In this issue of Home Design magazine, we report back from the Milan Fair 2014. Plus, gorgeous rugs influenced by nature, sustainable interiors, and luxurious bedroom homewares.
With so many different building and decorating products on the market, it’s even easier now to choose “environmentally friendly”
Finding the perfect place to create your dream home is something all homebuilders or renovators seek. I wonder how we arrive at the perfect location, and when we do, do we think it’ll be the place where we will live for most of our lives? I have lived in more than 45 houses; my first 16 years were spent in the one house in England before I came to Australia — so you can see that my years here have been spent on the move! I’ve lived as far north as Cairns and as far south as Adelaide and many places between. I’ve also lived back in England and spent a sublime year in Tuscany, Italy — a place I would love to return to live in one day.
In my early days living in Australia I was very restless and wanted to see as much of the country as I could. Arriving in Sydney, I lived in a leafy north-shore suburb filled with beautiful old homes, many of which have sadly been replaced with units, often of the fairly bland variety. After finishing college I set off around Australia with another English friend and we travelled north and south for the next few years, living in country towns and cities for a few weeks or months at a time, doing whatever work we could find. We stayed in places like Byron Bay, Airlie Beach, Magnetic Island, Cairns and Cooktown, and even had a short stint in Coober Pedy as well as the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. The great variety of buildings I lived and worked in, from rough and ready to city glam, provided me with an opportunity to observe different areas and lifestyles.
In the late 1970s, my husband Ian and I bought five hectares of beautiful land in the Byron Bay area. Leaving Sydney and moving north in the early 1980s, we built our first passive-solar-designed house on the site. At that time Byron was a much sleepier town than the one it is today and while it was very beautiful, I found it much too quiet. We moved to the Gold Coast and then to Brisbane, where we lived in nine houses before moving back to Sydney 20 years ago. We have lived in 10 houses during that period.
Maybe it’s because we are both designers and involved in the building industry that we have moved so often, or maybe it’s because I’m a gypsy at heart. We’ve built and renovated many houses of our own and for our clients, each time looking to improve on the last in terms of sustainability, style and materials used. I like to think that I’ve left the houses I vacated in a better condition than when I bought them, or with those I built, provided a well-designed building for another family to love. I think that because I am in the building industry and see so many products and ideas, I want to try them for myself to see how they work. I then want to share those ideas with others looking to create their perfect home.
I enjoy even the simplest decorating project, whether it’s re-painting rooms, changing the upholstery on dining chairs or updating accessories, bed linen and the like. I guess that’s why I chose design as my profession. And although I love change and new things, I also love to renew, recycle and re-use. I’m not a great fan of “retro” but I do like to see how I can update an old piece of furniture with colour or fabric, or use an old piece in a different setting with more modern pieces. I also like to buy eco-friendly furniture and furnishings and look closely at the labelling and contents of items that I buy and use in my home.
As I enjoy living in both the city and the country, I’m fortunate enough to have two homes to live in, both of which seem to be in a constant state of change. I recently spent a few weeks in our home in northern New South Wales updating and re-decorating, while Ian has been landscaping, planting fruit trees and bird-attracting shrubs with the view to creating a future vegetable garden, similar to the one in our city home. And there are further plans to extend as we hope to spend more time in the country house during the coming years as our family grows and grandchildren arrive.
The decision for us, of course, is what materials to use next. With so many different building and decorating products on the market, it’s even easier now to choose “environmentally friendly”. Consideration for the environment when designing or building should be a given, not an option. Our feature on Future Proofing Your Interiors this issue is a good place to start your research. Then talk to your architect, building designer, interior designer and builder to find out what is the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly way to build, renovate or decorate. If they don’t know, it might be time to find someone else to do the job.
Enjoy this issue.
Kate St James, FDIA