Project Sheet: First Instincts


Lily Karadada’s ‘Wandjina rain spirit’ finds a perfect complement in a mustard-hued couch that contains similar geometries. Behind the doors and into the study sits a piece by Ronnie Tjampitjinpa.

THE RESIDENT AND the decorator of this home in Armadale, Melbourne have something in common: both trust their own eyes and intuition. “I can furnish a client’s space in my mind from the moment I see it,” says designer Simone Haag. “I have an instant response and I do my best to honour it.” Likewise, the client has no problems following her own design conscience. “We see it, we love it and that’s that.” This decisive synergy made for a dream client-decorator collaboration, the result being an eclectic and colourful home filled with Indigenous art, custom furniture, vintage rugs and large doses of personality.

The grand English-style residence is home to a family of five and their beloved dog, Princess Mishmish. After renovating the house, the family engaged Simone to update the furniture, briefing her for a design that would complement their existing art collection. The client grew up in a home surrounded by art and has been collecting since she was a teenager. Many of the pieces are by Indigenous artists and have jewel and earthy tones, texture, an eclectic style and a modern sensibility. “When clients have art collections they’re giving me clues to who they are, what they like and hints of what they’re open to,” Simone says.

The living room features a work by Lily Karadada of a Wandjina rain spirit, purchased at a gallery in Broome. An artwork by Ronnie Tjampitjinpa hangs in the study, visible through the double glass doors. The colour palettes of both artworks reveal the client’s affinity for mustard and burgundy tones; a palette that Simone tied into the design scheme with two long, crescent-shaped velvet sofas that together form a conversational setting. These are paired with a wine-coloured vintage rug that the client initially borrowed for a party and enjoyed so much she kept it.

A Long Tom Tjapanangka piece in the family room has ochre-coloured imagery depicting desert sandhills and mountains. It is one of two works by the artist bought by the client on a visit to Perth, and so Simone created a neutral scheme with rich red and terracotta accents and straw-coloured shades that allow for either artwork to be hung on the wall.

The colours continue through the vestibule, which presents an eclectic mix of architecture, objects and artwork from a variety of cultures, styles and eras. A red, white and mustard triptych by George Tjapaltjarri sits beside traditional leadlight windows. Two wooden sculptures, from Mexico and Papua New Guinea respectively, are elevated on custom mirrored plinths that reflect the bold colours and patterns of a vintage rug that was repurposed from a former bank.

Stephen Baker’s Meeting on the Deck enlivens the dark-green wall of the master bedroom, its restrained colour palette and geometric shapes offsetting the sheepskin-covered armchair and pale-pink loveseat. “Like most of our stuff, [Meeting on the Deck was] a spontaneous decision,” the client says of her decision to buy it after spotting it at The Design Files Open House.

This spontaneity is an approach Simone is on board with: “I encourage my clients not to compromise on what they love. You need to take pleasure in those pieces that make your heart sing.”

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