WITH an elegant home full of eclectic, antique gems, Red Hill dressmaker and bargain hunter Teresa Zarlenga says she would never walk into a shop and buy something new.
“I can’t imagine anything different in my home,” she says of her collection of timeless, classic furniture and accessories, or “co-ordinated rubbish”, as she calls it. “I’m not interested in going into a shop – all the furniture there seems to be the same.
“I’d much rather have something with history that has just happened to come my way. It means so much more to me.”
Teresa says she loves the thrill of finding an item, be it an elegant chaise, a painting, a hostess trolley or a nest of tables that perfectly matches her “look” and the feel of her home – particularly when it sets her back around $5.
“I don’t set out to buy things, it just happens,” she says. “I never plan. I just know when it’s hunting season and go out with an open mind.
“My friends stir me because I will mostly just spend $5 on any one thing, and not much more!”
“Hunting season”, as Teresa calls it, is around March/April and September to November. “It’s the best times for church fetes, which yield wonderful treasures,” she says. “The best fetes are at St Andrew’s and St David’s in Red Hill, St Paul’s in Manuka, St Luke’s in Deakin, and Marymead. I just listen to the ABC in the mornings to find out what’s on.”
From beautiful antique glass decanters to vintage china tea sets, Teresa says she never buys things she doesn’t want or can’t use.
“There’s no sense in filling up your house with clutter,” she says. “I have a strict style – classic and elegant – and I don’t expect to ever change that. People who choose various modern styles will eventually have to update their furniture, but I really enjoy what I have, and I love the price tag! Sometimes I keep the prices on the item to remind me when I got a great bargain.
“Unfortunately, the furniture does tend to collect dust, but I do all my own cleaning. I enjoy it, I love being able to touch and look after my beautiful things.”
Teresa says her secret to creating a harmonious home is keeping to her style and the colours she loves. “I love dark wood, and I have a strict colour scheme of navy blue and cream, so no matter what I find, if it fits into the theme then I know it will work with the rest of the house,” she says. “I will never bring anything into my house that doesn’t match.”
With the help of “Bob the builder”, who Teresa says believes in her ideas, she never has to do too much to an item. “I’m happy to re-purpose things, like the wine rack that’s now my shoe storage, and I’m not afraid of reupholstering. And Bob will help me use the legs of one table and the top of another so I get the look I’m after.”
Whether it’s planter boxes found in a dump, or curlicue gates found on the side of a street, Teresa says she has an eye for detail and knows instinctively if something will work in her home. However, now she says she’s almost done collecting.
“I don’t have the need for much more, although I’d love a a crystal cabinet and a nice chest of drawers for my bedroom,” she says. “But I won’t go looking for them intentionally. There’s no hurry and I know I’ll get what I want in the end, when it’s meant to happen.
“This house is my dream come true, it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted.
“Elegance will never go out of style.”