Ben at Peel by Milieu
Photography by Derek Swalwell
Please tell us about yourself, your background and how you first found out about Milieu?
Ben: I grew up in New Zealand and lived in Melbourne in my early 20's. I was then based in Europe and Asia for 13 years or so and returned to Melbourne at the start of the pandemic. I've been working in design (fashion) for years, and as a bit of a Covid pivot, I've also got an art practice that I love. I actually can't remember how I found out about Milieu—honestly, it was probably The Design Files or something similar that first put Milieu on my radar.
Was buying off the plan something you ever imagined doing?
Ben: Not at all. Honestly, you'll think I'm just saying this but for me, it was more about buying into a Milieu development, and less about buying off the plan. At the start of 2020 (the pandemic hadn't started), I was still living in Shanghai, and I had just sold my apartment in Paris and I knew that at some point over the next year or two I would be back in Melbourne. I was on holiday with a few friends, one of them being Mark Simpson from DesignOffice, and got an EDM from Milieu about Brunswick East by Milieu. I absolutely adore the location so I emailed Patrick and things just escalated from there.
What were your main considerations when finding your new home?
Ben: I had to love the location. I wish I had some other long list but it was all quite intuitive I guess, and sort of happened organically.
"For me, it was more about buying into a Milieu development, and less about buying off the plan."
How did you find the process of buying off the plan through our sales team?
Ben: The lead time of buying off the plan was actually a major consideration and worked for me. I think emotionally I wanted the feeling of being anchored to something in Melbourne, but when I committed I was still living in Shanghai so it felt good knowing I had a couple of years to get back to Melbourne properly, but that I was tied to something there I was really excited about.
The process was all pretty chill and seamless, and if anything I remember at one point thinking 'it's so nice that this is just all in-house under the Milieu umbrella and no real estate agents as middlemen' (no disrespect to real estate agents out there). I actually see Patrick at the dog park sometimes now and wonder if there are maybe 150 Milieu residents that see him around and feel like he's a mate.
What do you like most about your apartment's design?
Ben: 1000% I feel like I hit the jackpot as the terrace is on a corner of the building, and even though I am on the first floor the building steps back above the terrace so I get open sky above it.
What do you think defines good development and successful apartment living in Melbourne?
Ben: Facades that don't look horrendous seven years after they were built, well-proportioned spaces and people using all the space they live in (people might actually be really happy in a smaller space than they think if it is well-designed).
"Life is always going to be pretty complicated in a myriad of ways so the most important quality in a home is that you can make this little space that is personal to you and a real place to retreat to and do whatever."
What do you think are the most important qualities in a home?
Ben: I have a bath every day so there's a bathtub for me. Good natural light. A cute dog. This sounds so middle-aged but hanging space in closets. I mean this might make you roll your eyes but honestly, you just need to walk in the front door and feel good. Life is always going to be pretty complicated in a myriad of ways so I think the most important quality in a home is that you just make this little space that is personal to you and a real place to retreat to and do whatever.
What does a night at home with friends around look like?
Ben: Okay so full disclosure I pretty much fall asleep by 10pm every night so there's not much post-midnight raving in my living room with friends anymore. But what I will tell you is that years ago a friend and I coined the phrase 'actively relaxing' which basically means lounging around talking about life and having a bit of a lol. So apart from spending time alone with my dog looking at the internet I would say that's my favourite activity at home.
Was moving into Peel Street a lifestyle change, what have you enjoyed, what has surprised you?
Ben: Moving into Peel Street happened off the back of 13 years overseas, and the day after I moved in we went into that first lockdown of March 2020. I'll tell you what has surprised me—there is a genuine sense of camaraderie and community in the building. I've never felt that, and I actually love it.
How did you go about making your space your home?
Ben: I still remember my friend Brooke when we were about 23. She was in her first job as an interior designer and we were talking about people's different tastes and she said 'If you really like all your stuff it can't not work together and it will look great.' Honestly, I really like my stuff and I feel pretty attached to it now, most of it has been with me in very different spaces (not to sound like an asshole but my apartment in Paris that was built in 1867, an Art Deco heritage listed place from the 1920s in Shanghai, and now a beautiful Milieu space in Melbourne). I guess that's what makes it feel like home—it's just stuff I've collected over the past 20 years or so and I genuinely love living with it.
"I think the most important quality in a home is that you just make this little space that is personal to you and a real place to retreat to and do whatever."
Do you have any pieces that are particularly meaningful to you?
Ben: So much of it! I bloody love my dining chairs so much, and I have this big concrete ear that has been with me since 2001 that apart from Ted (my dog) is the first thing I would save in a fire.
How do you function, day to day, in your home?
Ben: I'm pretty lazy around the house and really on board with that. I wake up super early so I like to sit in bed for about two hours from 5—7am and give my adrenal glands a real kick in the head with about seven cups of coffee. And I have a bath every night—shout out to the Lavender Bath Salts from the Hub General Store around the corner from Peel Street that are worth every penny.