Self-confessed stickybeak Maya Anderson has combined her love of interior design, penchant for peeking into people’s homes (in a non-creepy way, I promise) and her way with words to create a new interiors blog, House Nerd which puts the spotlight on Perth homes. The blog gives readers an insight into some of our city’s most intriguing, stylish and eclectic homes and introduces us to the people who live there. House Nerd also tracks Maya’s own home renovation process offering handy hints and tips for those of us looking to spruce up our homes on a budget, hunt down the perfect vintage find and how to hold an awesome Survivor-themed New Years Eve party (seriously, I was mega jealous I wasn’t there). We recently sat down with Maya to get to know the nerd behind House Nerd.
What made you start House Nerd?
I studied journalism and creative writing at uni and afterwards fell into freelance, predominantly writing features for The West and magazines on homes, renovation and interior design. I’ve always been obsessed with houses and how we decorate our homes, and this became my specialty area. But after years of writing in quite set formats for print media I realised I never wrote for fun anymore. I felt like I had stagnated a bit. My fiancé suggested I blog and after yelling, “When do I have TIME to BLOG?” three months later I launched House Nerd. It’s been one of the best things I’ve done. It’s a side project, but it’s made me rediscover my love of writing for the fun of writing. It’s become my creative outlet.
There’s still a lot of building going on in Perth, but I think there’s almost a trend towards building these oversized McMansions that can feel impersonal and stark. I wanted to write a blog about homes that feel warm and inviting. I wanted to show that you can create a gorgeous home on a budget, and I also wanted a focus on renovations and before and after projects, because I love renovation stories the most! On some blogs every photo is glossy magazine-perfect, but I love the grittiness and ghastliness of a good ‘before’ photo. There’s been many a time where I’ve been inspired to get up and start a home DIY project in the middle of the night just from reading a blog!
Maya Anderson, the House Nerd in her natural habitat, a photo shoot in Claremont. Photography by Four Storey Photography, staging and styling by Kim Pearson Interior Designer.
There are some amazing home and interior sites out in the blogosphere – why did you think it was important to put the spotlight on Perth homes?
Most of the amazing home and interior bloggers are based over east and so they focus on homes in Melbourne and Sydney. But I knew from years of writing about hundreds and hundreds of homes in our city that we have some really incredible, unique homes here in Perth, ones worth being proud about. But I hadn’t come across any Perth interiors blog that showcased these gorgeous homes.
We were definitely overdue for a blog that focused on how beautiful our homes here are. Perth is just getting better and better and there’s still renovating and building happening on just about every street. A lot of readers write to me and tell me they love seeing a blog that covers Perth homes. There’s a nice familiarity about reading about homes in suburbs that you know.
Cottage renovation in Mt Hawthorn with interiors by Lisa Ewart of Collected Interiors. Photography by Joel Barbitta.
What do you aim to achieve through House Nerd? Is it about imparting your wisdom on others, an excuse to hang out in some of Perth’s hippest homes or just a celebration of decor geekery?
Definitely not A, I don’t possess interior design wisdom! And my own home is not amazing! I think sometimes people expect me to have this perfectly decorated home with vignettes and Eames chairs everywhere, but mine is definitely a rather daggy work-in-progress.
I am going to go with B and C because firstly, I never tire of stickybeaking through cool homes. It’s so much fun, especially when you get to go inside the ones that are so enigmatic from the outside, the ones that I’ve always walked past and stared at, wondering what it’s like inside and who lives there. Like this one, an old Fremantle limestone mansion. I first saw this house when I was 15 and was so excited when I got to visit it to write about it last year. I wanted to share that little thrill on House Nerd – giving readers a key into these kinds of homes, the ones you always wonder about.
I think what people like about House Nerd is that it’s not a snobby, pretentious interior design blog. I’m very ordinary, rather dorky, living in a place that is definitely “the first house”, trying to save money by lugging home decrepit furniture I found by the side of the road. Yes, House Nerd has some amazing mansions on it that are worth millions, but there are also places that are very comfortable and down-to-earth. I don’t think a house has to be flawless or picture-perfect and colour coordinated to perfection to be a gorgeous home.
Old Sea Captain’s Mansion, photograph courtesy of House Nerd.
You mentioned your own place is not what we might expect from a ‘House Nerd’, tell us a little about your current living situation?
I live with my fiancé Mr Nerd and our Border Collie x Labrador Nala. I would love to tell you that we live in a little 1920s cottage with roses around the gate, like this one. But we actually live in a former 70s display home which we affectionately call ‘The Crap Shack’. It was advertised as an ‘Ideal Makeover’ and it had shagpile carpet that smelt funky, dark brown-red brick walls, orange glass windows and crackle-effect brown tiles. I’d always wanted to buy a renovation project – I just naively didn’t think it would take me this long to renovate it! We do everything on a budget and by ourselves whenever we can. This is why I no longer have nice fingernails.
Since moving in we have lightened the house up inside and out, laid some new flooring and made the most of the backyard by putting in a vegetable garden which we eat from almost every day. Our next renovation step is the bathrooms. One has brown tiles with pink roses on them. They need to go to tile heaven. I share little sneak peeks into our renovation projects on House Nerd like this one of our sunroom.
What have been a few of your favourite homes you’ve visited and captured?
I really loved that sea captain’s mansion in Fremantle that I mentioned earlier. It was a ruin and had lain empty for years and it was renovated by this lovely family who made it a real labour of love. When I put it on the blog so many people said to me, “I know that house! I love that place! We thought it was haunted! We used to try to sneak into it when we were kids!” so the obsession was not only mine!
I also really liked this tiny, heritage-listed, old stablehand’s cottage in Fremantle that was given a really contemporary extension out the back and going upwards. The renovation was designed by Fratelle Group and the work done by owner-builder by the family.
And another favourite is one I just saw a few days ago, a hundred year old wool shed in South Fremantle (are we seeing a pattern here? I really want to buy a house in Freo one day!) The building was so gorgeous, this huge old, open shed with high ceilings raked with timber beams and every nook was so lovingly decorated. I am a sucker for a house with a cool history or story behind it. This place will be on the blog soon!
Old stablehand’s cottage in Fremantle. Photograph by Squint Photography.
What is the weirdest feature you have seen in a home?
Perhaps his-and-her toilets – and I’m not talking tucked away in separate cubicles (which I have also seen). I’m talking side-by-side, out in the open of the bathroom. It was in the ensuite of a very ugly, brand-new Dalkeith mansion with black granite floors and red velvet curtains. “One is mine and one is his,” the ancient owner chirped at me. “It’s not nice to use the same toilet.” Well I understand that bit.
In your posts you like to create connections to people and their space – how important is it for you to tell the stories of the home owners?
I love it when I’m reading a house story and get to know a bit about who lives there. Those stories and photos enchant me more than over styled, put-together images in glossy magazines. Some people have a preference for privacy but I try to ask the owners to be involved wherever I can, to tell me what they love most about the house, what it was like when they first bought it, or tales of any renovating disasters! It’s nicer to get their quotes and to make the stories personal. And I knew from the start that I wanted to write about places that truly feel like homes, not just houses.
And finally, we know from your blog that you’re a sucker for a bargain – can you let us in on a few top spots for house nerds on a budget to bag some good deals on homewares?
I do love a bargain! When I first bought my own place and moved out of home I quickly realised I had definitely overestimated how much spare spending money I would have, what with renovating a house and buying all the things needed for furnishing and decorating one. No longer could I blow my pay check at Garden City on Saturdays. I quickly became a nerd on a budget. These are some of favourite places to nab a house-y bargain.
Merchants of Swanbourne
This shop is awesome! Still relatively new as it only opened last year, this store is as big as a house and kind of feels like one too, with themed rooms throughout with all kinds of wonderful homewares in each. Out the back is a gardening room while upstairs is a living room and a hallway off which branches a little girl’s bedroom, a kitchen… I won’t reveal anymore because it was so fun to discover this place without knowing anything about it.
A lovely friend got me an awesome gift from this place and told me to check it out because I would love it. I did and I do. It’s a great place to browse for unusual homewares and little odds and ends to give your home a personal touch and they have really cute cards to go with your gifts.
Trash and Treasure Markets
I am addicted to secondhand and flea markets and rise with the sun every Sunday morning to go with almost religious zeal. With markets all over Perth, there is likely to be one near you. It’s a great way to furnish and decorate a house on a dime. I’ve bought things like furniture, picture frames, storage boxes and quirky knickknacks. Some of my favourite things are from markets and I’ve shared some of my tips for nabbing a bargain on the blog.
You can check out House Nerd at www.house-nerd.com. Know of a really lovely house or done an amazing renovation? Maya is always on the lookout for gorgeous homes and great projects to feature. You can contact her at email@example.com.
Words and interview by Kate Antonas, photographs courtesy of House Nerd.