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Creatives at Home: Michelle Crawford

Mar 5, 2024
Article by Tess Crellin

Michelle Crawford has one of those glamorous dream jobs you think of when contemplating how you ended up working in an office full-time. She’s a photographer, stylist and writer – mostly in relation to food, but also interiors – and creates content for brands such as Bruny Island Cheese, Hill Street Grocer and Twamley Farm. Michelle is also lucky enough to call The Bowmont home, a grand 1906 heritage-listed building in Franklin that has previously served as a bank, hospital, and community centre.

Since Michelle and her husband Leo purchased the property more than four years ago, they’ve separated it into three parts. Upstairs is a self-contained apartment that they run as a bed and breakfast, downstairs at the front is a large space used for workshops and other events, and the back part of the dwelling is where Michelle and her family live.

“I just love being in this house. I love being inside. I could quite happily spend days and days and days, just not ever having to leave the house… I feel really fortunate that it provides us with a modest income,” Michelle says. The set-up works incredibly well for the family of four, with the distinct lack of open-plan living allowing for sections of the house to be closed off to give privacy, and with plenty of rooms for each member to work from home or have space for pursuits like dressmaking or metal forging.

Michelle and Leo have taken a refreshingly restrained approach to renovations. Floors have been sanded, (some) walls have been painted, fluorescent lighting has been removed and minor structural changes have been made to doorways and entry points. Big-ticket items like double glazing to existing windows are being completed in stages.

“The longer we’re here, the less we want to do to the building because we sort of don’t want to erase all that amazing patina and history and stories.”

Michelle applies a similar approach to styling the upstairs accommodation, favouring second-hand furniture, vintage artworks, William Morris wallpaper and dried flora in big vases. “I like the building to dictate what style it wants to be,” she says. To understand it better, Michelle made an appointment with Libraries Tasmania and was able to access everything on file in relation to the architect, Bernard Walker. The archive contained not only images of The Bowmont during its construction, but also photos of Bernard with his cats, hiking on Mount Wellington with women in bonnets and long frocks, and going on picnics by the river.

“There are a few things up there that are just little nods to what I imagine Bernard’s tastes were. Things that he might’ve picked up bushwalking or picnicking, camping. Bernard could move in here tomorrow.”

Michelle says he has become her muse for the building, prompting her to always ask: “What would Bernard do?” However, it’s Michelle’s down-to-earth and humble style that truly defines the character of this home.

@_michellecrawford
michellecrawford.com.au

Three things in my space that inspire me:

1. The dining room in the family’s part of the house was also the teller’s dining room (complete with serving hatch) when the property was a bank. Michelle loves the dark green base paint that is slowly being uncovered on the walls. “I love that that’s the original colour, that deep, beautiful green in a north facing really well-lit room… it’s a paint that’s sort of seeped into the plaster. So, it’s not like a plastic paint that’s just painted on top. It’s almost like when you touch it, it feels like it’s part of the fabric of the building.”

2. The home’s previous owners were antique dealers and they happened by chance to buy a builder’s ledger book at auction (in amongst many other papers) that listed all the items that were purchased for The Bowmont during its construction as a bank. It details the number of bricks ordered, and also notes that several iron shelves were acquired for the strong room, which were stripped out at some point in one of the building’s different iterations. To bring them back to life, Michelle commissioned Hobart-based blacksmith Pete Mattila to design new iron shelving and converted this space into a storeroom for all her preserves, jams and pickles. “I just love that it’s got super thick walls. It’s really cool because it was a bank, so it’s a perfect pantry.”

2. The home’s previous owners were antique dealers and they happened by chance to buy a builder’s ledger book at auction (in amongst many other papers) that listed all the items that were purchased for The Bowmont during its construction as a bank. It details the number of bricks ordered, and also notes that several iron shelves were acquired for the strong room, which were stripped out at some point in one of the building’s different iterations. To bring them back to life, Michelle commissioned Hobart-based blacksmith Pete Mattila to design new iron shelving and converted this space into a storeroom for all her preserves, jams and pickles. “I just love that it’s got super thick walls. It’s really cool because it was a bank, so it’s a perfect pantry.”

3. Michelle hired local carpenter Michael Van Heel to build a bespoke kitchen for the family downstairs. It was a gentle overhaul, with some elements remaining untouched, including the tiled cream walls featuring a gum leaf motif. “I do love the tiles in the kitchen. I love those tiles.” Michelle says they were likely installed in the ‘80s when the space was a commercial kitchen for the community hub.

PHOTOS MICHELLE CRAWFORD

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