A Stylist’s Home; Marie Nichols transforms a boring, beige box rental on a tiny budget

WORKING AS AN interior stylist is all about being resourceful. You have to know the best places to shop and how to stick to a budget. So when it came to transforming a small rental, real living contributing stylist Marie Nichols was able to put into practise some of the many tricks she’s learnt over the years. And the results are colourful, cosy and very creative.

Starting POINT


Marie Nichols and her partner Simon Ward were ready for an overseas adventure and decided to spend 12 months living and working in Australia. Marie had been a stylist for a UK interiors magazine; Simon is a graphic designer. They left a Victorian semi-detached home in Kent, a 40-minute commute to London, and landed in Sydney in October 2009. When they first arrived the couple were living in a hotel until they could find permanent accommodation.

new home at a new city
new home at a new city


Moving from a two-storey home to a onebedroom apartment was not going to be easy. “We both work from home so it was essential to find a space we liked and that inspired us,” Marie says. At the top of the list were period features, good natural light, French doors, a balcony and water view. After weeks of looking, a little notice in the local paper for a onebedroom apartment in Paddington caught their eye. At the inspection Marie knew it was the right place and applied straightaway.

Rewaming a rental


“In the UK we own a property that we did up from scratch so renting is a new experience for us,” Marie says. “It made me reassess how I decorate. Unable to paint walls, use wallpaper, etc, I’ve had to work out how to add colour and pattern in other temporary and cost-effective ways.”

The couple arrived with only one suitcase each. “The apartment had an oven but that was it,” Marie explains. She adds that she was impatient for the place to look “just so” and hit the shops immediately, including Ikea, Freedom and second-hand stores.


Marie couldn’t live without colour or pattern so she had to be creative with the ways she added it. She bought a “super cheap” bed and wardrobe from Ikea and transformed them with paint. “Normally I go for crisp white bed linen but with plain walls the patterned bed linen from Ikea helped lift the room and add the splash of colour it needed,” Marie says. “The bedroom colour scheme was actually inspired by a pair of shoes and a silk scarf that I had in my suitcase.” For the living room she bought wallpaper from Publisher Textiles and a sheet of MDF from Bunnings to create a feature panel behind the sofa.

Living room
Living room

A Stylist Sources


When it came to finding pieces to decorate her home, Marie headed to some of her favourite places she uses when sourcing for photo shoots. These included Junktique, which has a huge, ever-changing array of affordable retro pieces, Doug Up On Bourke (revamped vintage items) and Bunnings for the basics. For more of Marie’s favourite shopping haunts, flip over the page.


Marie approaches the decorating of her home in a similar way to how she tackles photo shoots. “It can be a concept or idea, but generally for me it starts with a pattern or colour – they always play a huge part in my styling,” she says. “I love to sketch out my ideas and then I build digital mood boards so I can see how the scheme will come together.” When she creates these looks on Photoshop she includes furniture, key accessories and paint colours.

Creative Savings


Marie got creative so that she didn’t have to spend money on furniture that she’ll eventually have to sell before returning to the UK. She made cushion covers out of silk scarves and artworks out of wallpaper and photo collages. She even made butterflies out of bark! “When we first arrived I kept seeing trees with peeling bark, which is something we don’t have back home,” Marie says. “I thought it was so beautiful and wanted to do something with it so I cut out little butterfly shapes.”



In the bedroom Marie hung some of her favourite cards by UK artist Rob Ryan. “I made the text piece, inspired by Rachel Castle, for Simon’s 30th birthday,” she says. Marie also framed a bright pink doily she found in Vinnies for $2. One of the bedside stools was also a kerbside find. “Simon loves vintage but draws the line at picking things up off the street. I, however, don’t, so I’m constantly humiliating him by wandering in with something I’ve found!”

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