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Creating a bold and dramatic space proves to be something of second nature to interior designer Greg Natale, with his latest Melbourne project offering its owners a monochromatic palette juxtaposed with a collection of luxe furniture and art. We spoke with Natale about the project.




Tell us about the Melbourne Project and brief?

The brief for this two-storey, seven-bedroom house was to create a moody, sophisticated residence featuring an abundance of timber panelling. A palette of mink-stain timber, charcoal greys, mauves and burgundies with accents of teal and burnished gold helped to achieve this.


Timber appears in several rooms, balanced by softer palette and textural choices. In the study, an expanse of timber panelling is offset by grey and black in the chairs and patterned rug, maintaining the room’s elegant masculine vibe while highlighting the wood’s tones. In the rumpus and family rooms, slatted timber ceilings enrich the space, their lines echoed in the family room by gathered linen curtains for a juxtaposition of hard and soft finishes. Contrast continues in the bookshelves, where organic ceramics temper the strong angles of the wood. Opposite the family room, aged mirror tiles and bistro-style shelving in the kitchen lend an atmospheric gleam to the space.


The entrance to the house is a celebration of balance and contrast that heralds the dynamics within. The angles in the floor tiles, ceiling panels, bay windows, seats and doors are offset by the circular ottoman, striking chandelier and vast organic-patterned rug. The sweeping staircase that swirls around a Kelly Wearstler Soufflé chair leads to more decadent curves in the living-room sofa, armchairs and coffee tables, the cosy bedroom and study chairs, and the luxe bath.


While smoky tones prevail in the design, the dramatic black and white of the entrance recurs in the bathroom, where a wall of glossy black Bisazza tiles seem to shimmer with streaks of light, contrasting and highlighting the white oval Apaiser bath and white oval ceiling to increase the illusion of space. Elsewhere, luxe greys and mauves, and the occasional pop of teal, bring a brooding balance to the warm timbers, with burnished accessories adding a rich gleam throughout.


What is the home inspired by?

The client owned a number of artworks, which served as the starting point and inspiration for many spaces in the interior design.


On the upstairs landing, two benches provide an elegant resting spot and serve to anchor a large pair of paintings by Jo Davenport. In the living room, the striking gold artwork on the wall by Richard Blackwell from Flinders Lane Gallery is echoed in various elements such as an Oly Studio mirror, two Porta Romana side tables and a Salvador Dali lamp. The grand dimensions of the reception room allow paintings to be displayed to great effect, while the charcoal stucco-painted walls and décor pick up and highlight their monochromatic scheme.


The size of the house, too, has inspired its design, with several vignettes created to ensure warm, inviting living spaces. A large house presents challenges in terms of establishing cohesion, so the consistent use of timber and tones such as charcoal provide one key link, punctuated by mauve, burgundy, gold and teal. Clever plays on proportion are another defining characteristic: in the living room, a large Arne Jacobsen Egg chair and two smaller Swan chairs create a witty mix; in the dining room, panels of grey grasscloth wallpaper break up the white walls; in the master bedroom, clusters of furniture create ‘breakout areas’ around the Minotti bed; in the bathroom, a wall of tiny black Bisazza tiles spanning the white oval ceiling and Apaiser bath below offer their own contrast via size, shape and palette. The grand reception room at the entrance also features a dynamic contrast of shapes, patterns, heights and pieces – a dramatic preview of the house’s aesthetic.


What made you decide to become an interior designer?

I think I’ve always wanted to be an interior designer – really, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in interior design. When I was young, my family didn’t travel much, so I explored the world through what I saw on screen. The incredible settings for TV shows and movies opened up a world of creativity for me – it made me think that anything was possible if you had the imagination and drive. When I came to study interior design, I found inspiration in the works of the late English designer David Nightingale Hicks and Danish designer Verner Panton – both were masters of layering bold patterns and colours. I also loved the vivid hues and geometrics of the post-modernist Italian design group Memphis. Even today, these continue to inspire me.


How would you describe Australian design?

Given that we are such a rich blend of cultures, I think it’s natural that we’re connected to different international styles and design trends. But what is unique about Australian design is the particular local character and aesthetic we bring. Because our lifestyle is largely centred around the beach and the outdoors, I think we tend to have a more casual, laid-back approach to living. As a result, our designs are often more pared back, with a focus on maximising access to light and creating a clever flow between indoor and outdoor living.


What is the essence of a Greg Natale designed home?

A sophisticated, tailored and carefully edited space with a focus on layering. I’m known for my strong use of bold patterns and colours, and my love of monochromes accented by pops of bright hues. To me, the process of editing is vital, so I’m constantly assessing a space to ensure balance, contrast and a cohesive effect. And I will always champion the importance of layering, where all the key elements – walls, ceilings and floors, furniture, soft furnishings and accessories – are built up to create a warm, welcoming environment. I believe layering and editing are crucial because they consider the big picture of a design, where no decision is isolated, and where each piece, finish and fabric has a role in the room and relates to the next.

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