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Top looks from the Australian Interior Design Awards

Date

Samantha Selinger-Morris

A wealth of ideas for professional and wannabe designers.

Astor Apartment in Sydney, by Greg Natale Design. Received a commendation in the Australian Interior Design Awards residential decoration category. Click for more photos

Classy clutter

Trends from the Australian Interior Design Awards. Photo: Anson Smart

So, you have some money and time to fix up your home but absolutely no idea what to do to actually make your space sing?

Enter the Australian Interior Design Awards. Now in its eighth year, the event provides a wealth of ideas for pro and wannabe designers.

Your interiors may bear no resemblance to the eclectic insides of Huntingtower, the stately 1890s Melbourne home, built by eminent Australian architect John Beswicke, that last week won the 2012 residential decoration gong. But according to the chairwoman of the award's residential jury, Susan Rossi, that's no reason you can't incorporate some of the latest decorating trends into your own pad.

 

Collections on view

Remember the days of minimalism, with - as Rossi puts it - ''everything removed from a space except for a ceramic apple on the table''?

This year's finalists did the opposite and put everything on display, from African totem poles to found shells.

The key, Rossi says, is to not only have a pared-back backdrop such as simple furniture and white walls but also consider any item as decoration, including children's artwork.

It's an approach taken by Caecilia Potter, who lives in Huntingtower. She hung a painting of Venice by Dobell Prize-winning artist Jan Senbergs alongside a charcoal sketch ''with some orange pastel in it'' made by her 13-year-old son, Cyrus.

''It's about items that have importance or meaning,'' Potter says. ''A house should be telling a story.''

 

Eclectic furniture

This year's crop eschewed matchy-matchy furniture for a combination of styles.

''It's really about giving the home a real personality; it's not a magazine page,'' Rossi says.

But mixing a baroque mirror with contemporary furniture, as one finalist did, is ''a balancing act'' and there is a key to doing it well.

Flick through magazines and see what works for other people, then consider your personality. ''It's not going to work for you if you borrow from someone else, like Ikea, where someone else has made all those decisions for you.''

 

Creature comforts

Forget the state-of-the-art media centre and instead create comfortable rooms that encourage people to interact.

This is a common theme among this year's finalists, who have chosen fireplaces as the focal point of living rooms, for example, or a variety of seating to suit different ages and preferences.

And should a beloved seat be letting you down in the comfort stakes, do as Potter, who is also the design director of Melbourne interior design firm Atticus & Milo, did - modify it.

''I put leather pads on some old Poliform polished-aluminium footstools [so they're] really comfortable for reading or movie watching,'' Potter says.

 

Super-sized coffee tables

 Whether made from raw timber or aged metal and surrounded by pillows or ottomans, or placed near a low-lying sofa, numerous coffee tables used by this year's finalists had one thing in common: they were the size of dining room tables, and often used as such.

''It's a less-formal way of eating,'' Rossi says.

How can you replicate the look cheaply? ''Get a dining table, cut it down and pop it on the floor,'' she says.

 

Colour tagging

Call it the Where's Wally of the grown-up set, but one of the most affordable trends, according to Rossi, is buying selected homewares in a powerful colour - such as acid green, turquoise or red - and placing them amid a minimalist colour palette.

Choose a wildly coloured yellow cushion, for example, as well as a yellow door handle and a yellow picture frame, and set the items against a black interior.

''It can be really punchy,'' Rossi says.

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