House Proud

This Mayfield home is pure, unadulterated joy – it literally makes your heart sing

What does being a grown-up mean to you? Remembering bin night? Realising that being an adult is mostly just Googling how to do stuff? As a young 20 something graphic designer, Sophie thought being a grown up meant wearing subdued colours and being ever so serious.

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Sophie Elinor

“You know how when you’re young and you try to act older than you are? That was me. Then I found this rug,” Sophie said.

Sophie points to what turned out to be the start of her undying love of the bold, the colourful, the beautiful, and the quirky – a circular, multi-coloured pompom rug that sits underneath her chair in her sunny home office.

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“I found this rug on Etsy and I loved it so much that it just spiralled from there.”

Fast forward to today and Sophie’s Mayfield home is pure, unadulterated joy. It literally makes your heart sing. It’s difficult to imagine anyone being in this house not being affected by the sheer energy and happiness that adorns every space.

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The multi-coloured painted front steps leading up to her bright yellow front door are the first indication of what to expect when you walk inside. Sophie painted the concrete steps with her Mum one Mother’s Day.

Sophie’s Nan, a dressmaker, raised her two daughters in this house, single-handedly. Sophie comes from strong stock and was raised in a wonderfully creative household.

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“My Mum was an art teacher so there were always colour and art projects in the house. My Dad’s an industrial art teacher so he was always building and making and creating. So that side of things was always there. It just took me a little while to embrace it and run with it.

“When I was in high school Nan had to move out. It broke her heart to leave this place because it was her pride and joy after working so hard for it. Mum couldn’t bear to let it go after Nan passed away so she rented it out for a while. When I finished school and started Uni Mum suggested I rent here because it’s much closer to Uni than Port Stephens. I lived in it for a few years before deciding to take the leap and make some permanent change.”

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In 2017 Sophie took the plunge and purchased the house and ever since then she has been putting her own, unique stamp on it.

“It was quite different. The whole house was carpeted and it was a lot darker. The kitchen had sunflower wallpaper on the walls.”

To introduce natural light into her home, Sophie added some north-facing windows. She cleverly raised the height of the dining room window to not only bring in more light but also to give her privacy from neighbours. She also added a north-facing louvre window in the kitchen, adding ventilation as well as light.

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New glass sliding doors at the back of the house leading out to her garden replaced an old French door, creating a connection between the outdoors and the indoors. Sophie has also introduced natural greenery into most rooms, continuing the connection to the outside space.

Sentimentality runs deep in this home, with deeply moving touches throughout. A couple of years ago, Sophie renovated the bathroom, moving a wall to make it roomier.

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She painted the sliding cavity bathroom door with a colourful mural of what Sophie calls, “Whacky Inflatable Tube Man”. This quirky little character also makes guest appearances on her creatively colour-curated bookshelf in the dining room with her hand-made models.

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“I don’t know how it originated. It’s just kind of silly, joyful, light-hearted and low-brow. You see them in car yards and things but I find them quite beautiful.

“Dad made me the bathroom vanity top with all different slices of rosewood that belonged to his Dad who I never met because he died before I was born. He worked in forestry and Dad had been saving up this wood for some sort of special occasion.”

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The rug that sits underneath the vanity was custom-made for Sophie by the team at Koutchi, a local Moroccan trader.

“I ordered this to be custom-made. It fits exactly under the vanity. He made me a surprise bonus one because he’d seen some of my work online so he made me one for my bedroom that sits alongside my bed. I absolutely love them.”

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The living room rug also came from Koutchi.

“The rug that’s in my living room was one that he’d had sourced and shared on his socials. I stared at it for weeks. I didn’t really need a rug. I had another rug there that was also lovely but then I saw that. I even Photoshopped it into the space before I bought it. It’s from a specific region in Morocco that’s really well known for its saturated colours. I’d never seen anything like it.”

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Tackling one project at a time, Sophie has also completely gutted the second bedroom.

“It ended up being a bigger project than anticipated, being a 100-year-old house. We took the wallpaper down and the walls ended up coming down with it so we had to replaster.”

Interestingly, Sophie has painted her walls white, allowing her art and accessories to shine.

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Sophie, you show such restraint by resisting putting colours on your walls. Do you get tempted to stray from the white walls?

“Yes, it’s tempting to keep going and do more and more but you need a little breathing room, otherwise it can become a bit overwhelming and chaotic. The white walls and having lots of greenery everywhere calms it down a little bit as well as incorporating natural timbers.”

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Many of Sophie’s finds are through social media. The wriggle rug on her office wall and the wobbly lamp in her second bedroom are both by Ellen Bashore.

Her coloured glass dining room pendants were discovered in an ad she was served on Instagram by Noosh Décor.

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“The coloured glass really grabbed me.”

They look like they could have been made to order and match perfectly with the mural Sophie painted on her fireplace wall as a joyful and colourful backdrop.

Another relationship Sophie has established through Instagram is with American fibre artist, Kat Sanchez. In exchange for a logo design and animation, Kat custom-made one of her signature knitted noodle wall art creations which takes pride of place in Sophie’s living room.

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“I’ve loved Kat’s work for the longest time. She does these magnified weavings where she knits these tubes and does large-scale installations. We did an art exchange. I redesigned her logo and did an animation for her in exchange for this piece which she made to match the colours of the room. We crossed paths thanks to social media. She goes by Fiberess on Insta and does incredible work.”

Sophie also creates art installations of her own. Having exhibited twice at Maitland Art Gallery, many of her pieces are now in her home.

The brief for one of her exhibitions was to Commercial Artists. The brief was to create what you would do if you weren’t given a brief. Aah, the freedom!

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“It was really open in terms of being able to do whatever we wanted to do. A constant theme of my work has been play and joy so I created this PLAY sculpture. I made it from cardboard and paper mache and painted it with stone paint. I also made this giant pencil out of cardboard, with roof flashing for the ‘metal’ and diamontes placed one by one on the tip.”

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In addition to Sophie’s ‘Whacky Inflatable Tube Man’ creations, pencils are another recurring theme throughout her home. Hanging on the wall as you enter her bedroom is a bright yellow, tufted bendy pencil that came about through yet another Instagram contact, Cindy Chung.

All of the picture frames on Sophie’s walls are painted in bright, saturated colours, bringing them to life. So I was surprised to see a timber, leaning mirror in her bedroom that was still in its raw, natural state. When I ask Sophie about this, her face lights up.

“My Dad made that. Can I tell you the story about it? There are a few really special pieces in the house that my Dad has made by hand. I just off-hand mentioned to him a few years ago that I needed a floor mirror and I couldn’t find one online. I’d come back from a holiday and this was here.

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“The top and the bottom panels are driftwood from the beach I grew up on. The two side panels are bed frames that belonged to my great grandparents and these notches are imprints of them in the timber, where the bed springs rested on the frame. I balled my eyes out when he told me. Who does that? He also made the desk in my second bedroom 7 or 8 years ago. The top panels are from my old cubby house that he pulled apart and repurposed.”

Do you do projects with your parents? 

“All the time. They’re my biggest creative cheerleaders. The PLAY exhibition I did for Maitland was mostly done at their place because they’ve got much more room than I do. They rolled up their sleeves and we did the paper mache together.”

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Over the years, Sophie now says she has much more confidence in terms of what she’s drawn to.

“There are certain things I know I’m going to love and I’m going to cherish which gives me more reassurance when investing in things.”

Such is Sophie’s vision and attention to detail, that she’s even wrapped the metal legs of an old stool with coloured yarn.

“I love how beaten up it looks!”

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Sophie, if you were to give someone advice on how to add a little fun and personality to their space, what would it be?

“People get really scared about colour. It takes some convincing. The thing I find more and more is that when people come over they say it feels really nice. It feels welcoming and it feels friendly. The colour and the sentimental pieces play a really big role in that. Just trust what you gravitate towards and don’t worry if it’s the latest trend or if it’s going to sell in ten years. If it makes you feel warm and fuzzy and happy, that’s all it has to be.”

How would you describe your home?

“It’s joyful, playful, and sentimental. Having that heart to it is really important. I don’t like it to take itself too seriously but it has lots of special moments.”

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One of those special moments is the multi-coloured ribbon canopy suspended over her entryway that Sophie constructed on what would have been her Nan’s birthday, as a tribute to her dress-making heritage.

“I’d had the idea for a while. I originally used crepe paper which looked really nice but it didn’t age well. Every time I open the front door I feel like 'I have arrived'. There’s a story behind pretty much everything.”

Sophie has found a magical combination of colour, fun, quirkiness and generations of love that have gone into custom pieces. With so much colour throughout her home, I have to ask her what her favourite colour is…

“Yellow is the colour that I always gravitate towards. It’s joyful. It brightens. It goes with everything. It’s happy. It’s hard to feel sad when you’re looking at a bright yellow door.”

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Just as we’re at the end of our tour through her home, I spot another of Sophie’s creations. It’s three letters stacked on top of each other (colourful, of course). The letters are U. G. H. She’s designed it so you can either arrange it to say “ugh” or “hug”, depending on your mood. I can’t imagine too many ‘ugh’ moments in this home.

Follow Sophie on Instagram for your daily dose of all things colour.

house proud sophie elinor mayfield newcastle nsw