secrets from rooms that just work

by - September 14, 2015

Some people just seem to have the knack of throwing a few well-picked pieces together and creating an interior design masterpiece. Then there’s the rest of us.

Sometimes no matter how many “rules” we follow, our efforts will never look like those homes spread across several pages in a glossy magazine. So what’s their secret?

I asked three top interior designers to break down why these rooms just work — from the furniture choice to the colours and textures in the soft furnishings and accessories.

From choosing a new cushion for the couch to completely reimagining the kitchen, these guidelines and tips can be applied to any space so go ahead and make your home magazine worthy.


Designer: Larissa Raywood, The Design Hunter

“Laid back luxury was the theme for the owners of this master bedroom in a Paddington townhouse. The parents retreat was brought to life using a combination of materials and textures tied together with the simple silhouettes to create the desired look.

“The monochrome palette began with a base of Porters ‘Elegance’ on all walls, it provided the canvas for the rest of the rooms elements. The custom made bed, with the chosen textural light grey fabric added to the relaxed luxury the room was heading towards.

“Hanging bedside are handcrafted, Tasmanian leather pendants from Who Did That, the perfect introduction of a contrasting texture. Below the marble and leather bedsides from Jardan maintain the boutique appeal of this room providing a clean and classic silhouette.

“Textiles and textures add warmth to the space from a carefully selected cowhide rug to the charcoal based layered Bemboka linens mixed with silk printed graphic floral cushions from designer Ellie Cashman and finishing the look with an Icelandic sheepskin at the base of the bed.

“The realistic detail in the framed Pampa horses print above the bed was the finishing touch — a balancing element that added a sense of adventure to the space.”


Designer: Marika Jarv, Marika Jarv Creative 

“This home is incredibly bright and airy, thanks to the previous owner’s foresight when renovating, to combine elements such as high cathedral ceilings, the expansive use of glazed doors, a mirrored kitchen splashback and an all-white colour scheme — each of which allow for lots of natural daylight to flood in and bounce around the rooms.

“The white base is an elegant starting point in terms of styling, and I do love a restrained palette, but I’ve been careful to incorporate particular items to ensure that the space doesn’t become too cold or austere. This has been achieved by using pale timbers and coppers for warmth, with hits of black for contrast, and plants for greenery.

“After purchasing this house for myself, my first ‘personal touch’ was to hang four large Stanley Hammered Copper Pendants over the kitchen island bench; not only do they bring warmth to the room, but in a very open-plan living arrangement, they assist in delineating the kitchen area. 

“The locally-made, American oak bar stools also add colour to the space, as does displaying thoughtfully designed, functional items on the kitchen counter — such as timber chopping boards, a Normann Copenhagen marble and oak salt mill, a gold Uashmama paper bag (used to hide the endless amount of coins invariably left around our house!), as well as a potted Strelitzia, which helps bring a little of the outside in.

“Directly adjacent to the kitchen is a small alcove, where a large destination screen-print sits (one I created many years ago for a former side-project of mine, PrintDolls) — it is a simple, graphic piece, which makes a strong visual impact.

“An arched window to the side, adds a touch of architectural interest to the space, provides more natural daylight, but most importantly opens the kitchen up to an appealing outlook over the garden courtyard.


Designer: Greg Natale

“This space is in a heritage Queenslander-style home which is being used as a private office and guesthouse by the owners who built their new family home directly behind the original building on the same block.

“The brief was for a masculine space which we achieved through the use of colour and the choice of furniture. I chose navy blue not only because it was our client’s favourite colour but also because blue is a great neutral and is really on trend at the moment. You can team it with a lot of colours and it just works.

“We also chose blue because the brief was specifically for no black. Paired with the walnut it works well to create a masculine look without being too heavy.

“Even though this space is quite full, the reason it doesn’t look messy or over-cluttered is because we worked to quite a strict framework. There is a picture rail and a chair rail and we kept all the wall decor — including the navy wallpaper — within these two boundaries. This gives the space a grounded look so although there is a lot going on, it’s still contained.

“We chose quite large pieces of furniture to give the room scale. It’s definitely not a pared back, minimalist look but the scale and the tones in the room keep the finished product tailored.

“The addition of the white keeps the space looking fresh rather than heavy which was important to me given the heritage aspect of the home. The use of chrome is for the same reason and offsets the other tones in the room perfectly.

“Because of the masculine feel of the room it was also important for us to incorporate some curved lines and circles such as the chandelier and the vases. The inclusion of these shapes also adds some visual interest.”

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