With her extended family coming to her home for Christmas lunch, stylist and interiors specialist Michelle Woods already knows how she’ll be decorating on the day. “I’ll be putting the table in the centre of the room and using a lot of linen, layering navy blue with natural linen,” says Michelle, who is expecting to play host to three siblings and their families as well as her mother.
“I’ll use various blue and white patterns with china, and I’ll also have a big breadboard placed on the kitchen bench with all the food being served from there.
“I like a real Christmas tree, too, which I decorate with silver birds and bells, and all the presents are wrapped in brown paper and tied with string,” she continues. “I’ll hang the wreaths that I make — I cut vines from the garden, or bunches of foliage, and tie them together.”
As you can see, Michelle has quite the gift for this — and in her life’s quest to create beautiful homes, she also has a clear image inside her head. That showed itself when she walked into the two-storey timber home overlooking Port Phillip Bay on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, where she, her husband Gary and their daughter Macey, 14, now live.
She could instantly picture the way it would look — white, timber-lined walls, rustic barn doors, neutral tones and lots of natural textures in the furnishings and objects. “I saw it straight away,” Michelle says. “I saw the tall windows and the timber floors and knew I could work with that.”
Even so, it was no small feat of her imagination. Back then, in 2011, the interior was not only somewhat dated, it was painted in a bright kaleidoscope of colour. “When we moved in, we felt like we were living in a Rubik’s Cube, with walls painted orange and blue and yellow, and all in a sand paint that couldn’t easily be removed,” she says.
The good news was that Michelle and Gary had done it all before, with their previous home a little further down the peninsula. “We lived in that house for 19 years and painted it 10 times and it was a lot like this — all white and with timber floors,” she explains.
Although Michelle finds it hard to pinpoint one favourite style, she knows what she likes, how to put it together and, more importantly, doing so without blowing her budget. “I don’t know what style I am,” she admits. “I love the coastal look, I love vintage, I love French and farmhouse — I like white on neutral and grey.”
She also confesses to being an “addicted” collector of anything from woven wicker baskets and shells to upcycled vintage and industrial pieces. It’s an obsession that has resulted in a homewares stall named Mich and Mace at The Vintage Shed in the nearby town of Tyabb on Western Port.
After living in Mount Martha for 14 years, the couple decided to look elsewhere. They sold their home quickly and intended to rent for a while, maybe travel and then, down the track, build a new home. “Then we came across this. As soon as I walked in, I made an offer. We were going to do it up and not stay for long, but now I love it. We have the beach out the front and in summer we can have dinner on the foreshore.”
The first thing they did was change all the lighting. Gary, working on weekends, also did a quick paint through with white undercoat. “Everything was orange and there was only one downlight in the kitchen,” Michelle remembers. “We were going insane with all that colour.”
They covered the rough-textured walls painted in sand paint with timber lining boards and changed all the doors. “They’re now barn doors or French doors,” she says. “Gary helps me fix things up for the stall — and here he did all the lining boards and made the sliding barn doors to save room in the main bedroom.”
The kitchen got a makeover, with new handles for the cupboards, a new ceramic sink and timber benchtops. They found white wooden shutters at the local tip shop, where they also discovered a long, narrow, metal-framed table with a laminex top. It now makes a perfect console in the downstairs sitting room. “We made a timber top for it and painted the metal legs white,” Michelle adds. Also downstairs, a third bedroom was transformed into a study and set up with a raw timber trestle desk and shelving. The shelves were from IKEA, however, Gary masked them with old paling timbers and painted them white. This is where Michelle works, often making things for her stall. “I used to make linen napery for a Christmas stall with a friend,” she says. “But these days I tend to make cushions, bunting and things such as old bottles that hang from string.”
Otherwise, she likes nothing more than when she’s out and about, trawling for treasures at her favourite haunts. “I really love going to country areas and finding vintage stores,” she says. “Although I do love vintage for my stall, I haven’t used as much in this home — for here I like the barn look, mixed with anything white.
“We really enjoy living here. But one day I’d like to build a real barn. I have in my head a big, black barn, and the door will slide open and the whole living area will be in there…” Watch this space.
Mich and Mace is located at The Vintage Shed, 93 Mornington-Tyabb Road, Tyabb, Victoria. 0406 046 028. You can see more of Michelle’s decorating style on her Instagram account
Michelle’s top 6 decorating tips:
1. “The white paint is straight off the shelf. I never add colour to white paint. It might be stark at first, but if you add a colour it does go darker. Within a year, it will be a different colour.”
2. “We would have had to re-plaster the walls to cover the stone paint. But we love wood lining so we wood-lined the whole place. We even covered the mirrors on the wardrobe doors.”
3. “I love baskets and collect them from markets or anywhere I see them. I bought all the woven sisal lamps from a store that was closing before we moved in.”
4. “I’m a big bargain hunter and I found Macey’s iron bed at IKEA. It was bent and only cost $10. I’ve found old doors on eBay.”
5. “I don’t have any valuable diamonds, I just have valuable linen. It’s my weakness and I share an Instagram account called with .”
6. “I never have anything matching. I like everything to be odd.”