Amy's Happy House | Part 1
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
If the latest season of The Block is failing to inspire, then read on my friends! Here is a glimpse into a home decorating project that tickles my fancy...
The house belongs to my friend Amy who's an Aussie textile designer and printmaker with design credits in France and the UK. Cushion covers, silk scarves and bed linen are all in her repertoire. She's wonderfully creative, a true original... and an even better friend.
Amy's happy home in Hawthorn provides the ideal opportunity to exercise her creative juices. A blank canvas three years ago, intermittent renovations are now beginning to display her signature style. And how would you describe this style, say you? With difficulty! It certainly defies description with a hastagable buzzword. In a world in which #Scandi has flooded the home decorating market with blonde timbers, woven fabrics, and vintage teak sideboards, Amy's palette is an exciting deviation from the mainstream. Here's a list of things I know pique her interest...
Fuchsia pink and emerald green. Preferably together.
Wallpaper. Especially prints with a late-Victorian influence.
Contrast. Be it clashing colours or black accents.
Ornate brass ware. There's a brass knocker in the shape of a pineapple on her front door, and she has a penchant for leafy brass light fittings.
Cane furniture and raffia.
Quirky curiosities. At the Sunbury Antiques Market she pounced on a porcelain teapot in the shape of a bunny to accessorise her baby's room. Also for baby's room... a DIY'd chest of drawers with yellow painted dinosaurs substituting for drawer handles (Amy's own handiwork).
It goes without saying that Amy's design sensibility is uniquely her own. She delights in colour and her home is a joyous expression of happy hues. Tile selections and light fittings "as seen on The Block" are unlikely to excite her, nor would the window display at The Works turn her head. Amy is generally wary of architects who would threaten to impose their minimalist ideals on her cacophony of colour (but she makes exception for me- for I am a statistical outlier). Amy's one concession to current trends is her love of the pineapple motif... but she claims to have been enamoured with the spiky fruit before it became 'a thing' in recent years.
Amy's home makeover is very much a work-in-progress, but five key rooms are starting to pop from the plasterboard...
The Lounge with the Leaf Light
The lounge is the first room you encounter on stepping through the front door. At present, it's decked out with twin sofas upholstered in green velvet, and an array of colourful cushions scattered throughout (Amy's own designs). A pink chest of drawers with inlaid mother-of-pearl takes pride of place next to the fireplace, and large mirrors enhance the perception of space in the room. Still to be determined is the choice of overhead lighting... and here lies a golden opportunity (quite literally!) to make a statement befitting the formality of the room. As lighting is a particular passion of Amy's, it may well be that finding the perfect pendant proves a challenge. She recently acquired a brass pendant light with ornamental leaves that could work well at the entry. $150 from Facebook Marketplace... a round of applause for a bargain buy!
So it's the hallway, and it's covered in goldfish. The space is small so the choice of a bold wallpaper on all four walls is impactful. Amy selected a beautiful Asian-inspired print from Osborne & Little, and the metallic lustre of the goldfish against a grey background adds a touch of drama to this wee room.
On that note... one myth we are often sold is the idea that our interiors need to be as light and bright as possible. When it comes to transition spaces like hallways and vestibules, low lighting and a sense of enclosure can in fact enhance the experience of departing from one room and arriving into the next.
Black and Brassy in the Living Room
The main feature of Amy's Living Room is the full height bookcase that incorporates low-level cupboards and open shelves above. This is a perfect example of how every insertion - no matter how utilitarian - is an opportunity to express something of your own personality. Amy has painted her open shelves black and (because who doesn't like a bit of bling!) the cupboard doors have been lined with brass... cha-ching! The newly installed brass lining is highly reflective, but with atmospheric exposure and handling over time it should develop a natural patina and present 'a rustic sheen' in place of a mirror finish. This method was used to dramatic effective at McManus Lew's St Kilda House (see pic below) which was a source of inspiration for Amy...
"Copycat!" - you cry?
Well, only in part. Amy has taken her brass doors one step further by way of the humble cupboard door handle. Not one to pick out a nickel knob from the multitude on offer at Bunnings, Amy has commissioned door handles custom made from pink agate and they are absolutely, positively the fanciest door hardware I ever did see. I recall her deliberating over green or pink stone... but I think she made the right call with the latter given the amount of green finishes still to be introduced to her scheme (spoiler alert!) Moreover, the pink stone displays greater tonal variation... and if eye-catching is your goal then go for it!
The Loo with Leaves and Keys
One idea I've heard expressed from home renovators is that a neutral palette is preferable in order to maximise the re-sale value of your home. The underlying assumption is that prospective buyers will be frightened off by bold colours and outlandish prints. This may or may not be true, but I suspect it is far too often used as an excuse to avoid a memorable and personal finishes scheme... and safe #Scandi wins again! Aware of this attitude, my old boss would encourage his clients to consider a more playful approach to smaller rooms like the ensuite, powder room or laundry, which are less likely to deter future house hunters.
Clearly Amy has no regard whatsoever for any future owner of her house (oh the joys of a forever home) with every room bursting with personality, including her laundry and adjoining WC. Cole & Son's 'Chiavi' wallpaper is here on-show, and its design of leaves and keys is reminiscent of late Victorian prints.
Last but in no way least is the kitchen. More often then not this is the hardest working room in the home, and the figurative heart of the household. In Amy's case, it is also her biggest, boldest project and one currently on the drawing board. She still has some key design decisions to make, but what we can expect is a new Lacanche Range Cooker in black due to arrive in November, as well as tap ware courtesy of Perrin & Rowe. Until then, the below images might give you an idea of what's in store. Watch this space!