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Beauty on a budget

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Industrial design graduate Eleanore Rogers wanted to prove that young people can have a stylish and creative home ‘that's enjoyable to be in and that you can do on a budget.’

So when a friend asked if she would move into a flat in central Wellington and decorate it, she was instantly on board. ‘I had a huge empty white loft in front of me and a mind full of ideas.’ Eleanore sourced secondhand furniture, frames and planters. ‘I went at them with paint from the local tip shop and upholstery fabric and tools my family had given me.’ She spent hours restoring, creating, and upcycling. Having spent her early 20s investing in furniture she finally took her collection out of her Mum’s garage and it all came together.

What was it like living in the loft?

I got excited every time I got home. The main living area is beautifully spacious, with a high stud and concrete floors. The size and layout of the space meant that all five of us could do our own thing, while still being in a social environment. At night it had a really ambient feel. The lights were dim warm tones and we had good central heating so it had a family home feel when everyone was home. We had it looking like a space that everyone enjoyed living in, so we kept it like that. It was easy because we had respect for it.

Did your Victoria Design degree help you with this project?

It gave me a broad skill base; 3D modelling, digital design, product design, furniture design and many others. I learnt the skills to build and up-cycle furniture from university as I had access to a whole workshop full of some pretty serious tools. I learnt a lot of techniques from my teachers which I used when doing the furniture for the flat.

What are some stand-out items?

The black pair of chairs. I found these in a skip bin and took them knowing they had potential as the shape was really unique. They had beige vinyl on the side and the seats were all marked. I stripped them back and was stoked to find amazing wooden arms underneath. I painted them black, did my first re-upholstering attempt and it worked out well.

The ‘marble’ table that everyone thinks is real marble. This is literally an open-sided box I got from the tip shop for $5 covered in marble look duraseal. I stuck it onto an old school desk I got for another $5 that had coloured pen scribbled all over it. When you look underneath you can still see it all. I love it because everything you put on it looks good. The perfect Insta background.

The pottery collection. Many pieces are from one of my favourite New York potters, Jonathan Adler. He does some crazy but incredible stuff. These are some of my investment pieces that cost up to $250 each. I have asked for a piece from my family almost every birthday and Christmas and have yet collected more. I’m addicted.

Wellington flats can be very dark and damp. How do you add light and warmth to a room?

Use lighter colours and have lots of layers and textures. Fill it with your favourite things like pottery, throws and some decorative pillows. I always love having a plant in my room too. Big mirrors are great as they catch and reflect light making the room feel bigger.

What do you think of the new wave of mass produced interior items – think Kmart & The Warehouse?

My mantra is to always buy good pieces from the beginning. Quality over quantity. I personally don’t like either of them because there is no longevity in their products. We end up throwing them away and it’s contributing to our mass consumer society. I understand people can’t afford expensive furniture and home ware or only need some things for a short period of time, but we should do our best to recycle wherever possible. I also am not a fan as there is generally no credit given to the designers that made the furniture that they knock off.

What are three things students can do to elevate their flats?

Add plants. They are cheap, easy and good for the air. Use magazines, design catalogs, packaging, shopping bags – anything with some interesting design on it. Frame it, put it on a coffee table, or just lean it against some shelves. Paint anything that needs a second life. You can paint over all sorts of materials and objects. If you aren’t confident with painting by brush then spray painting is super easy and can instantly transform something.

First published Capital #51


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