December 11, 2023

Kathleen Prentice takes furniture seriously. She spends her days designing for hotels across the globe at her day job with Bar Studio. She also runs her own award-winning eponymous homewares label, turning out experimental forms in timber, aluminium, leather and rope.

Which is why her Fairfield share house in Melbourne’s north contains so many signature Bell Bottom stools – made to order in Australia from 100 per cent recyclable aluminium and powder-coated in bold colours.

Also, curvy Melt Console tables. And Displaced benches, created from timber and rope.

“I have a lot of work scattered through the house,” Prentice tells Broadsheet. “In my bedroom I have the first piece of furniture I designed and made at uni – my bedside table with a leather sling and terrazzo top. It holds fond memories.

“I have a bench prototype and stool prototype in my bedroom, plus a few pieces in the rest of the house. I also store orders here until they are ready to go to their new homes. I don’t have a separate studio; all the magic happens right here.”

But living with childhood best friend Gemma, and Gemma’s partner Jamie, it’s not all grind. Together with Prentice’s partner – a frequent visitor at the mid-century home – they’ve instituted a lot of good times in the leafy back garden, especially when the paddling pool comes out on sunny days.

They get involved in Prentice’s furniture label, too. “I do all my design work at home,” she explains. “I start with 3D modelling pieces and producing prototypes. I also do a lot of photography at home, often with the help of my roommates. They love getting involved in the process.”

Name: Kathleen Prentice

Lives: In a plant-filled ’50s suburban share house with my best couple friends – we all enjoy the garden and a sunny beer together.

Since: The middle of Covid.

With who: Gemma and Jamie (roommates and partners) and their cat, Captain.

Have you made any changes architecturally since you moved in?

We’ve installed floating shelves in the sunroom, bathroom and bedrooms. We have also given the place a paint job here and there, along with upgrading the front garden. There is so much we would do if we owned the place – starting with ripping up the ’50s lino in the kitchen to expose the beautiful hardwood floor and updating the bathroom. I quite often find myself renovating the space in my head. It has so much potential.

What made you fall in love with the house in the first place?

We fell in love with the bedroom and living room windows – they create so much natural light and really open up the space. Also the mid-century character and cute little quirks, like the drop-down kitchen display shelves and curved bench. We moved into this house in the peak of Covid coming from a small apartment in Brunswick, so it was nice to have a more spacious living situation. We often set up the beach umbrella with a paddling pool on heatwave weekends, creating our own inner-city oasis.

Can you describe the house’s vibe?

This place is a quintessential 1950s Aussie home, plant-filled with mid-century quirks. We don’t have a solid approach to the decor – it’s a mixture of our furniture combined, which all seems to work. There are pops of my designs throughout the space, as well as found and vintage furniture, some high-end design pieces and artwork collected or gifted from friends.

What is the neighbourhood like?

We live in a cute cul de sac with young families surrounding us. We’re privy to the odd game of cricket or water fight with the neighbours’ children from time to time. Everyone is super-friendly and will stop for a chat. The neighbours’ cats also like to stop by and will walk straight into the house if the door is left ajar.

Favourite room?

The sunroom. It’s always filled with light, and I love looking out to it from my bedroom while I’m working. It is the perfect niche, filled with plants and views to the back garden.

Favourite item in the house?

This has to be my Kai #42 chair. It was gifted to me by my previous employer and holds great sentimental value. I had the pleasure of meeting with Kai Kristiansen during a work event once. He is a pioneer of modern furniture design and still drawing at the age of 94. I think that’s pretty amazing.

Favourite homeware stores?

Ours in Fitzroy showcases emerging and established local creatives, including me, and they always throw a good party as well. I also love Modern Times – for the perfect combination of vintage and local designs – and Makers Mrkt, an online platform with the most amazing furniture, ceramics and planters.

See more in Broadsheet’s Home Visits series.


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