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homebodies: a life-sized terrarium

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Eliza Rogers lives in South Hobart with her dog, Frida. Eliza is a florist.

Before Eliza Rogers moved to Tasmania from Brisbane, she had a pretty clear idea of what her dream house would look like. “It was an old stone house in the countryside with a rambling rose around the doorway and maybe an orchard,” she says. Instead, since 2017, she’s been living in a ’70s Besser block three-bedroom townhouse in inner-city Hobart, with a small courtyard and nothing growing around the front door. There are heaps of indoor plants, though, including begonias that she grew from cuttings she was given from the botanic gardens in Hobart. “It’s totally silly to be able to say they came from there,” she says.

Letting go of that rural dream wasn’t too hard, Eliza says. She and Frida, her Jack Russell-dachshund cross, had been living in her van and travelling around Tasmania before deciding to stay in Hobart for a while. It was when she was housesitting in Fern Tree, an outer suburb that sits under kunanyi/Mount Wellington, that she started rethinking what was important to her. “I loved being close to the mountain, but realised I also wanted to be in town. I’d started going to parties and having fun, and wanted the option of catching an Uber home.”

Finding somewhere within her budget was a bit of a challenge, and when she first saw the townhouse it didn’t seem to have a whole lot going for it. “I loved the big windows but nothing else was that appealing about it,” Eliza says. “The sweet guy who lived here had stuff everywhere. I have stuff everywhere, too, but his wasn’t aesthetically inspiring.” Then there was the lino and carpet on the floors, the carpet on the stairs, and the oppressive look of Besser block pretty well everywhere. “It felt a bit like a prison cell with all the vertical lines.”

The first thing she did was rip up the lino and carpet and paint the floors. “I did quite a dodgy job on it,” Eliza says. “When the removalists came in, I was in the middle of doing the second coat but had to stop. I never quite finished it, and you can see where it’s worn.”

She got rid of the vertical lines of the Besser block by rendering most of the walls, “which totally changed it” – and by painting a few walls, too, in intense colours. Among the many artworks on the living room wall – mainly by friends – there’s an old painting of swans that played a part in the colour scheme. Eliza bought it in Cygnet, south of Hobart, while she was still living in the van. “Every night I’d have to put it under the bed platform. The pink and green in it subconsciously inspired a lot of the palette here.”

There’s a lot of family furniture in Eliza’s house, as well – “big, heavy brown furniture” that came from the house she grew up in near Armidale, New South Wales. “I love it, but I really had to think about how I’d use stuff like that here,” she says. “This is a ’70s apartment, not the dreamy farmhouse I imagined I’d be living in.” It holds huge sentimental value for her, especially as her mum, who had a homewares store that sold Marimekko fabrics and other stylish stuff, died when Eliza was little.

A sideboard and mirror fit under the stairs. A writing desk “that my mum’s dad gave to Dad when they got married” is in the living room, and is now filled with incense and candles. A ’70s leather sofa in the living room also belonged to her mum and dad, and was made by a friend of theirs.

Mixed in with these pieces are bits and bobs that Eliza found in tip shops, op shops and at auctions. “I spent a lot of time doing the rounds when I first moved down here, and still love having a hunt, but sadly I’m running out of space,” she says. She lives “dangerously close” to the South Hobart Tip Shop – “It’s absolutely amazing and everything’s a fair price.” Candlesticks, bowls and all sorts of other ceramic pieces that Eliza made herself are also dotted about the house: “They’re all my experiments.”

She even made a couch during lockdown in 2020. “The one I used to have wasn’t comfortable enough for all the Netflix I was watching,” she says. “I found the cushions online, then bought a circular saw and jigsaw and made the base. I did it in my van watching YouTube videos of women with power tools. I thought, ‘I can learn from those babes.’ Honestly, it’s so comfortable, it changed the game.”

She also had plans to upholster her bedhead in fabric by Shilo Engelbrecht, but once the artist sent her a photo of the fabric hanging on the wall, she decided it was too beautiful to chop up, so it’s on the wall behind the bed instead.

Each room in the house, Eliza says, has its own personality – “I just jam in all the stuff I like.” One of the upstairs bedrooms is now a “funny meditation space; it’s nice having space up there on the beanbag”. The other one is a bit of a work in progress. “There are a few bits of art that need reworking there.”

One of the most well-used parts of her house is the garden. She had a deck built about a year after she moved in, partly to stop Frida’s muddy paws tramping through the house. These days, Eliza virtually lives out there during the warmer months, and often has friends over for picnics. The Besser block benches were made using timber salvaged from a skip – “I filled up my little van, and there were planks hanging out of the window.” One of the biggest surprises has been the garden and surroundings. She moved into the townhouse during winter when all the leaves were off the trees. “I had no idea it would be so green out there. I feel like I’m living in a life-sized terrarium.

Eliza’s lush abode comes straight from the pages of SPACES Volume Six. Pick up a copy from our online shop or visit one of our friendly stockists.