“I think apartment living is so joyous,” says Simone Haag, director of her self-titled design studio. “In Europe, the first place you want to go and stay is an inner-city apartment – I think it needs to be celebrated.” Haag’s design style celebrates the potential in spaces such as inner-city apartments by blending carefully selected furniture, art, objects and styling from modern designers and vintage collections.
For Haag, part of the excitement of inner-city design is exploring beyond the characteristics of the traditional Australian home. “I feel like [in] Australian country homes and beach homes, there’s an Australiana flavour, and in apartments people seem to be able to step out of what is a very comfortable Australian look,” says Haag. There are plenty of ways to create a stylish, inner-city sanctuary, but if you’re looking for suggestions, these are some of Haag’s top tips.
Current design trends
To create a space that’s truly contemporary, remember that interior design fashion rolls in a cycle. “People are moving away from the boucle and brass moment,” says Haag. “That had its five-year cycle and we’re now more into chromes or stainless steels or cooler metals. It’s a definite ’70s flavour – high shine chrome or dull stainless steel.”
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There’s another current trend that Haag sees, and it can be a real shortcut to creating mood and personal style – particularly if you’re known for having a favourite colour. “Colour drenching is where people aren’t afraid to furnish all in one tone or colour,” says Haag. “For instance, if your favourite colour is olive, the rug’s olive, the sofa’s olive, the objects are olive. You can choose a tone and get that tone over and over again in various forms.”
Get hung up on art
To create a space that’s truly personal, Haag likes to go beyond typical art pieces. “I see wallpaper as an opportunity for art,” says Haag. “It can span doorframes, windows and actually move throughout the space so you create an almost 360-degree artwork.” She also recommends sculptural mirrors, soft-textured tapestries, and multiple pieces of art hung on a wall together. “The collection of those becomes, in itself, an artwork,” says Haag.
For Haag, one of the most effective ways to make a space comfortable and personalised is through lighting. “I encourage clients to layer up with additional lamp lighting or low-hung pendant lighting,” she says. “Like, super low-hung. You can imagine a lounge with a coffee table, and a pendant loops up and drops down low.” This is also ideal for cosy nights spent on the couch with a glass of wine or a cup of tea.
Inner-city life may sometimes lack the private gardens of suburbia, but greenery can still play a vital part in your sanctuary. Luckily, one of the benefits of living in the inner city is the proximity to shared green spaces – like Botanic Garden-adjacent development, Middleton Lane. If you do want to bring some of that greenery into your home, a well-chosen indoor plant is a good place to start. “Go oversize, overscale [and] steer away from the ficus – the ficus can go out with the boucle and brass,” says Haag. Low-light plants with dappled leaves are ideal here. You can also take inspiration from those around you. “Get to know your neighbours with the bigger balcony,” says Haag. “I think that’s the one thing about apartment living – that people often enjoy engagement within their apartment community.”
The must-have piece
If wondering where to begin, Haag recommends starting with just a single key piece. “I think it’s always got to be the armchairs,” she says. “No matter what house you’re in, there’s always going to be the requirement for an armchair and I would say that would be a really great piece to invest in.” Ideally, you want to balance the style of a good armchair with functionality.
“Definitely [invest in] armchairs that look good from all sides. Avoid square profiles and go with more rounded [styles]. Swivel is always great because you can maximise the way you engage with the view or whoever else is in the space with you.”
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Architect Callum Fraser is responsible for helping to design some of Australia’s most visible and celebrated buildings. In our series on looking at how we'll live, work and play in the cities of our future, we meet Fraser to find out how key existing buildings might hold the clues to what our cities might look like.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Time & Place. If you’re looking to move into your own inner city sanctuary, Middleton Lane could be the place for you.