Expert Eye: The Poetry of Space

Juliette Arent from Sydney interior design studio Arent&Pyke and Miriam Fanning from Melbourne design practice Mim Design share their tips on how to make an interior sing, and the role that art can play in the process. Penny Craswell writes.

People say that when poetry is really good, you feel like it’s perfectly expressing something you always knew. Interior design is the same – when it’s really good you feel like it perfectly expresses you, that you always belonged here. To get it just right, there has to be balance, proportion and connection. 

Juliette Arent from Sydney interior design studio Arent&Pyke says that the key to getting any interior right is to start by making the layout functional. Then you add layers, teasing out with the client things they’ve collected, things that appeal to them and spark joy. “There’s a process,” says Arent. “What we like to see in a space is for there to be spirit and harmony.”

This layering is prompted by the client as well as the interior designers’ guiding principles and knowledge of design and art. “Image boards and mood boards are really powerful,” she says. “Actually finding what talks to you in an aesthetic sense is a really good start. Then from there, you can hone in on what feeling you are trying to create in the home.”

At La Casa Rosa, a project with interiors by Arent&Pyke and architecture by Luigi Rosselli Architects, the clients already had an art collection that had been built up over 15 yeas. “For these clients, art is part of their story,” says Arent. In one of the living areas, a number of artworks were displayed in a French hang: “I like to do art at the end because when a whole house has come together I intuitively know how to tweak a space – do we need more drama or do we need to bring it back, to be more quiet.”

For Miriam Fanning of Melbourne’s Mim Design, getting an interior to feel like poetry comes down to a number of things: your aspect or view lines, how the space is planned including the location of doors, lighting, furniture, joinery and how it all works together in a cohesive way. 

“Proportion is everything – that can make or break a space,” says Fanning. Art also needs to be selected with proportion in mind – large artworks can work well in a space, but so can having smaller items, which give you the ability to play with space.

The other vital aspect of getting an interior to be just right, according to Fanning, is that you need to have elements of the design that connect with you. The team at Mim Design find that some people connect with items more than others – those who don’t will often get taken on an educational process to learn about furniture or art. “When it comes to art, they love to understand what it means,” says Fanning. “Everything has a story. Great interiors have meaning and connect with the homeowner.” 

Fanning herself has been collecting artwork for 25 years. “We’ve gone on a journey of falling in love with Australian artists,” she says. “Each and every piece means something to us, whether it’s art or furniture. It’s about collecting things and keeping them. They might become an heirloom one day.”

The best interiors work on two levels – they must be perfectly planned and proportioned and they have to include furniture, objects and art that is meaningful. That means curating can rightfully be seen as a vital ingredient in the creation of poetic interiors.

More Expert Eye from Recent issues

Expert Eye: Perfect Matchmakers

Rebecca Gross speaks to three art and design experts who show how artworks can be curated to create feeling, mood and diversity throughout spaces in your home.

Expert Eye: How to buy authentically

A residential art collection is often best when it is deeply personal, reflecting the lived experience and values of the collector. Margaret Hancock Davis talks to Penny Craswell about her collection.