A few things I never thought I’d do: a) move to Australia b) witness a cockatoo eating a piece of toast c) be chased by an emu d) live in an ultra-modern apartment. Of all these, d) is actually the most shocking to me. I love neoclassical architecture, original wood floors, and hand-pressed brick. So, I am still grasping the fact that our new Sydney apartment is an ultimately minimalist abode with floor to ceiling windows, white walls, and gray tile. I am outside my comfort zone in a design sense that is metaphorically similar to my move to the Southern Hemisphere: the challenge has been daunting, but the results are shaping up to be sunny.
Despite the interior design challenge, this adjustment period is anything but negative. I am beyond thrilled with this new apartment. Remember the hurdles we had to overcome with the previous place? We have said goodbye to Mona and the “shoebox” life (albeit with spectacular views) and have said hello to storage space galore, a big balcony, and an added level, while remaining in our favorite Elizabeth Bay neighborhood. The blessing and the curse is that our new home is unfurnished. I do not have to work around an awkward red sofa or mind-numbingly horrible art chosen by a stranger. However, a big, open expanse of white walls is almost as foreboding. Below are the steps I have taken in the past couple of weeks to slowly but surely transform this white box into a charming and inviting space that won’t break the bank.
Find Local Inspiration
The only color in the entire two-story space is a light aqua glass backsplash in the kitchen. I had to make the choice to ignore or embellish it. The decision was made for me during a recent hike from Bondi to Coogee Beach. Countless times I witnessed bright bursts of yellow flowers set against the aqua-blue sea. I realized that the combination could work well in our apartment. The backsplash, so clearly reminiscent of the sea, combined with with white walls and pops of citrus yellow, proved to be quite stunning. Better yet, the coastal vibes made sense with the modern setting. While it is a color scheme I would not have normally chosen, stepping outside my comfort zone and using nature as a catalyst for creative design has proven to be rewarding.
Embrace Affordable Furnishings
Perhaps the best part about moving into a modern-style building is that IKEA furniture looks completely appropriate in the space. To avoid it feeling like a stiff showroom, the addition of books and accessories becomes especially important.
Use Plentiful Personalized Details
- My favorite way to add personalized details is through art. We took several pieces in our suitcases from the States, and I am so happy to finally display them. Another idea is for my photographer father-in-law (visiting now!) to take a photo of Bondi’s Icebergs Pool, increase the size exponentially, mount it on canvas, and hang it over the sofa. Scale of art and photography is so incredibly important, especially with high ceilings. If it is either not large enough or mounted too low, your frame of reference becomes quickly distorted and the credibility of the artwork is completely lost.
- Plants always help liven up a cold space. I am currently coveting our local herbs (basil is my favorite) and an orchid that I have somehow managed to keep alive since Valentine’s Day. And the ultimate accessory for transforming your interior from drab to “Wow, that should be in a magazine”: a fiddle leaf fig tree.
- Fruit or vegetables displayed in bowls also adds personality to any space. It is a trick used by home stagers but works well in any home. Here, lemons were the obvious choice, but apples, artichokes, and oranges are other favorites.
- I always stress the importance of books. Make sure you have an assortment of magazines (for side tables), coffee table books (for entryway and coffee tables) and novels (for bookshelves).
- Pillows are key to turning a bland house into a welcoming home. I often add solid (but textured) pillows, such as the below velvet, to break up patterns and avoid any combination from looking too busy.
I promise to keep you updated with photos as our new home comes along. In the meantime, I dare you to step outside your comfort zone!