Tropic Now takes a peek inside the home of professional Cairns artist Hayley Gillespie, to find her interior design reflects what she puts on canvas (and vice versa!).

How does your home make you feel?

Everything in my home has to have a reason for being there.

Sentimentality is first! I love form that has function but I also collect lots of vintage toys.

Having these things around me helps me get lost in my head and create the world that arrives on canvas.

Home is very important, which is why there are always little houses in my work.


Do you have a favourite room?

I try to create a vibe for each area, so it depends on my mood.

I really love 1950s design as not only is it the decade my house was completed, but it reminds me of visiting my grandparents who lived next door when I was growing up in London – the magic place where ‘no’ became ‘yes’.

I just love retro kitchens and kitchen appliances. I also have three retro bar areas.

Ironically, I don’t cook very well and I mostly have zero alcohol. 

How have you gone about setting up your workspace?

My workspace is a large shed in my back garden.

I built a place to work at home because at the time my son was at school, and I wanted to have the adaptability to come and go easily and fit my work in around his life.

As soon as I walk into that space, I’m in ‘work mode’.

Now that my son has grown up, I have my dogs at work every day. 

A lot of the furniture appears to be upcycled. How do you spot a fantastic piece?

I have a really strong sense of what I do and do not like.

I grew up in a hands-on practical household and I studied at the London College of Furniture and then worked around antique shops and bought and sold pieces.

Plus, when you are young and poor, you can get creative quickly through buying second hand and skip diving.

Nowadays, it’s my good friend who has the amazing eye – particularly for my own style.

She will often send me texts saying, ‘do you want me to grab this for you?’

She is literally the Queen of op shops!

Are you a plant killer or a green thumb?

I love plants but I swear I must be toxic with all the turps I use.

I try to love and look after them but they just die at the sight of me.

The surviving plants live of their own accord and just want me to go away.

Weirdly, I actually love gardening and find it really relaxing.

Maybe it’s the serial killer in me.

What are some of your favourite homeware stores?

I love shopping second hand!

It’s environmentally friendly, it’s cheaper, it’s way more fun and exciting and I love the challenge of hunting for treasure.

Best of all, you’re supporting either a charity or a small business.

The other way I love to shop is for handmade items, rather than mass produced.

When I buy something, I buy it to keep for good.

I do not like the throw away attitude, mainly for environmental reasons.

I always try to shop local first.

Where Hayley shops

Crackerbox Palace | Sheridan Street, Cairns
Makin’ Whoopee | Shields Street, Cairns
Animal Welfare Op Shop | Draper Street, Cairns
The Buy Back Shop | Cairns’ council rubbish tip
The Retro Vintage Guy | Etsy


This article originally appeared in Tropic Magazine, Issue 35.

See more of Hayley's home and art on her Instagram

interior design