Eclectic Apartment Decor Inspiration For Your Next Rental

Born in London, moving to Texas, spending a lot of time in New Mexico, and finally settling in Brisbane, one might expect Nicolette Johnson to be a tad on the quirky side. Words: Nichola Davies

This certainly translates into her clever eclectic apartment decor she rents with husband Tom in the prime location of Merivale Street, South Brisbane.

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Built in the 1920s, the apartment block would blend discreetly with the surrounding streets’ mix of curved art deco buildings juxtaposed with modern blocks were it not painted bright yellow with a café on the ground level. If first impressions count, you certainly don’t expect such a treasure to be waiting inside.

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At just 50 square metres, the space has been used remarkably to fit Nicolette’s vast collections from across the globe. Aztec print rugs inject colour into the rooms while the furnishings seem to follow an earthy, natural tone with plenty of wooden and ceramic knick-knacks, not to mention a few horseshoes. She describes her style as coming from her love of New Mexico because of the state’s raw beauty and rough edges. “I really like warmth,” she says. “I’m not really minimal or traditional but I like lots of mixtures of patterns and fabrics, as well as warm colours and plants.”

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One of the standout features of the apartment is the shelving in the kitchen, the epitome of her rustic style. Constructed not only for impact but for sheer necessity as the apartment does not have any storage, Nicolette made them herself with a few brackets and some abandoned wood.

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The walls of the apartment are decorated with Nicolette’s own photographs, as well as images and artwork by friends and a former university tutor, adding a sentimental and personal touch to the space. Nicolette’s father has also helped, sending souvenirs from his travels. A tribal mask on the wall is from Papua New Guinea; the 30 year old rug in the dining area, from Morocco. The rug might not be in the greatest condition, but that’s not what’s important to Nicolette.

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“Things don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to let things get marks on them, it only adds to their character.” Her relaxed attitude is refreshing and although it’s hard to find fault with the apartment, Nicolette doesn’t make a point to show the bathroom to visitors. “The bathroom is awful. The last time it was renovated was in the 80s maybe,” she laughs. “It has horrible tiles, definitely the worst room in the house.”

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Her styling has added incredible character to the space, making very few modifications apart from the shelves in the kitchen and adding some Venetian blinds with the help of her landlord. It does help to be friendly with the property owner or real estate as Nicolette is with hers, many of whom may see your modifications as value adding.

The apartment is proof you don’t need a lot of money to inject your own style into your home, even if it’s a rental. Most of Nicolette’s furniture and décor has cost her very little as it was sourced from op shops and from hours trawling sites such as Gumtree. “The chairs in the lounge room were from eBay and cost me $160 for both. Our new TV cabinet was $140 from Vinnies – it’s in such good condition,” she grins.

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Her advice for finding great pieces in op shops is to go with an idea of what you want, so you won’t be distracted and settle for pieces you don’t love. If you’re struggling for inspiration, Nicolette’s advice is to get on Instagram to see what the people who really nail it are doing. It will lead to spending less money, result in less waste and save a lot of time. After all, there’s no hurry in having your house or apartment perfect. “It has taken me so long to get the apartment to this state,” Nicolette says. “It looked hideous when we first moved in, we had pretty awful furniture, nothing was cohesive and it’s still in bits and pieces.”

Her eclectic blend of ‘bits and pieces’ is what makes the apartment so striking. Nicolette’s take home message is to not be afraid of mixing styles. “I used to think that it all had to be minimal and gorgeous and if I had one piece of mid-century furniture it all had to be mid-century furniture. I missed out on a few things because I thought, I really love that but it doesn’t really go… you just have to do it and let it all mix together.”

Photography by Nicolette Johnson