Collecting with Victoria McKenzie


Scouting for a shoot location last year, our Fashion Designer Sarah came across the most picturesque home of Art Director Victoria McKenzie. We knew at once this was the place to shoot our current season. Victoria's home did not disappoint, and we felt like we were on our own tour of the world as we moved from room to room.

Join us as we drop in again for some bakery treats and tea with Victoria, as she very generously shares her career journey and how she's created a home full of adventure!

Can you tell us about yourself and how your love of styling began?

Born in New Zealand and growing up in the 70s, I had a creative mother who encouraged me to learn to sew, knit, crochet and macrame. I was hooked on creating my style from reading Golden Hands, a weekly craft magazine, from a young age. I fully re-decorated our 60s caravan, all navy and white stripes, at the age of 10 and by 18, I was designing and creating window displays for a large shoe store in Wellington. 

I studied Craft Design at Nelson Polytechnic for four years in the early 90s, a very hands-on course teaching woodwork, ceramics, bronze casting, jewellery making, weaving, dyeing, and printmaking. I lived in an 1890s cottage with a massive garden.

I have been sewing clothes since I was eight, and after my study, I started a business called Thunderpants – we designed, dyed and printed comfy stylee women’s undies that don’t go up to your bum. After three years in this business, I wanted a job using more of my creative skills. 

So, I jumped into the film industry making costume props for Ryan Gosling on Young Hercules, and within two years, I was Head of Set Dressing on Lord of the Rings in 1999. After 18 months of working on all three films, I moved to Australia and have worked in the film industry since. 

I have always created a cosy home, and I am lucky enough to live in the perfect house. It is full of plants and my collections, and everything has its place. 

Each room in your house is a delight and brings about a different mood. When you initially moved in, did you have a vision for the whole house, or did individual rooms dictate your space?

Oddly, I lived right across the street for five years in a 60s house with a tiny garden, so it was marvellous to move across the road, spread my collections out, and have a massive garden. I bought the beautiful lampshades and gorgeous orange carpet from the new owners of my old house as it was being renovated. I had a few weeks to think about where all my furniture and collections would go and drew a plan of the house to plot it out. 

The north-facing sunroom is the best space, with windows and sliding glass doors leading to the veranda and garden. High ceilings and gorgeous palm/fern wallpaper were perfect for hanging the shell necklaces and baskets. All the built-in shelves were freaking amazing for all my wooden bird/fish/animal collections.

My bedroom is surrounded by lovely built-in teak wardrobes, drawers and a bedhead, so all my bedroom furniture went into the bungalow in the back garden.

Over the years, I have just added more and more indoor plants


What inspired you to start collecting? Can you share some tips for someone beginning to create a collection or space?

My collecting started with the shell necklaces. Most of them were found in op shops in NZ. It became an obsession to find a new version of the shell necklace. I am up to 354. I love the way they look hanging together like a Pacifica curtain.

I studied basket weaving which gave me an appreciation of the work put into each basket as the collection grew. I love finding craft objects that have been beautifully made.

My teak wooden fish started with a huge dolphin, so kitschy, so cool, especially when you see the next one and the next one. Now I have over 70 lining the shelves.

I am lucky as an art director to be shopping in op shops all the time to spot a basket, shell necklace or teak animal a mile off, and so the collection grows!


What are some of your favourite memories of travelling? Do you have any plans to travel in the near future? 

At 17, I spent a year as an exchange student in upstate New York. It was a year spent studying art, printmaking, the History of Movies and TV, calligraphy, and being in awe of the architecture and culture of New York City in the early 80s. 

I had a delightful holiday in Canberra a few years ago, staying at the truly gorgeous Hotel Hotel in Acton, and e-cycling around the city and suburbs on the hunt for as many Mid-Century Modern buildings as possible there is a bazillion in Canberra. 

I’ve had many adventures in the past ten years in my 1969 caravan Franklin. To Adelaide for WOMAD, Strathmerton to see Cactus Country; Tallarook for Boogie; Lorne; Point Leo, Tidal River, it’s great to carry your wee room with you. I have had a great time renovating it. Last year, I removed the old leaking front and back windows, replaced them with two louvres and a more prominent front window, and replaced all the cupboards and tabletop with new orange Laminex. All the melamine plates, cutlery, utensils, pots and bowls are orange. It’s a feast of orange. 

I plan to head to Palm Springs to overdose on Mid Century Modern architecture.

 Where do you love to shop vintage in Australia?

Vintage shopping is so random and exciting, and I am a bit of a speed shopper. The op shops in Gippsland, especially Wonthaggi and Lakes Entrance, can be treasure troves. I recommend the vintage markets in Tyabb and the massive Waverley Antique Bazaar.

Not only do you have a welcoming house your garden is so inviting! What are you currently growing?

OMG, I love gardening, and I am glad you liked my wee paradise. I am pottering in the garden all the time, and I keep expanding the garden edges, so there is less lawn every year. Last spring, I built two raised beds in the front yard and planted tomatoes, tamarillo, pomegranate, blueberries, peas, peppers, raspberry canes, zucchini, etc. 

In the back garden, I have over 60 kinds of herbs growing amongst mizuna, basil, rocket and lettuces, and this year I went mad for chillies and have nine varieties growing amongst the turmeric, angelica, fennel, globe artichokes, tarragon, basil, pears, lemons, and pumpkins.

It’s a glorious garden with many perennial flowers, a succulent garden and huge old fig and lemon trees. The driveway is lined with potted plants – agave, strelitzia, magnolia, bromeliad, ferns and palms. 

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