March 27th, 2012

Entries closing soon for the Belle/Coco Republic Interior Design Awards!

What do you mean you haven’t entered yet?! Don’t panic! You still have three days to work on that application. Entries close this Friday 30 March.

Celebrating and rewarding excellence in Australian interior design and decoration by individuals, partnerships and design practices at residential, commercial and corporate levels, these prestigious awards are committed to supporting the creativity and innovation of the Australian interior design industry.

For more details and an entry form, email

Steve Cordony at Coco Design School

I was so excited to attend Steve Cordony’s session at Coco Republic Design School last week and he didn’t disappoint.

Steve is interior design editor at belle magazine and responsible for the styling behind those incredible, dramatic, often fantastical photos we devour on its pages each issue. He’s also in great demand as an event stylist, working with glamorous fashion brands, on private parties and more. It’s hard to believe someone so young (28) has such a stunning portfolio of work already. He’s also an incredibly nice guy (don’t you hate it when someone you admire turns out to be well, less than nice?!)

I learned a few interesting things about Steve last week. First, when he was a kid, he used to play a game (on his own!) which he called Renovation Rescue. He’d empty a room, taking all his parents’ furniture outside, then put it all back again and rearrange it. Cue often confused parents when they got home. One two three—Naaaaaw! These days the more sophisticated grown-up Steve is very influenced by fashion and I think it’s fair to say a little bit obsessed with Tom Ford. And candles!

His session was great because not only did he share tips, tricks and shopping destinations, he also gave hands-on demos, like bringing everything from his coffee table at home and arranging it in front of us to show us how it’s done. If you’re interested the contents of a super stylist’s coffee table include a Tom Ford candle, Becker Minty bowl, framed butterfly, Tom Ford (I did warn you!) book and, interestingly, a bonsai! I reckon he’s one of the only people who could make bonsais cool, but there we go. What I liked most was how down to earth Steve was. He gave realistic, affordable suggestions of things to buy and do in our own homes.

We were also let loose (ever heard the expression kid in a candy store?) in the Coco Republic showroom where he showed us a few different ways to make a bed. I do love that practical stuff!

He also told us something about bringing out our inner stylists, starting with the stylist’s toolkit:

  • Staple gun
  •  Tape
  •  Pins
  •  Sharpies
  •  Camera
  •  Sketchbook
  •  Laptop.

Then he advises building up your database. Where to start?

  • Break it up into categories (linen, floral, events, surfaces etc)
  • Go through the address books/stockists pages of homes magazines and start Googling
  •   Jump online and search websites and design blogs
  •  Visit shops, pick the product up and really get to know it.

Some of Steve’s favourite stores are:

  • Coco Republic
  •  Becker Minty
  • The Country Trader
  • Seasonal concepts
  • Drawing Room Theory
  • Your Display Gallery
  • Mitchell Road Auction House
  • Les Interieurs
  • Rust
  • MCM House
  • Ici et La
  • Orson & Blake
  • PAD Interiors
  • Quintessential DuckeggBLUE
  • Nicholas and Alistair
  • Scout House
  • Izzi and Popo

That’s enough to whet your styling appetite for one day. I’ll be back with more tomorrow…

Find out more about Coco Republic Design School and its courses here.

March 21st, 2012

Chelsea Hing: the reality of running your own interior design practice

Chelsea Hing had a strong grounding within top interior design firms before starting her own Melbourne practice five years ago. “It was fantastic as I got to see all the working parts of a design business up close. I loved learning on the job and quickly moved onto bigger things.”

Starting her own business was, she says, another massive learning curve. “As any creative knows, there’s a tremendous amount of not so glamorous stuff that needs constant attention behind the scenes. It takes a lot of hard work to build a practice and reputation, with long hours to get everything right that never get billed. But when you work for yourself there’s a great opportunity to shape your world the way you want to and to choose who you work with which is kind of freeing.”

Working from home on her own to start off with, she was always itching to get out into her own studio space. “I was lucky enough to find this amazing 1850s Italianate Victorian mansion in St Kilda, which has been our base ever since. Over the years, I have worked on developing the business, trying to refine it so it’s as efficient as possible to allow me time to spend on the fun creative stuff.” These days, Chelsea has the luxury of only choosing to work on the residential projects she really enjoys.

“Residential work requires a different set of skills and sensibilities. People are actually going to live in the space you design. I enjoy building those relationships and making people happy.” Chelsea employs another interior designer and a studio manager and calls on a number of freelancers. “I have no plans to expand much larger as I like the more personal connection to the work.”

Start as you plan to go on is her design philosophy. “The fundamentals are absolutely critical to getting the details right. There are no shortcuts or magic bullets. Invest in smart, thoughtful planning, layer up with good looking natural (where logical) finishes and finish with the things that create meaning around you.”

Her own home, like so many designers it seems, is a work in progress. She shares it with partner Nik Epifanidis, an architecture and interiors photographer. “Funnily enough we also live in another one of St Kilda’s landmark Italianate Victorian mansions (in an apartment) with soaring high ceilings, plantation shutters and a good mix of contemporary and classic pieces from the 50s & 70s. Nik’s personal photographs line many of the walls. I find myself digging deeper into my black book to source a look that captures my personality. It takes time.”

Chelsea is now working on a furniture collection. “Moving into a small apartment, we were starved for space. I needed functional furniture that looked beautiful and could multi-task. The first piece was a bedside table that has a drop down lid to rest your morning coffee on (by the time you have lamp and alarm clock, there’s not much space left on top, right?) as well as two drawers and a big space for storing multiple books and magazines that are on constant rotation. The second was a hall console that conceals the household filing, in/out compartments for paid and unpaid bills and a drawer for charging phones and iPad plugged into power inside the drawer.” They’re the first two pieces from a collection she’s calling Five Easy Pieces.

Chelsea and her team recently finished work on a house in Brighton East which has been shortlisted for an Australian Interior Design Award, conceptually based around Mies Van Der Rohe’s legendary Barcelona Pavilion. “It was just so much fun to work on.” Her work has been shortlisted many times but is yet to win an award. Entering is the most important part though, says Chelsea. “There’s no better way to benchmark your practice against your peers. It’s a great feeling as a very small practice to be in the same pages as the heavy hitters. It’s another element that helps to broaden your reach.”

She applauds those designers who have taken on an almost celebrity status of late. “Australia is a young culture when it comes to embracing and commissioning design in any form, so there is a great responsibility on those with a public profile to positively educate people about the value of design and what designers actually do. The fact that local talent is finally being recognised and rewarded is also long overdue.”

What does Chelsea think she is known for? “That’s hard to say. I would hope to be known for creating interiors that are elegant, interesting, engaging and thoughtful.”

Find out more about Chelsea at her website. Read more of my interviews here.

March 13th, 2012

Take the stress out of choosing cushion combos with Bandhini’s free service

I don’t know about you, but whenever I look at Bandhini’s catalogue or website I get OVERWHELMED by all the beautiful choices. But did you know if you tell them what you’re after and your budget they’ll give you suggestions and help you choose free of charge? The service was set up for interior designers and decorators but they’re also happy to help consumers drowning in choices and colour combinations!

Are you working on a project with a tight deadline? Take the stress out of it by asking the experts at Bandhini to suggest cushions, quilts, bed sashes and throws in your price range.

Just send your mood board to and they’ll get back to you with a selection.

March 9th, 2012

Megan Morton: “Going to work’s like being in awesome-world but coming home is even more so.”

Megan Morton’s been a busy lady of late. She’s got a second book in the works and she’s opening a prop room and design school.

She’s one of Australia’s best known female stylists, but she doesn’t exactly go in for self promotion, hoping instead that her work speaks for itself. “I have been head down, working hard for over ten years now,” she says. “I am someone who responds to results, not so much hype.”

All that may have to change now though, with the launch of her new venture, The School. Megan says she’s built her dream studio and props room in Rosebery, where she’ll be hosting styling lessons and workshops for adults and children alike. “It’ll be very different to being a trade-only service stylist. It’s my way of being able to give all the lessons I have learned over the years to anyone who is interested in styling, craft and beyond.

"We are also offering kids classes because, as a mother to three lovely little people, I have found this lacking in the creative education department.” She envisages mothers having some time out at the cafe next door or browsing the furniture in nearby Koskela while the children are taught “incredible things”.

“I’d like all the classes, whether it be craft, styling or a kids make-and-create, to hold a candle to everyone’s inner creative and show people the joy of making things when your hands and heart work together. This is really what it is about my job that I like most. It’s a practical application working with an emotional intuition.”

She’s just styled the catalogue for the new Freedom winter collection. “What I love about the Freedom offer is it lets you play stylist with some grounded pieces as well as purely decorative. The way it’s been designed and styled means you can make your own edit, working back with pieces you might already own. Clever! A home is not a shop! The catalogue is for inspiration, to trigger an idea, not for duplicating.” Her favourites are the Nature’s Imprint prints. “Totally wonderful! Hang four super snugly together on a mantle and hey presto! Instant greatness.”

Megan, who says “I love styling. All days, every day. Even holidays,” had great success with her first book Home Love. The second is coming along nicely. “Home Love has such a charming following. I love writing books. I have ideas monthly about new ones. I love the printed word.”

She’s also working on plenty of residential projects and styling inspired shoots for clients. “Our studio makes all of this possible now with a big design room, studio and props house all built in.” Being next door to Sydney’s hot new must-eat place Kitchen by Mike is helping too!

Megan doesn’t believe working stylists can have the luxury of a set style. “Of course you can have personal preferences (mine involve French Art Deco, a bit of Scandi tat and Belgian grey with a lashing of sunshine yellow) but you are hired not necessarily for your own tastes or style (that is a given), you are hired for your interpretation of the brief. Some days I work with perspex and super modern materials, the very next I am knee deep in vintage ribbon and organza rolls. I put my own preferences aside and give solutions for the image to be the most direct/soft/sexy/decadent/crafted/artisinal/modern or whatever it needs to be. This is why my portfolio covers a lot of ground. The shots might have a loose handwriting, but they are all working to create different emotional charges or deliver a variety of results.”

She loves the work of those people who cover many disciplines. “To me, the bigger the thing you work on the better you can be on the smaller things. And vice versa. Some days I take a whole day to style a perfect egg, but it’s the same nouse I use to deliver a production for 500 people.”

For Megan, home is where husband Giles and the kids are. “My family are totally awesome anyway. Going to work is like being in awesome-world, but coming home is even more so.”

Photo: Jason Busch

March 8th, 2012

Sustainable Building Means Interiors Too

Daphna Tal is the in-house interiors specialist for Australian Living, a leading sustainable building consultancy which focuses on upping the ante in the residential market. Interiors Addict speaks to her and takes a look around this stylish sustainable home (inside and out) in Sydney’s Rose Bay.

“Why aren’t there more interior specialists focused on sustainability? What is stopping or hindering them? Why is the product choice so limited? Why aren’t consumers demanding it? Do sustainable products really need to cost more? How many interior specialists provide sustainable options or do they wait until their customers ask for a sustainable option? These are all questions I ask myself on a regular basis and you must wonder how I sleep at night,” Daphna says.

“I actually do sleep well at night knowing that the products, that I use and recommend to my customers, are made by companies who are environmentally conscious, using sustainable materials, providing their workers with clean working environments and real wages. Also I am providing my customers with healthy alternatives.”

Daphna says a whole raft of interiors products need real improvement in terms of sustainability, including fabrics for couches, tiles, rugs, paint and feature lighting. “My best advice to interior specialists would be to approach suppliers sceptically. They like to greenwash products, and say yes to things being eco-friendly, but it is essential to have proof such as certification, life cycle analysis and up-to-date documentation.”

Sustainable interiors, according to Daphna, help create homes that are aesthetically beautiful, natural and provide a healthier lifestyle environment for the residents. For too long, the idea of sustainable homes has only considered exteriors. “The community is bombarded with solar panels, water tanks and worm composting bins which are all add-ons. They should be thinking about sustainability in terms of the whole house inside and out; the way it is design, constructed and finished with sustainable materials and interior products.” And product suppliers should be taking a lot more responsibility.

Her top tips:

  • Think sustainable in the same thought as form and function.
  • Start questioning suppliers on how sustainable their product really is. Look for credible certification.
  • Have fun with doing the interiors. Think outside the square. For example, a wooden plant holder stand can be used as a hallway table. Use fabric offcuts to make cushions, lounge coverings and even light shades.
  • Buy secondhand. Stop quality made products going to landfill.
  • Choose products that have low toxic levels such as water-based paints. Be very wary with paints as there are many different meanings to low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds).

Daphna adds: “Sustainable living is important because it allows us to live healthier; it connects us more to our natural environment and reduces our carbon footprint. There are no negatives to living sustainably that I can see. Sustainable living requires a holistic approach so it becomes a part of daily life.”

She worked with Australian Living on its sustainable show home in Rose Bay (pictured). “Its main feature is a beautiful internal courtyard that acts as a thermal heart, controlling the energy flow throughout the home. It contains a magnificent green wall that acts as insulation and provides clean air. Other features include the use of sustainable materials and products inside and out, a permaculture garden front and back and energy and water saving solutions. Each room is zoned to be thermally comfortable, and no artificial heating or cooling is installed. The home is sustainable right down to the tile adhesive.”

Find out more at

February 29th, 2012

Robyn Holt on her own home, creating stylish interiors and The Renovators

If you only know Robyn Holt as a judge on The Renovators last year, or as former editor of Vogue Living for more than a decade, you don’t know the half of it. Robyn’s achievements in the publishing, fashion, beauty and interiors industries are nothing short of remarkable. She is also a really lovely lady who can’t get enough of fresh flowers or sharing her knowledge with anyone who’s interested or passionate about something she knows about. She’s headed up fashion label Collette Dinnigan and the Yves Saint Laurent beauty brand and looked after magazines like Vogue, GQ and Monocle all over the world. Suffice to say if I were to list all the impressive things she’s done I’d be here all day.

Having worked in fashion and interiors, Robyn thinks the two are closer linked these days. “I think as the world becomes more connected this link will strengthen,” she adds. “But I love the way fabric design or colour palette is slightly mixed when a trend crosses over. Take animal prints that seem to appear almost every season; we have seen rugs, fabrics and wallpapers appear in most ranges but in many cases with a slight twist. It is interesting to know what the current trends are but I am not a great believer of following trends. I believe you should follow your passions in design.”

Robyn is currently preparing and presenting a monthly segment for Channel 10’s The Circle and loving it. “I thought about all the questions I have been asked over the years and now I’m trying to put them into simple design segments. The one on wallpaper coming up followed the installation of my own powder room. I wanted to show how wallpaper can be as mad and surprising as you wish in a small room that won’t dominate or really influence the rest of your interior scheme. The end result is wonderful. I love to just go into that room now. It is so much fun.”

Her style at home has changed over the years, starting as traditionalist with a flash of eclectic. “But now I think I am more eclectic with a healthy dose of nature. My house is layers: years of collecting and also living in Russia for four years have influenced my interiors. I love black and white photographs (probably my years in magazines) and I have collected amazing fashion photos over the years. They sit really comfortably side by side with modern art in my house. This is all wrapped up in a deep neutral palette of creams, browns and putty. My way of adding colour is in the form of accessories that can come in and go out.”

Robyn’s top tips for a stylish home are comfort, fresh flowers and personality. “I really believe your home should be welcoming and comfortable. You know I love flowers in the house and they always say welcome. Add colour and texture. You can’t beat a good sofa that you can sink into. Then add your own memories into a room, on a table, on the walls in photos or a collection of books; something that says something about you.”

She loved her time on The Renovators and puts the popularity of that kind of TV program down to tough economic times. “In times of crisis your home becomes even more your sanctuary and ideas for making it a place to cocoon become of high importance. The real estate market has flattened in many areas and it’s not the time to sell or move. This has given people the opportunity to look at how they might use their house in different ways – renovation!

“I loved my time on The Renovators, it gave me a chance to share all the years of experience I have with a broad range of people. I loved being able to be a mentor and I think the contestants were truly amazing. Every day I was surprised with what they achieved.”

It’s no secret the show’s viewing ratings could have been better. “It may have been the timing of it or that there were a few shows to choose from on at the same time,” she says. “And getting a new format right is never easy in any medium. If the network decides to make a few renovations to The Renovators and bring it back for another series, I would love to be involved.”

Finally, I asked Robyn to tell us about her favourite piece in her home. “You know I try and have at least one piece in each room I really love but let’s think, if there was a fire, what would I save? I have a wonderful piece of red coral I bought from Paul Bruce before he died. It is like a massive branch and as the climate is changing and the coral seas are in danger I know there is no more of this precious coral to buy anymore, so I would grab that. But what a hard decision!”

February 28th, 2012

Behind the doors of a designer’s home

Following yesterday’s interview with award-winning interior designer Thomas Hamel, today he’s giving us a sneak peek behind the scenes of his own home. And how’s that for a bed? Amazing! You can see why it’s his favourite thing in the apartment! “It’s a perfect cocoon to protect me from the world,” he says.

I personally love how his home is full of texture and beautiful standout pieces and is incredibly warm and inviting despite being a very neutral palette.

I asked Thomas to share a few favourites with us:

Homewares shops/brands? I am quite partial to Residence-Australia, a vast emporium of home furnishings, lighting, textiles, carpets etc that I have helped to create.

Australian interior designers? I am friends with most of the known names in Australia, Michael Love, Stuart Rattle, Greg Natale, Nick Tobias, Marco Meneguzzi, Cameron Kimber, Margie Bromilow, Adelaide Bragg, Christian Lyons, Meryl Hare, Briony Fitzgerald, Richard Archer, David Hicks. We have a wonderful design community who all complement each other very well.

Recent job? We are just completing a true fantasy; a Scandinavian inspired reclaimed timber house with a full grass roof in country New South Wales, to be used as an artist’s studio. Talk about pushing the boundaries!

February 22nd, 2012

Friends in Sydney and LA collaborate on pop up store Yankee Trader by Tom Jones

Yankee Trader by Tom Jones  is a new interior furniture and accessories concept store opening from 1 March to 1 April in Sydney’s Paddington, with pre-loved, fabulous finds straight from the USA.

There isn’t really a Tom Jones. There’s actually two women behind Yankee Trader: Melanie TOMlinson and Kirsten JONES. Geddit?

Melanie spent two years living and working as an interior designer in San Francisco. Returning to Australia in 2009, she set up a boutique design and architectural firm. When the opportunity to collaborate with long time friend Kirsten (who lives in LA) presented itself, she lept at the chance to follow her heart and love for vintage finds and continue her connection with America.

From opposite sides of the globe they pulled together their first shipment in December, dividing the workload between continents. They soon began to realise their dream hobby may become an exciting business journey.

Yankee Trader will be open at 462 Oxford Street, Paddington. It’s also an online store so check out the website for an advance preview!

Good luck, ladies!

Kirsten Jones (left) and Melanie Tomlinson make up ‘Tom Jones’