints and unique homewares.
- Greedilulu for the most amazing soft furnishings and gorgeous pieces from around the world.
- Nature Boy Nrth for plants. It's heavenly in there with all that greenery.
What’s the best thing about renting?
Freedom and location. Being a renter allows me to work casually. I'm not tied down and am able to enjoy my beautiful seaside town. I can see the water from my front step, and live walking distance to the beach, cafes and Main Street.