Experts Reveal; How to make the most of your place

Making the “right” decision when it comes to renovating or decorating your home can often save you time, money and heartache, too. So we’ve called on experts in various fields to open up about the knowledge they’ve gained over many years, including in their own home

WHEN YOU FIRST get the keys to your new home – whether you bought it or are renting – more often than not, you set out with good intentions. You want this place to be different, better, more resolved than the last. You want it to be a place of good times and happy memories. And you might, just might, see this place as a fresh start. But down the line sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down with indecision, failed attempts at decorating and impulse purchases that just don’t work.

get the keys to your new home

get the keys to your new home

To prevent this from happening to you, we’ve tracked down various experts in their field to come to the rescue. These are people who are immersed in design and its related decisions every day. They have tried and tested every colour combination you could think of. They have played with shape, form and texture, and know all about proportion. So we decided to not only pick their brains about what they’ve learnt over the years, but also to see how they’ve translated these ideas into their own homes.

This is the first part in a series, so watch out for upcoming issues where we’ll have more experts, more ideas and many more ways to get the home you really want.

IF YOU DECORATED your home and 25 years later it still looked cool and contemporary yet classic and liveable, you’d be pretty pleased with yourself. Well, that’s exactly what artist Stephen Ormandy has done with his business partners and fellow designers, Louise Olsen (who’s also his wife) and Liane Rossler, at Dinosaur Designs. The trio formed the company in 1985, selling handprinted fabrics and painted jewellery, and are now an iconic Australian brand, selling their wares to more than 20 countries. It’s no surprise then that the home Stephen Ormandy shares with Louise and their daughter Camille, 11, is also a study in modern meets classic. Added to the equation that Stephen is a notable artist, we couldn’t help but ask him to reveal the lessons he has learnt over the years.


Stephen and Louise waited seven years before renovating their home in Sydney’s Bronte. “It looked a bit ’70s,” he says. “But we enjoyed living there before renovating, and it gave us a good understanding of the site.” The couple’s patience paid off. Once they were ready to renovate they were confident with the changes they wanted to make. So what changes did they make? “Everything that you can change and still call it a renovation,” he says. The same principle can be applied to buying art. “I don’t think there are any blatant mistakes when it comes to choosing art for the home; it’s personal taste. But it’s best to focus on quality. There are no rules, but the more you learn the more confident you get.”


Even though Dinosaur Designs is known for its ever-evolving colour palette, a neutral scheme was important for Stephen and Louise’s home. “We wanted wooden floors with white walls and reclining chairs with black color; the floor colour was very important,” he says. “We preferred to use an Australian hardwood but it was hard to find one that was not too orange-pink; we searched for one that was more caramel.” The flooring they settled on was steel box. There are lessons to learn from how Stephen uses colour in his artworks, too. “The colours I use in my paintings are often strong in the positive shapes and more muted in the negative space; this helps the colour to pop,” he says. “I begin a painting with my collection of cut-out shapes from coloured paper and arrange them into compositions, take a photo and then print the image; it’s my way of sketching.” It’s a method that could easily translate to creating a colour scheme for a home – taking scaled colour samples of upholstery, paint colours, flooring and making a layout, then printing it to see how it will work before making the big investment.

Make your old house different with white painting

Make your old house different with white painting


Just as his designs for Dinosaur Designs over the years have kept up with the times, so too has the interior of Stephen’s home. It is not a time capsule from when it was first renovated. Instead, pieces have been added and subtracted over the years, but the overall look has remained cohesive. Stephen advises that you shouldn’t fear adding new pieces or designs to your home. In fact, they can inspire a new arrangement or vignette.


The best advice Stephen offers about hanging art is to go to a gallery and take notes as professional curators are employed to hang works. Although he does add, “Try not to hang works too high. It’s a feel thing – balancing the furniture and art is important. Trust your instincts.” And from a practical point of view Stephen says to use star plugs and screws for masonry walls and plaster hooks on plasterboard to hang the paintings.

IF YOU WANT TO LEARN valuable lessons on how to create an interior you love on a starting-out-in-life budget then talk to an emerging interior designer. We’ve done it for you and tracked down the designing duo behind Soco Creative (, because while they have studied interior design and are now practising, they also appreciate what it’s like to renovate your first home. Here, Odile Chauvet shares how she applied the lessons she learnt from her highend work on a real-life budget reno.


Odile and her partner Benjamin Elson had been living an inner-city lifestyle in a loft in Sydney’s Surry Hills, but then came the irresistible opportunity to move into Ben’s grandmother’s house in Belfield, NSW. It was a typical Federation bungalow, with hardwood floors, high ceilings and two original fireplaces, but it was old and tired.

“The house was in a pretty sad state when we first started to renovate,” Odile says. “It had horrible blue carpet throughout, vinyl flooring in the kitchen and living areas, and green wallpaper on all the walls.”

“The most important thing was to ensure the interior complemented the existing bones of the building,” she says. To achieve this Odile played on the traits of the building’s architecture that she liked. “I made sure we retained as many of the original features as possible while contrasting these features with a mixture of contemporary and eclectic lightfittings, artworks and storage units.”

HEART OF DARKNESS One of the imperfections in the building turned out to be the foundation for the home’s colour scheme. When Odile and Ben removed the carpet and vinyl they realised the floorboards were made of different timber species. “We quickly made the decision to stain all the floorboards a dark shade – this helped conceal any inconsistencies within the wood,” she says. The final stain colour was 80% black and 20% brown, finished with a clear matt 2-pack polyurethane finish.

Once the decision was made to go dark on the floors, Odile knew she wanted to contrast them with crisp white walls. “From there the contrast between dark and light evolved, with punches of colour throughout. I really tried to create a blank canvas which I can then add colour to through the use of flowers, cushions, feature rugs, etc.”


Just as Odile and her business partner Shannon incorporate floral design elements in Soco Creative projects, Odile took the same philosophy with her home. “We believe floral art is an important element within every space flowers lift mood while adding decorative layer and dimension,” she says.

When it comes to adding flowers to your home, Odile says that they do not need to be displayed upright in a vase – “they can be at an angle, they can rest directly on a table, they can be submerged in water, they can float”.

Also, the rules you would apply to your home’s interior can equally apply to floral design. “Besides putting flowers in appropriate containers, the intermingling of stems of too many types of flowers or colours within the one arrangement not only goes against the laws of nature, but also lacks simplicity and elegance, and looks contrived,” Odile says. “The principle of less is more also applies to floral design. A beautiful orchid stem or an exquisite bunch of magnolias will immediately lift your mood and relax the atmosphere.”

buying furniture for your home

buying furniture for your home


When it comes to buying furniture such as reclining chairs, coffee table, sofas, design objects or art Stephen is adamant that the same principle applies. You can check reviews and recommendations from this site for best recliners. “Always buy what you love – it’s all about you,” he says. “We have always bought small works and multi-hung them. Then as you become more in tune with what you like you can start investing in larger pieces. The good thing about the art market is you can resell a work if your taste moves in a different direction, and if you bought well you could make some money.”


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