In this Kip&Co's Home Life Series we visit Clea Cregan and her gorgeous family of four in their inner city jungle paradise.
Founder of Miniscapes, a Melbourne business that creates miniature gardens and green spaces for indoor and outdoor settings, Clea’s expertise in design and horticulture is reflected in her family home.
With a stunning array of lush plants, a collection of sculptures, artwork and photography, Clea's home is a testament to her creative vision and passion for bringing the beauty of nature into everyday spaces. Step inside!
1. Hi Clea! Thank you so much for bringing us inside your gorgeous Brunswick family home. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and who lives here with you?
Hello, welcome to our home! I live here with Jack, Harlan (13) and Ettie (10) and our dog, Cookie. I’m a landscape designer and Jack is a film editor. We’ve lived in this house for around 10 years. We did a big renovation when we first moved in and opened the back of the house to the sun. The original 1930’s garage was converted to a studio, lined with plywood which makes a great edit suite for Jack’s work. The garden links the studio to the house, and we spend a lot of time out the back, with lots of large windows and sliding doors linking the house to the outside area.
2. From film production to terrariums, to now owning your own landscape design service Miniscape Projects, you’ve had a pretty diverse career journey thus far. Can you take us back to the beginning?
Yes, it has been quite an organic journey! I’ve been lucky to have worked in various creative roles over the years. I started my career as a graphic designer in Canberra in a web design studio. Then I moved to Melbourne to study Multimedia and Design at Swinburne University. This landed me a job in a film production company where I spent 8 years working as a Directors Assistant.
My interest in terrariums first started as a hobby, whilst working in film. As an avid nature lover, I was captivated by these tiny gardens. Terrariums combined my love of ‘mini’ things, plants and design. When our son was born, I knew the long hours of film production weren’t going to suit family life, so my hobby morphed into a small business, Miniscapes. Terrariums were on the cusp of a revival, and Miniscapes was very popular. In 2016 I wrote a DIY book ‘Miniscapes ’ (published by Hardie Grant) so people could make their own terrariums. Even now, years later, people continue to send me photos of their original Miniscape terrariums that are still thriving!
3. What was the turning point in your career where you realised you wanted to take your passion for terrariums to a larger scale?
I guess it was inevitable that Miniscapes would expand into bigger landscapes. Space and plant species were limited in a terrarium. I found this frustrating. I loved the process of designing my own garden, and I realised that this was the next step for Miniscapes. I went back to study landscape design at Melbourne University and loved it. At first I was designing small gardens for rooftops, balconies, and courtyards, and this has now grown, to where I am doing all sizes of landscapes, from city rear gardens to coastal properties, and some commercial spaces also.
4. You’ve worked on some pretty incredible projects over the years, but we can’t go past your own backyard (not to mention that spa!). Talk us through what you’ve done with the space and the creative process behind such a unique yet functional outdoor entertaining area.
Gardens are always growing and evolving. I loved our backyard, but as our kids got older, everyone’s needs had shifted. Although it was lovely and green to look at from the house, nobody was really using it anymore, except Cookie, our dog.
So last year we decided to have a huge garden makeover. Jack’s precious lawn was replaced with Bluestone steppers, a new bbq area included a bench seat, with lots of pretty planting. The trampoline was replaced with a cedar hot tub. Edible plants are mixed in with natives and exotics. We planted a mini food forest using dwarf varieties of fruit trees. We’ve added wicking beds for vegetables and herbs. Everything is thriving. It’s been in for 12 months, and there are now so many more butterflies, birds and bees. I’m out in the garden everyday, and we’re eating outside more often, not to mention daily soaks in the hot tub. I love watching the bats fly over every night. I have a regular ‘tub club’ catchup with friends - a lovely way to connect. It’s so exciting watching the garden grow and change. Our garden is no longer just a beautiful backdrop, but a fully immersive experience.
5. Small city gardens and balconies are hard to tackle and require some pretty creative planning. What are your top three tips for anyone wanting to make a big impact in a smaller space?
1. Make the most out of vertical space - Use creepers up the walls, wires overhead, raised beds, hanging plants, climbers up a trellis, espaliered fruit trees against walls. This creates visual interest and privacy.
2. Grow your own food. Everyone can grow a small amount of food even on a balcony or small space.- Fresh herbs, vegetables, lettuces, dwarf varieties of fruit trees can be grown in pots, wicking beds or raised planters.
3. Use plants with multi-seasonal interest - their foliage, flowers, fruits and structure.
6. Your creative eye and attention to detail carries through to your home. What influence does your love of nature play in your interior styling?
We wanted a strong connection to the outside, from every room of the house. In the bathroom, we planned the windows at a low level over the bath. Green creeping foliage covers all the fences, for a feeling of nature wrapping the entire house. We have lots of indoor plants throughout the house. A lush green courtyard with plenty of glass, links the living and dining rooms. We like pops of brighter colours throughout our home, which contrasts beautifully against the greenery. We’ve collected artworks over the years - some darker moody film prints, and also plenty of brighter paintings and sculptures. Our favorite artworks are from some of our good friends, Jack’s old skate buddies, film friends, and photographers.