Homeward bound: Australian designers show us what they’re doing, reading, creating while they #stayhome

“My home is the place that gives me a big warm hug after a long hard day, allows me to rest and in turn nurtures the soul,” says Kym Ellery. As one of a handful of designers Vogue has asked to open the door on their homes – and yes this means their books, their playlists – it has thrown into relief truths about the powerful connection we all feel to our living spaces, come alive by our forced time spent there out of necessity.

With our sights set on the path out of the pandemic, we are still finding our own rhythms and our creatives, often travelling, frequently designing at break-neck speed to keep up with the pace of seasons as they stood pre-Covid-19, are no different. Finding stimulation, mental respite, interaction and rediscovering modes we had left behind in the wake of our busy lives has become a binding factor, though we are all separate. It has also been the catalyst for introspection.

Everyone, creatives inclusive, are considering what being home means to them including how it figures into their personal and creative lives. For Ellery, living in Paris, it has provided a feeling of sanctuary and indeed connection to loved ones back home in Australia. “It keeps me close to my family, holding the trinkets that I have kept from over the years,” the designer says citing her mum’s ceramics and an antique scuba torch her father rescued from the ocean floor. “Pre-pandemic I always related to my home as my safe space to come to and just stop and breathe, then pack the next suitcase. Now, I feel like I still relate to my home in the same way but I just get more time to relax and enjoy it…Sometimes amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life you can forget to just be still.”

Doing their part to flatten the curve, and in an ode to being still, here our home-grown design talent share what they’re watching, which skills they’re practicing, recipes they’re cooking – and then what they’re doing when they want to shrug all of that off, and simply reset.  

See the full story in the next issue of Vogue Australia.

Kym Ellery, of Ellery, Paris

What are you listening to?
“Cub Sport, Tierra Whack, Lion, Mal Waldron and Paula Cole.”

The one song that’s top of your playlist?
Hawaiian Party by Cub Sport – j’adore.”

What are you cooking most at home?“[Vogue Australia fashion director] Christine Centenera’s recipe for seed and nut bread.”

Dish you’ve attempted?“My isolation buddy Emily has been teaching me her recipe for Japanese okonomiyaki pancakes – they are so delicious!”

Skills you’re working on while in isolation?
“I have been taking online painting classes with my friend and artist Dagmar Cyrulla who lives in Melbourne. She is teaching me how to use oil paint and work on tone and composition. It’s so fun! It is like being back at school.”

New skill you’ve acquired?“I have been practising yoga almost every day so my vinyasa is getting a lot better. I love to tune into Humble Warrior [@wearehumblewarrior] on Instagram — you should check it out.”

Movie or TV series to re-watch during this time?“I have a list of movies that my friends and I wrote this summer that as a group we considered the best movies of all time. The Godfather is planned for this evening, then Citizen Kane. I am also obsessed with Val Garland in the Netflix series Glow Up. DING DONG DARLING!”

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on?
“Quite the opposite actually. I have been using this time to wear new looks before launching them in public on the Parisian streets. My biggest fans are the guys that work at the fruit store below my apartment. We yell and wave at each other across the street and they say things like ‘tres jolie!’ and ‘super chic!’ I love it.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?“Being able to walk along the sidewalks of Paris through the buzz of the city, to be able to meet my friends after work at the latest ‘Le Fooding’ recommended restaurant and to be able to cheers and say ‘santé!’ but this time with much more meaning.”

2/11

Laura May Gibbs, Nagnata, Byron Bay 

What are you listening to?“John Carroll Kirby, Meditations in Music, Travel and Conflict for instrumental music while I write and design. Afro Psychedelica and Townes Van Zandt Radio on Spotify for some Folk and Blues.”

The one song that’s top of your playlist?“Solange Losing You and Gold Zebra Love, French Better. They get me dancing around the studio when I’m feeling flat.”

Dish you’ve perfected?“Edamame pasta with tomato and kale sauce. Also, my friends love my medicinal mushroom hot chocolates I make of a morning.”

Skills you’re working on while in isolation?“Studying online. Finishing my astronomy and physiology yoga teacher training course I started three years ago.”

New skill you’ve acquired?“Teaching myself Qigong.”

 Best thing you’ve read so far?Life With Picasso by Francoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, for escaping into an artist’s mind. We Can’t Do This Alone: Jefferson Hack The System, an old art book I’ve been flicking through with some relevant thoughts on art and activism. Make A Living Living by Nina Karnikowski – a great isolation read for aspiring creatives by a close friend of mine who’s a travel writer.”

Movie or TV series to re-watch during this time?
“Episodes of Girls. Also, I recommend watching the premier online for indie aboriginal documentary In My Blood it Runs. Our Aboriginal communities are at high risk during Covid-19, you can support through their website.” 

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on?“All of my Nagnata is on high rotation.”

How are you staying active?“Self-yoga practice, Hustl classes online and beach walks.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?“Living in a more awakened world.”  

3/11

Camilla Freeman-Topper, of Camilla and Marc, Sydney 

Top of your playlist?
Boys Don’t Cry or Close to me by The Cure”

What are you cooking most at home?“My intention for this isolation period is to rediscover old recipes and also experiment with new recipes. I haven’t had the time to try… So far so good with only a handful of disasters! Food for me is always about creating memorable family traditions and keeping it simple, enjoying the process. I’m cooking Scaloppine alla funghi, eggplant parmigiana, sticky beef or lamb ribs, lots of different types of marinated and then roasted chickens, baked gnocchi dishes, any type of salad.”

Dish you’ve attempted, or plan to attempt?
“[Chef and artist] Laila Gohar’s traditional hummus. Takes time, but worth every chickpea shelled.”

New skill you’ve acquired?“TikTok renegade dance routine with my kids.”

Books you’re reading next?“Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers and Less by Andrew Sean Greer.”

What do Saturday nights look like in your house right now?
“A lot of cooking with the whole family getting involved and once the kids are asleep a Zoom video with a bunch of close friends.”

Best new tech discovery that you’ve been using?“The simple yet amazing AirPods Pro. Couldn’t live without them.”

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on?“The Camilla and Marc Kennedy leggings from our new activewear collection.” 

How are you staying active?“I’m walking at least seven km every day with and without the children, at-home Kayla Itsines workout once the kids are asleep and lots of dancing with my children.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“Big hugs with my friends and family.”

4/11

Anna Plunkett, Romance Was Born, Sydney

The one song that’s top of your playlist?
“Cigarettes After Sex, Apocalypse.”

What are you cooking most at home?
“Vegetables.”

Skills you’re working on while in isolation?
“Photoshop skills, I loathe Photoshop.”

New skill you’ve acquired?
“Making a gif; I’m not very tech savvy.”

Best thing you’ve read so far?
“An article my friend Stanislava [Pinchuk] sent me about the one-for-one free coffee system that people have been doing in Napoli for a really long time [Caffè Sospeso, or ‘suspended coffee’, where strangers buy two cups of coffee, drinking only one and leaving one paid for, for someone less fortunate to have when they ask for one]. She said it’s so kind and beautifully unspoken…. I couldn’t agree more.”

Book you’re reading next?
Modern Love, The Lives of John and Sunday Reed, by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan. My brother gave it to me so long ago, so I’m happy to finally make the time to read it.

Movie or TV series to re-watch during this time?
Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on? 
“My Jenny Kee Galah knit.”

What are you most grateful for?
“My health.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“Giving my best friend and her daughter a big hug and kiss!”

5/11

Bianca Spender, Sydney

What are you listening to?
“Frank Ocean. He is just so smooth and upbeat and always keeps me smiling and dancing.”

What are you cooking most at home?
“I am loving vegetable soups at the moment with the cooler weather.”

Dish you’ve attempted, or plan to attempt?
“Everything Ottolenghi, especially with eggplant.”

New skill you’ve acquired?
“Woodcraft of whittling wood and tying knots with the kids to make anything!”

Movie or TV series to re-watch during this time?
“All the Studio Ghibli and Tim Burton films with the kids.”

What do Saturday nights look like in your house right now?
“Games night the favourite being Bananagrams with extended family over face time.”

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on? 
Florence collage skirt, perfect with a black turtleneck or a white T-shirt.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“Things being different – I hope we will have taken this time to work out how we can build a bright new future.”

6/11

Ilona Hamer, Matteau, New York 

What are you listening to?
Beautiful Boy by John Lennon, Oogum Boogum by Brenton Wood, Agboju Logun by Shina Williams, Moonlight in Vermont by Ahmad Jamal, California Dreamin’ by Jose Feliciano, Lady Day and John Coltrane by Gil Scott Heron.”

Skills you’re working on while in isolation?
“I’ve been drawing with pastels to make cards for friends and my husband has been giving me guitar lessons. It’s been nice to do things outside my normal day-to-day and just enjoy the process and vulnerability of using a different part of the brain and not totally know what you’re doing.”

Best thing you’ve read so far? 
“Jordan Malane actually sent me this fantastic old book, The Private World of Picasso by David Douglas Duncan. Duncan was a photojournalist who covered World War II and after an assignment he happened to be in Cannes in the south of France, thought he would try his luck at Picasso’s door at Villa California to see if he could take some portraits of him. He ended up spending three months with Jacqueline and Picasso, documenting his work, play and family all in the most intimate of places – his home.”

What do Saturday nights look like in your house right now?
“At about 5pm we try to put a record on, pour a tequila or Campari and soda and catch up with each other on what we worked on that day or ideas for things to do in the coming days and work out dinner plans. It’s nice to take proper moments together to break and engage with each other rather than just zooming through life as we so often do.

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on?
“Vintage Levi’s.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“Freedom. Summer. Long days at the beach. Holidays. Friends. More love.”

7/11

Kit Willow, KitX, Sydney

What are you listening to?
“Jack Peñate, Tame Impala, Feathered Sun, Caribou.”

Dish you’ve perfected?
“Pavlova.”

Dish you’ve attempted, or plan to attempt?
“Curry.”

Skills you’re working on while in isolation?
“Patience, stillness, acceptance, surrendering.”

What do Saturday nights look like in your house right now?
“Beaucoup Rose and dancing solo in living room!”

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on?
“Activism tees!”

How are you staying active?
“Yoga always and walking, walking, walking.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“A sweaty jam-packed dance floor with fabulous music – all night long.”

8/11

Lee Mathews, Sydney 

The one song that’s top of your playlist?
Harvest Moon, Neil Young.”

What are you cooking most at home?
“Pasta… homemade.”

Dish you’ve attempted, or plan to attempt?
“Paella.”

Best thing you’ve read so far?
The Beauty of Everyday Things by Soetsu Yanagi.”

Book you’re reading next?
No Friend But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani.”

Movie or TV series to re-watch during this time?
The Sopranos.”

Best new tech discovery that you’ve been using?
“Various new forms of communication… overwhelming.”

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on?
Cotton Workroom shirt [by Lee Mathews].”

How are you staying active?
“Walking Ted my dog… a lot!”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“Having dinner with friends and going to Tasmania!”

9/11

Nicky Zimmermann, Zimmermann, Sydney 

What are you listening to?
“Our team has been putting together different Sportify playlists which I’ve loved – the Friday Night Quarantini one has got a workout.”

The one song that’s top of your playlist?
“Anything Bowie.”

Dish you’ve attempted, or plan to attempt?
“I only plan to eat! Actually… I do my own coffee and [I’m] getting good with my coffee machine. Does that count?”

Skills you’re working on while in isolation?
“You’re kidding right? My skill is trying to work out how to use the technology with my team and to keep a collection moving. There’s no learning origami over here!”

New skill you’ve acquired?
“I can dye my own hair!”

Best thing you’ve read so far?
Such A Fun Age [by Kiley Reid] which was recommended by friend Sophie Lee.”

Movie or TV series to re-watch during this time?
“I started re watching Lord of the Rings.”

Best tech discovery that you’ve been using?
“Touchnote – send post cards from my phone.”

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on?
“One of our cashmere sweaters.”

What are you most grateful for?
“Lots of things. The health of my friends and family. That I can still design. Living in Australia. There’s so much to be thankful for at the moment.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“Going out to dinner with a big group of friends and going on holidays somewhere fun.”

10/11

Deborah Sams, Bassike, Sydney

What are you listening to?
The New Abnormal, by The Strokes.”

Dish you’ve perfected?
“Homemade pesto pasta with basil from our garden.”

Skills you’re working on while in isolation?
“My listening skills.”

Book you’re reading next?
“To complete the book I am halfway through, titled Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup [by John Carreyrou].”

What do Saturday nights look like in your house right now?
“Lately we have been getting takeout margaritas and Mexican from Alma in Avalon and catching up with my girlfriends on Zoom.”

One hero piece of clothing you’re depending on? 
“Slouch jersey pants and cashmere knits, with matching socks. All in tonal grey marle.”

How are you staying active?
“Virtual yoga classes with @modernmovementyoga. Spending time in the garden, walks with my Pomeranian, Butch, bike riding, swimming and surfing as much as possible.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“Being able to do the things we take for granted like seeing our friends and family. They are the things I miss the most.”

11/11

Marina Afonina, Albus Lumen, Sydney

What are you listening to?
“Soundtrack to Call Me By Your Name has been my fave for a long time.”

The one song that’s top of your playlist?
Lady, Lady, Lady by Giorgio Moroder from the same soundtrack.”

What are you cooking most at home?
“I love cooking, especially now that I have lots of time. Trying to be healthy and making lots of soups and other healthy options. But of course, we like to be naughty too so we have truffle mushroom pasta on a menu. And baking sometimes as my son loves to create different desserts.”

Dish you’ve attempted, or plan to attempt?
“I haven’t braved a stone-fruit tart yet.”

Skills you’re working on while in isolation?
“Ceramics. Love experimenting with clay.”

Best thing you’ve read so far?
“I’m going back to reading biographies. Always in Vogue, by Edna Woolman Chase and Ilka Chase. And 1954 [by George Orwell] gifted to me by my ex fashion director Claudia Navone.”

Movie or TV series to re-watch during this time?
“Definitely movies from ‘90s or old Italian and French movies that I grew up on. My old time fave: Alain Delon and Romy Scneider The Swimming Pool and also Angélique and the King with Michele Mercier. And anything with Sophia Loren.”

Best tech discovery that you’ve been using?
“Polaroid camera. Loving capturing all my moments in old school style.”

How are you staying active?
“Trying to walk/run as much as I can but also quite enjoy doing workouts with Cindy Crawford 1990s workout at home that I used to do in my teen years.”

What are you most looking forward to when normalcy finally returns?
“Seeing my family and friends.”

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