6 tips for decorating your rental property.

There's an abundance of colour, pattern, texture and layering in my bedroom to make up for what I can't have.

There’s an abundance of colour, pattern, texture and layering.

This past weekend I put the final touches on a little side project of mine.  My own bedroom.  It’s been patiently waiting for an update, which I was avoiding because 1/ I’m my own worst client 2/ I live in an inner city rental so quickly feel defeated by all of the constraints.  What’s an Interior Designer to do without wallpaper, architectural details or custom curtains?  Here’s what I decided on.

1. More of everything (else).

For practical reasons wallpaper, custom curtains, even a lick of colourful paint are out.  This means that stepping up all of our usual elements is in – think more colour, pattern, texture, scale and layering.  Here, I’ve used pops of colour in the soft furnishings and accessories, the patterns are quite bold on the cushions and blanket, I’ve mixed different textures and had an extra tall (145cm) headboard made.

2.  Invest in quality furniture that is transferrable, not temporary.

I’ve been gradually building up a collection of good quality furniture.  I’d like to think I won’t be renting for much longer but the reality is I live in Sydney and have a penchant for pretty inner city suburbs beyond my current reach.  Ikea is just not going to cut it while I wait to win lotto.  Invest wisely and look out for sales on key pieces and really enjoy the home you live in, today.

3. Multitask

I like to look out for furniture that is versatile so that it can be moved around to different rooms and used again in another home.  This antique desk is currently a bedside, was previously a stand for my TV and I’m sure will make a great entrance console one day.

If space is an issue, multi task areas.  I'm loving the trend for bedside tables that also work as desks.

If space is an issue, multi task areas. I’m loving the trend for bedside tables that also work as desks.

4. Hang great artwork

I really think it’s important to hang proper artwork that you love.  Removable velcro strips are a godsend.  I’m lucky enough to have beautiful water colour paintings by my partner’s father.  So much more sophisticated and personal than that new sticky wallpaper, washi tape or decals that scream RENTAL!  Don’t you think?  (I have also found some amazing paintings in Vinnies so no excuses!)

5. Floor rugs

Floor rugs are a great opportunity to bring in that first layer of colour, texture and warmth.  An over scaled rug (so long as it fits in the room!) will make the room appear bigger and more luxurious.  They’re also transferable to your next home so a good excuse to spend a little more on something nice.

6. Accessorise

As with any interior, accessories finish and lift the room.  Try to find accessories that you love and are personal to you in some way, then layer them on top of books and make vignettes.  I find weekend markets a great source for unique accessories.

I pulled the blues and greens used in this scheme from the water colour painting in this pic.

I pulled the blues and greens used in this scheme from the water colour painting in this pic.

How I started an Interior Design business

It’s been a little while (ok, a long while) since my last post, so it seems appropriate to get up an running again with what I’ve been up to these last months.  I resigned from my secure job as an Interior Designer and started my own Interiors business freelancing.  Exciting, isn’t it??  I’ve learned a lot and thought it good karma to share my advice and experience with others thinking of doing the same.


Really, the biggest step is making the decision to just do it.  I decided to make the jump with no photographed portfolio or client base.  I weighed up two questions – am I crazy for taking this risk now? Or am I crazier to work yet another year for someone else and have nothing further to show for it?  I think it’s important to focus on what you do have, which for me is many years industry experience, design and computer skills, extensive industry knowledge and supplier contacts.

It’s so important to have faith and trust in your abilities.  Surround yourself with a cheer team.  For me it’s family, close friends and positive colleagues.  Unfortunately I’ve found there will always be someone who wants to push you down.  I was told once that I would never be a designer as my personality was too flat!  Well guess what, here I am and my clients love my personality.  (In hindsight, Oprah was told early on that she was ‘unfit for TV’, so really it was probably a good omen for my future success 😉 ). Push the negativity out best you can, it’s more about them as a person than you.


* Register an ABN (in NSW).  It’s so easy – go to the Australian government website abr.gov.au and a few minutes later you’ll have a number.  If you register as a sole trader you don’t even have to think of a business name yet, it’s just your name.

* Open a business banking account at your local branch.

* Set up a business email.  I used gmail.  Done in 5 mins.

* Get some simple business cards printed with your contact details.

* Make sure you have basic equipment like a mobile phone, computer with the programs you will use, printer, basic stationary etc.  Working from home initially will save you $$$ and you can claim a portion of your rent/mortgage on tax.

Are you wondering why you haven’t done this yet?


Experience is so important and the hardest part of working in the design industry.  Do everything you can to get it and watch your ducks start to line up.  Always be observing what the best in the business are doing and make those contacts.

Finance is also a big one.  Everyones circumstance is different but everyone needs a clear plan.  Have at least 6 months pay saved to give yourself a good start.  Financial stress is the LAST thing you need when starting a new venture.  You will also need a good accountant.


Tell your family, your friends and suppliers of your plans.  I was phenomenally lucky and had two big residential clients sign up right at the start.  I couldn’t in my wildest dreams have expected such luck.  It’s amazing what comes back when you put yourself out there.

It’s really important to stay active in the design community so attend any functions you can and visit suppliers regularly. Be visable.  My favourite saying at the moment is ‘opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor‘.


This has been my weakest point as I had to hit the ground running much quicker than expected.  You will need to;

* Decide on your design fees and margin.  This has been trial and error for me.  I find a competitive hourly rate + a conservative margin on product sold is a good combination while getting off the ground.  I also pass on discounts to clients where I can as everyone loves a discount and it helps to build trust that they are not being ripped off.  You’ll soon figure out if you’re making enough money.  RUN from people who make issue of paying or bargaining you down from the beginning – you’re already giving them a very fair deal.

* Decide on your branding. Who are you?  What do you do?  What’s your website, social media and profile going to look like?  This will evolve in time so try not to freak yourself out on it too much (like I do).

* Admin.  It’s unavoidable.  Do yourself a favour and get a program like Freshbooks.  I use Freshbooks to create invoices, enter payments and record expenses.  It’s been a life saver and I don’t recommend running a business without it or a program similar.

* Make templates for everything to save time.  This should include a fee letter, a contract, presentation / floor plans, purchase orders and invoices.

* Educate yourself with online information and business books.  They will help you outline a business strategy and set goals.  I like The Big Book of Small Business by Andrew Griffith.

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Mirror, mirror on my walls: which colour is the best of all?


Image from mackenziehoran.com

Lately I’ve been pondering covering my living room wall entirely in mirror.  Doubling the size of the room and bouncing extra light into every corner, mirror panels are a relatively inexpensive way to create impact and add drama to a space.  Vast expanses of mirror can look harsh, so I will be softening the look by layering furniture, art and accessories in front (as shown above).


Image from silverwoodinteriors.com

The entry to your home is also a great place for mirror, bringing light to a sometimes small and dark space.  I love attaching wall sconces to mirrored walls, treating a neglected area to even more light and drama.  Just watch the feng shui, you want to be directing those positive vibes the right way!


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Mirror comes in a variety of colours and finishes.  Silver is a colour that everyone will be familiar with and is perfect for contemporary spaces.  Grey and bronze are great colour choices to create a moodier effect.  The image above shows how bronze mirror can warm a space and add a touch of glamour.


Image from thelennox.com

A popular and favourite finish of mine is the antiqued effect.  No two mirrors will be the same because artisans use a variety of interesting techniques to achieve the look.  The mirror can become an artwork in itself.  I find antiqued mirror adds such an interesting element to most interiors, sitting happily in the most glamourous rooms as well as amongst traditional antique furniture.

It’s a big decision, so just like a new paint colour, getting in mirror samples to see how they look in the space first is the best first step.

Charcoal Walls: Going to the dark side.

Over the last couple of years, a bold trend for covering walls in deep, dark hues has been filtering over to Australia from overseas cities such as London, Paris and New York.  Famed UK designer Abigail Ahern leads the charge with her immensely popular blog (abigailahern.wordpress.com) and books, building a convincing case for banishing fresh white and neutral colour palettes.  But before launching head first in to the dark side of decorating, there are some important differences to consider.  The natural lighting and lifestyle, for example, between London and Sydney is an obvious contrast.


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Painting a room in charcoal will create a dramatic backdrop to your furnishings and impart a moody, mysterious or smart atmosphere, dependant on the hue and contrasts that you choose.  Dark hues are typically suited to urban, inner city dwellings but can work well in any interior with a few simple tricks.

Dark walls teamed with soft metal accents, such as brass and copper, create a truly glamourous interior.  Other light modern features such as a perspex table, allow the space to breath and light to flow through unobstructed.


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Keeping other surfaces such as the flooring and ceiling light can help to lift the scheme and allow more natural light to bounce around.  Accent lighting such as floor lamps will provide the additional ambient lighting needed, come nightfall.


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Leather furnishings in tan and brown are complimentary to charcoal walls and create quite a masculine effect.  Perfect for a bachelor pad!


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Adding a bright pop of colour is another way of lifting the space, allowing somewhere for the eye to focus on.  Coloured accessories can be changed seasonally to make the space comfortable and versatile throughout the year.

Lighter artworks will break up the vastness of a dark wall and push the wall in to the background, helping the room to look bigger.  As with any interior, fresh floral arrangements or indoor plants will liven up any space and are absolutely essential in layering a dark scheme.

Colour of the moment: Radiant Orchid


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Beautiful colours flow in and out of fashion with changing trends, seasons and locations.  Whilst I always recommend using a base of neutrals for the large and often expensive items in your home, it’s the accents of colour found in art and accessories which will personalise the room.  If you’re looking for some fresh colour inspiration, why not try a colour that you wouldn’t normally consider?



At the moment, I’m loving ‘Radiant Orchid’, which has just been announced as the colour for 2014 by colour forecaster, Pantone.  This bright magenta cross fuchsia purple sits surprisingly well next to all neutrals, from white to greys and even the deepest charcoal.


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Ease in to this colour with scatter cushions, throws or a new accessory.  If you’re feeling bold, paint or wallpaper an entire room.  The trick is to ensure there is another expanse of neutral colour in the room for the eye to rest on, such as a sofa or floor rug.


image from Barbara Groen

Have a look at my instagram @thedesignanthologist for my interpretation of using this colour with beautiful fabrics.

Styling your dining table: keep it simple.

One thing I know is key to successful dining table styling is to keep it simple.  Unless you are a skilled stylist, too many colours, styles, complex centrepieces and crafty gimmicks found on Pinterest can get all too much.  I’ve found some lovely images (ahem… some on Pinterest) that I think are good examples to learn from.

The settings in the first two images have kept a muted and soft colour palette, introducing interest with layering and textured details.  The centrepiece sets the natural theme for the table and has been left on its own – not too fussy!  Light timber is echoed in the tableware and table itself.


Height can be cleverly introduced with sparse florals or twigs, like the beautiful magnolias below.  Guests will be able to see each other past this centrepiece.   Again, the colours are kept simple.


Any excuse to use your collections (as mentioned in my previous post… Styling your collections: the kookier the better!) can be very effective and add a personal touch, such as these vases, brought to life with fresh florals.  I think any setting deserves some sort of living feature, if not florals then fruit or vegetables can add a fresh element.


Finally, candles will add a warm finishing touch to any setting.  I love candelabras and candle sticks as they are romantic and entrancing as they burn down.  Tea lights are handy in adding a bit more light and sparkle.  There are some great safe candles out there which are battery operated and flicker continuously, a great option if you have flammable decorations nearby.  Just remember to dim the lights and enjoy everyone looking their best in a soft glow…


Styling your home office: get productive!

Today I’m dreaming of styling my own, perfect home office.  It will be filled with light, super organised and comfortable.  Here’s my styling advice to create a beautiful home office space.


Comfort comes first

It’s really important to be comfortable in a home office, particularly if you work from home.  Probably the hardest part of styling your office will be finding a chair that not only looks great but is also ergonomically correct.  I recommend treating chairs as you would a new mattress purchase – don’t be afraid to try them out.  Sit in them for a while, right in the shop!

Further comfort can then be brought in with a cozy floor rug.  Keep in mind if you choose a chair with rollers, a shaggy rug won’t fair so well underneath.


Shed some light on the subject

Hopefully you are lucky enough to have your desk right near a window, letting the sunlight spill right through your space and enabling you to gaze out when tired eyes set in.  If not and for night time, an adjustable task lamp is essential.  Also consider the location of your screen to minimise glare.


A place for everything

Depending on what your space is used for, you will need a variety of storage.  Try getting creative with pinboards, where you can style your most inspirational images, swatches and important reminders.  Bookshelves and loose shelving are ideal for styling favourite objects amongst books and files.  Best not to have too much clutter though.


The fun part

Once all of the essentials are in place, it’s time to style and have fun.  Hang art on the walls or stacked on shelves.  Put together a pleasing vignette and bring in some life with at least one indoor plant.  If you have a dedicated home office, it’s a great opportunity to wallpaper or paint the walls a feature colour.  Keep in mind that soft neutrals and the cooler colours, such as blue and green, tend to promote concentration.  Red and purple a renowned for being distracting.