Robert Barr Smith came from Scotland to Australia in 1854, and worked for the mercantile company Elder & Co. In 1856 he married Joanna Elder, and in 1883 become the head of the company, by that time known as Elder Smith and Co. The Barr Smiths had three homes in Australia, the first of which was Torrens Park in Adelaide, acquired in 1874. In the 1890s the Barr Smiths built a second home in the surrounding hillsides called Auchendarroch, and in 1904 the family moved from Torrens Park to Birksgate. Although it is not known exactly how the Barr Smiths were introduced to William Morris and his family, it is thought that the Barr Smith's daughter, Mabel, was a London schoolmate and close friend of William and Jane Morris' youngest daughter, May. All of the Barr Smith's homes were decorated with Morris & Co. furniture and textiles acquired from the Oxford Street store. The family was one of Morris & Co.'s greatest patrons and their Adelaide homes are numbered amongst the most significant interiors furnished by Morris & Co.