Many dream about renovating a home and letting their imagination take full flight, only to find themselves erring on the side of caution. Not so for Tori, an interior designer and the founder of Banbury Design Company. Beyond the emerald green front door of her home in Brisbane’s leafy south-east awaits a mesmerising world of colour and style.
When Tori and her husband Tom bought the home a decade ago, it wasn’t quite so alluring. “The house had a quick renovation by a developer,” says Tori. “It was originally a 1919 two-bedroom cottage gifted to a returned serviceman from World War I. We stepped inside and loved the natural light, but there was much we wanted to change, such as the oddly shaped rooms, the lack of flow between the house and the garden, and also the rather dark decor.”
Who lives here?
Interior designer Tori, her husband Tom, and sons Oscar, 13, and Henry, 10, plus Frankie the Mini-dachshund and Wolfhilde the German Shepherd.
When did you become a designer? Tori: “I’m a former lawyer, but I was always looking for something more creative, so I studied interior design and recently launched my own business.”
Any tips for renovation challenges? “You have to make quick decisions at times, and also some compromises.”
What’s one thing you’d love to add? “I’d love to pay homage to the World War I soldier for whom this home was built – to find a photo of him and display it.”
Best thing about decorating this home? “It’s allowed me to be so expressive and creative.”
In 2020, after renting out the house while living in Oman for several years, the couple and their two young sons returned to Brisbane ready to embark on a major renovation. Adding a pool was first on their list, and then it was time to bring the home into a new era. They tweaked the floor plan to incorporate a formal entrance, a luminous new kitchen, and revamped living and sleeping quarters. A ground-level addition included a luxe guest bedroom.
When it came to the decor, Tori took inspiration from interior designers Charlotte Coote, Martyn Bullard, Baptiste Bohu and Tamsin Johnson. Colour was also a driving factor in the creation of the interior, particularly varying shades of green. “I wanted to bring the outdoors in,” explains Tori. “People can be a little scared of colour and there is a trend to be minimalist and neutral. I appreciate that look, but I don’t necessarily want it in my own house.”
The vibrant front door opens onto a foyer, which continues the chequerboard Carrara and Nero marble tiles of the porch, but it doesn’t stop there. “I was going to have the black and white stone floor on the porch and in the entry only, but then decided to carry it through,” says Tori. “It’s beautiful to walk on — so soft and cool underfoot.”
A vintage Murano glass chandelier from Allpress Antiques hangs above a 19th-century mahogany table that once belonged to Tori’s grandmother.
Storage behind closed doors keeps clutter at bay in the beautifully planned and executed kitchen. “All the appliances have custom-made storage, so everything is hidden away until it needs to be used,” says Tori, who designed the zone with the help of Brisbane cabinet-making firm KBK.
The two-pack Shaker-style joinery in Porter’s Paints Popcorn is a crisp contrast to the island in Porter’s Paints Black Ice, set off perfectly by the Carrara marble benchtops and splashback from Project Stone. Illuminating the work and dining space are stunning 19th-century French chateau lanterns from Miguel Meirelles Antiques, as well as a ‘Double Cup’ wall light by Anna Charlesworth positioned over the sink.
“My inspiration was a traditional French boulangerie with marble tops, unlacquered brass hardware and wide benches.”– Tori
The Banker by Roy B Wilkins, Giraffe Licker by Jessie Breakwell and Portrait by Jai Vasicek dominate the wall over a custom-made American oak dining table and bench seat with a ‘Blake’ dining chair from Satara.
The floor plan may be open, but clever zoning means every square metre is used to its best advantage. In the living area, a comfy ‘Hudson’ modular sofa from Jardan is spacious enough for the whole family. Bespoke green cushions in ‘Jungle Room’ by Catherine Martin for Mokum and ‘Etna Stripe’ from Fabricut.
“Mixing contemporary and antique pieces adds to the character, charm and depth of a home.”– Tori
“This is a relaxed space with a beautiful flow to the outdoor living area,” says Tori about the casual living zone, furnished with armchairs inherited from her grandfather. “I restored and reupholstered them in a mad animal print,” she tells us.
Every piece in Tori and Tom’s bedroom was carefully considered, including the antique chest of drawers and chair. “Our bedroom has a calming energy, and the high ceilings make it feel so spacious and airy,” says Tori.
Guest bedroom and bathroom
An accent wall papered in Magnolia ‘Grandiflora’ from Magnolia Interiors reflects the greenery outside the guest bedroom. “The room has the most amazing views through its large French doors into the garden,” says Tori.
The finished interior strikes a beautiful balance between minimalist and maximalist, thanks in part to Tori’s masterful mixing of old and new. “The trick is to get the balance right,” she explains.
Tori approached the lighting scheme in a similar way, using functional contemporary fittings only when necessary, and letting eye-catching and vintage-style lamps, chandeliers and sconces steal the scene. “I do love statement lighting. I loved hunting for really unique pieces and they all have a story,” she shares. “I try to steer away from too many downlights.”
A shimmering pool is now one of the home’s top drawcards for the family, who love taking a dip here in Brisbane’s perennially mild climate. “We completely redid the garden and put in beautiful sandstone stepping stones and travertine pavers around the pool, and we also added a crazy-paved outdoor shower alcove,” explains Tori.
It comes as no surprise to hear Tori’s work in the home is far from complete. “This house will keep evolving for another 10 years or so,” she says, admitting she is constantly rearranging objects on the bookshelves and styling precious travel memorabilia. “It’s always a moving feast for me.”