Amara Speechley’s love of her Fitzroy apartment is immediately evident in the poetic way she describes its grounds. 

‘When you push through the security gate you’re immediately transported to some other place,’ says the strategist at Studio Round. ‘The gardens, particularly in the warmer months, abound with prairie-esque planters that are an ode to Piet Oudolf, and with the heritage facades hovering in the background, you really feel like you’ve stumbled upon your own little slice of Europe.’

Amara has lived here with her partner Cal Watson for over six years, including three since their son Vetiver was born.

The couple were initially unsure about the communal nature of the outdoor space, but have found this to be a real source of community. 

‘When we walked through the courtyard and saw how idyllic the gardens could be, and how removed we felt from everything that was happening around us, we just fell in love!’ says Amara. ‘All the residents here are independent, single women and have had their homes for over a decade… we were coming into a close-knit, warm community of neighbours in the truest sense.’

Cal is the director of Bespoke Landscapes, so his gardening design expertise has only added to the richness of the shared courtyard. It’s been challenging at times, due to the shaded aspects and abundance of concrete, but their desired ‘rambling, abundant feel’ has been achieved with dozens of overflowing pots.

‘Our planters are crammed and spilling with an array of whimsical grasses and florals that create a real sense of romance and wonder,’ Amara says. ‘We’ve also tried to bring larger, more established trees into the space to help with heat and make it feel more like an authentic garden.’ The couple have also trained roses, wisteria and vines to climb up surfaces, creating a sense of near abandon.

‘We’ve become quite deliberate in allowing the garden to do its own thing, and love watching surprise floral delights pop up throughout the seasons as different plants self seed, or we throw handfuls of random seedlings into the beds and just see what emerges,’ says Amara. 

Inside the apartment, a refined mix of vintage furniture pieces gives the space a distinctly nostalgic, inviting feel. The living room couch best encapsulates this style, with its bold ‘70s form and chocolate velvet.

‘Soft furnishings encourage the light to dance across rooms, art is positioned to create dialogue, furniture placements are intentional to ask each piece to reveal something about the other,’ says Amara. 

Amara and Cal are often asked how they manage to have such a well curated home with a toddler in tow, but aside from the occasional spill, they say it’s less challenging than one might expect. 

‘Vetiver is respectful of our things… he gets that just like he has some special toys that he loves and wants to keep for himself, we have some things that we love and we need to treat with care,’ Amara says.

As Vetiver grows older, Amara and Cal are seeking a little more space, so they’re embarking on a new renovation project in Brunswick.

Whoever lives here next, we’re jealous! 

Kai Kristiansen oak shelving unit from Nord. Antique cast silver candelabra found from a brocante market in the south of France. Sculpture from Bettina Willner from Modern Times. Vintage single candle ceramic holder. Patt Brassington print from Deuce. MCM House ‘Kiki’ desk chair. Featherston ‘Numero vii’ modular sofa from CCSS. Den Holm sculpture. Hummelo by Piet Oudolf. Vintage rose sculpture. Salvaged print. Sculpture from Edit E. Found textured ceramic vase. Sculpture of woman’s head by Kristiina Engelin. Winter Trees‘ by Ria Green. Art and Queer Culture by Catherine Lord + Richard Meyer. Vintage brutalist chair from CCSS. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Found round vase. Kai Kristiansen oak shelving unit from Nord. Vintage single candle ceramic holder. Den Holm sculpture. Sculpture from Edit E. Found textured ceramic vase. Vintage rose sculpture. Woman head sculpture by Kristiina Engelin. Winter Trees painting by Ria Green. Art and Queer Culture by Catherine Lord + Richard Meyer. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Amara Speechley, Cal Watson, and Vetiver Fox (3). Kai Kristiansen oak shelving unit from Nord. Antique cast silver candelabra found from a brocante market in the South of France. Sculpture from Bettina Willner from Modern Times. Single candle ceramic holder, vintage. Featherston Numero vii modular sofa from CCSS. 1970s chrome and smoked glass coffee table from Modern Times. Aalto Alvar vase. ‘Design & Violence‘ book Anne Marie Slaughter. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Featherston ‘Numero vii’ modular sofa from CCSS. 1970s chrome side table from Casser Maison. Woman head sketch by Stacey Reese from Modern Times. Antique French head sculpture from CCSS. Limestone sculpture by Jessica Tremp. Ceramic sculpture and small ceramic vessel by Dasa. Sculpture from Edit E. Tall Vase (on sideboard) from Porcelain Bear. Brass oil burner by Henry Wilson x Aesop. Marshall speaker. Holmegaard/Le Klint Lamp from Angelucci. Mid-century sideboard/bar from Homebody. 1970s travertine honed dining table in the style of Angelo Mangiarotti. Brutalist chair from CCSS. Antique Jacobean ‘Barley Twist’ dining chair. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Featherston ‘Numero vii’ modular sofa from CCSS. Herringbone wool blanket from Lee Mathews. Linen curtains by Hale & Mercantile. 1970s chrome and smoked glass coffee table from Modern Times. Aalto Alvar vase. 1970s chrome side table from Casser Maison. Woman head sketch by Stacey Reese from Modern Times. Antique French head sculpture from CCSS. Limestone sculpture by Jessica Tremp. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Mid-century sideboard/bar from Homebody. Sculpture from Edit E. Tall vase from Porcelain Bear. Brass oil burner by Henry Wilson x Aesop. Marshall speaker. Holmegaard/Le Klint Lamp from Angelucci. 1970s travertine honed dining table in the style of Angelo Mangiarotti. Brass brutalist chair bought at auction. Brutalist chair from CCSS.  Antique Jacobean ‘Barley Twist’ dining chair. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Antique chopping boards and fruit bowls found on adventures through France. Crockery, jars and gadgets collected by the family over the years. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

View from our kitchen into the living areas. ‘Vagabond in Gold Jacket’ by Nunzio Miano. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Antique French oak bed. Timber shelves handmade by Cal. Linen globe pendant by Sibella Court. Vintage oak drawers. Vintage Squiggle lamp. Toys, treasures and keepsakes from friends and family throughout the years.  Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

Vintage, antiques, gifts and keepsakes gifted or gathered throughout Vetiver’s life. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

‘Our planters are crammed and spilling with an array of whimsical grasses and florals that create a real sense of romance and wonder,’ Amara says. ‘We’ve also tried to bring larger, more established trees into the space to help with heat and make it feel more like an authentic garden.’ Photo – Tim O’Connor

Salvaged black-stained timber bedside table. Antique brass and lace lamp from Inventory by Rachel. Marble tray topped with Amara’s ‘nightly potions’. Landscape watercolours by Amara. Antique French oak king bed. Linen bedspread and cushions from Hale Mercantile. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

The paved back terrace holds an antique garden set. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

View from Amara and Cal’s bedroom window in the courtyard. Cal is lounging with Pearl the bulldog on an antique garden set. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

The courtyard garden at a greener, leafier time of year! Photo – Tim O’Connor

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