Step Inside Illustrator Kelly Thompson's Vintage-Filled Home

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, illustrator and founder of Maker's Mrkt Kelly Thompson welcomes us into her home. 

Once upon a time illustrator Kelly Thompson was a fashion photographer—now, the New Zealand-born Melbourne-based creative sits at the helm of Makers Mkrt, an online store that exclusively stocks limited runs, one offs and hand-made sustainable wares by her peers in the creative community. “I refuse mass-produced items and prefer to support the little guys,” she says—a philosophy that inspired her e-commerce business and an aesthetic that informs her Ivanhoe home.  

The rental is where Kelly works and lives—her study houses a ‘70s-style travertine table, while the same love of mid-century wares filters through to the lounge and bedroom. Velvet chairs in olive and brown punctuate a plant-filled space with gilded accents and warm tones, where each light, vase and pillow has been thoughtfully added over time. “It’s not really a planned interior, I just find things I love and then completely rearrange to fit them in”, adding that to her, a well-styled home is a “collection of things you love.”

Here Kelly has created both a retreat and a space that inspires her work, whether she’s expanding her curated online range, or concepting and completing a commission for her endless stream of clients.

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Hi Kelly! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?

I work as an illustrator for commercial and private clients and I also own and curate Maker’s Mrkt, an online store that encourages people to shop from independent makers and designers. 

How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?

I have quite a restless personality and I love nothing more than learning new skills and feeling like I’m progressing. I’m not afraid of failure so for me making is the ultimate form of experimentation. Even if I don’t end up exactly where I imagined, I know I’ll learn a lot during the process and that’s what drives me. 

When did you start creating art and painting? And what inspired you to go down this route—and then move into Makers Mrkt—with your career?

I was always painting, or building or drawing or doing something creative ever since I can remember, I think it’s just something that’s in you. Becoming an illustrator was never really something I had planned, it just happened because I became obsessed with it and somehow skipped getting a “real job” along the way.

Maker’s Mrkt was more intentional, although still not launched with any pressure from myself to turn it into a “job”… which it is now very much becoming. Before I started, I always wanted to shop local and support other creatives, and wanted to bring that experience to others not in the creative community. Most independent makers have small Instagram accounts and don’t necessarily have the most user friendly websites that pop to the top of Google. So, I decided to make an online space that hosted many makers, with the intention that it could one day become a bit of a one stop shop for people like me who refuse mass-produced items and prefer to support the little guys!

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start, whether its drawing, or curating?

With drawing I usually have an idea straight away, especially now that clients come to me for what I do. It starts with a huge rummage for reference materials, I have files and files of photographic imagery, some I’ve taken, some I’ve sourced and these are always my starting point. Then I do a (terrible) digital sketch with my Wacom just to show the clients my thoughts. Once approved I then move into pencil on paper which is my favourite part, I just draw free at this stage and sketch up the full illustration, or the illustration in pieces (which can be handy when working commercially as the clients can move all the parts). This is also my favourite time for marathoning podcasts! Once done, I scan and send to the client for approval before colour which I then do digitally in Photoshop with my Wacom pen… I can’t use a mouse to save myself!

With the curation of Mrkt it really just started with the products of friends or people I love and admire. That is still a very big part of it (I like to support nice people!) but now that it’s growing I’m looking for things to fill the gaps in the offering, right now I feel it needs more colour so I’m hunting for ceramicists who are less “earthy”. 

When I find a new person who gets me excited, I check to see where they’re stocked because I really don’t want to have the same things as everyone else or stand on the toes of people who’ve curated their own selections—we are all in this together! I also think about what I can never find and try to find that thing, what would I love to see in a home or office? A range of price points is also important, I don’t want Mrkt to be unobtainable, so I look for a range of beautiful things for everyone.

What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative businesses?

An accountant! 

What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your businesses?

I had a business partner once who started off great, but actually ended up not treating me as a partner at all. Learning to let go, “fail” and say “this is no good for me” was a damn hard and stressful process to go through and terrible at the time, but now I’ve realised that once you get through, it doesn’t matter—I’m not scared to stand my ground or “fail” again. I say “fail” in quotation marks because in hindsight what seems like a failure at the time very rarely feels like it a year later—you always learn so much.

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?

This is my second year renting here.

How did you initially know this was the space for you?

When I walked in and saw how light and big the foyer was I was all “ooooooh” so I guess it was instantaneous. Then I was like “how do I get the rental person to like me best?!” 

Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?

I wish! We just rent so can’t do much, (would change that kitchen and the bathrooms in a second!), but I did pull down the terrible plastic horizontal blinds in the lounge and lived without curtains for ages because the others were so ugly they hurt! 

What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?

I’m an illustrator so unfortunately my eyes are much bigger than my wallet when it comes to home decorating. 90% of the furnishings are vintage pieces I’ve found throughout the years so most of them have a little adventure story behind them and I like that.

It’s not really a planned interior, I just find things I love (with no idea where they will go), buy them and then completely rearrange to fit them in. Then I just sit in the room and think about what I’d like to swap out or what I want to hunt for next. I’m definitely not a minimalist and if I owned a home there would be more colour and bold pieces and I imagine each room would have a look of its own, but until then I still have to keep it a bit safe… I’d hate to get evicted and then have a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t work anywhere else!

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

What are your favourite pieces in the home?

My Petra Borner print that I received for Christmas, the 1970s Italian brass lamp and the burl Milo Baughman plinths that I found in the middle of nowhere… they are a prime example of me finding things with no idea of where they’ll go! 

Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add? 

I’d like to swap out the couch for something more squishy, find a lowline console for my office to store my stock and find a plush rug for the bedroom. 

Which is your favourite room in the house?

I think the lounge for feeling like it’s almost “done” but I really love working in my office, it’s so light.

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Shop Kelly's look with a Rust Bedding Set and an Oatmeal Sheet Set

Tell us about your bedroom. 

My bedroom has been left last in line in our house, I’m still figuring it out and think I want to paint it if the landlord lets me. I love relaxing in bed with the doors open to the balcony, it’s so peaceful with the high ceilings. The bedroom is at the back of the house and because we live in the ‘burbs it’s so quiet.

What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally? 

Personally, I like a cosy home and I think it’s important to make a home your own no matter if you own or rent. Getting inspiration from other people is great, but I think too many people just try to recreate someone else’s space, collect things that you love, if you want a bright green rug and everyone else is doing black and white monochrome just get the rug if you love it.

I think a home should be a reflection of you and your life and have memories associated with the objects, so my advice would be to collect things you have a connection with. Start with one thing you love and then build out from there, slowly swapping things out until they start to work together. Don’t hurry! I also like to avoid big brands, I find that they’re overpriced, everything looks the same and comparatively in one day vintage hunting or trawling Gumtree you’ll find much more, for less, with personality.

Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?

This year I’m really focused on releasing a few products of my own, I always end up collaborating with brands on products or designing for others and I’ve decided that 2020 will be the time I drop a couple of things for myself without pressure, just to see how it goes!

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

Kelly Thompson Home Tour

For more from Kelly, follow her @kellythompsoncreative,@makers_mrktmakersmrkt.com and kellythompsoncreative.com

Loved this home tour? Tour the Minimalist Melbourne Home of Artist Emma Currie

Discover more of Australia's most beautiful homes in our series, The Makers.

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