Jono, you’ve been living in this two-bedroom apartment in Sydney for about six years — what’s the backstory? I was looking to buy a place but wasn’t quite ready to tackle a house or a renovation, so I was mainly looking at apartments, but so many of the new builds I saw lacked personality, and they all had very small kitchens. So I started focusing on ‘designer’ apartments, and when I came across this one by SJB in a gorgeous spot in Waterloo, I knew it was a winner and bought the last available apartment off the plan. They’d already started construction, so I took a bit of a gamble and hoped for the best, but knowing SJB, I knew I was in good hands — and I wasn’t wrong!
Were you able to customise any of the finishes? There were a few options to choose from off the plan, such as the beautiful parquet flooring, which I chose to continue throughout the apartment, including in the bedrooms, for a spacious, seamless feeling. I went with light marble benchtops rather than a darker granite finish, and there was the option for a fireplace, but I didn’t think we needed it in this climate and I wasn’t keen on having a large, immovable feature in the centre of the living room wall.
With this refined backdrop established, how did you tackle the fun bit — adding your own special touches? It’s wild to me how much my taste has changed. When I arrived here, I had a Pinterest board on which I’d saved a lot of Scandinavian-inspired looks. I really thought that I could pull off a minimal, sleek, European effect, but I was wrong. When I moved in, I had a beige sofa, a black-and-white beni ourain rug, blush accents, a fiddle-leaf fig and a reindeer hide slung casually on a dining room chair. It was very chic, but it wasn’t very me.
Curating a meaningful interior takes time though, right? How many looks has this place seen since you moved in? Over the years, I started to get more comfortable with my own design choices and began to add more colour — through cushions and art, and eventually larger furniture items. It’s been an organic evolution, rather than a journey through specific looks.
How does sustainability play into your décor decision-making? Although I definitely accumulate lots of ‘things’, I like to use the excuse that they’re work-related purchases, plus I’m conscious of supporting local businesses rather than mass-production stores. It’s firstly a quality issue — if you buy quality pieces, they won’t be landfill after six months — and it’s also how I bring personality into my home. I treat each object, vase and shape as a piece of art, and not much is for display only. Everything is useful and nothing is too precious that it has to be saved for a ‘special occasion’, so nothing is wasted.
With Palette by Jono Fleming, you’ve created an accessible way to add art to interiors — what led you to launch this side hustle? My art collection kind of snuck up on me. I used to see art as a scary prospect — it was always too expensive and too mature, and for the most part I didn’t know what I actually liked. But I started finding pieces at op shops and getting posters framed, and over time, my collection grew.
Last year when we were in lockdown, I spent time at my family’s farm, pottering around and styling sideboards and bedside tables in lieu of actual work, and realised I wanted some smaller-scale pieces for these interior moments. I looked online and couldn’t find anything at affordable prices that I’d want to invest in, so I approached my best friend’s sister, Rachel Stevens, an extremely talented illustrator, pitched her the concept of creating artworks that were based on classic still lifes and landscapes, and from there Palette by Jono Fleming was born.
You’ve also used plants to add character to this apartment… It’s taken time to figure out which plants are the right fit for this area. I found it helpful to chat with the people at my local nursery, who were able to help me choose the best options and understand what specific plants need as far as light and water go. I think when people think of low- maintenance plants, they end up at succulents and cacti, which are beautiful but don’t always suit a space. For me, it’s all about combining plants of different heights, textures and shades of green to create a full garden that needs watering only about once a week.
You call yourself a ‘curated maximalist’ — what’s your advice for embracing this aesthetic? Remember that you don’t have to have all of your décor items on display at once. Collections and vignettes help guide the eye around a room, so group pieces together to place the focus on different stories and moments. Arranging pieces you have a connection with will make your home feel like a true reflection of yourself.
Colour can be intimidating, so my suggestion is to start small. You don’t need to paint the walls right away — just put a pop of colour on your coffee table with a great book. Pick colours you really love in the form of cushions, a vase or a candle, then build up to including that colour in an artwork. Explore complementary colours opposite each other on the colour wheel that sit nicely together, and play with different shades and tones.
What colour combos are you into at the moment? I never thought it’d say this because it was never a colour I loved, but I’m having a real lilac moment. I’m sneaking it into my life in everything from décor to clothing — and I’m loving it. There’s a freshness to it, it works really well as a neutral base to build on and it pairs well with so many other colours, while bringing softness to a space.
At the end of a working day, how does it feel to arrive home here? As a freelancer,
I work from home. I design here, record podcasts here, wrap and send artworks here… so it’s usually all systems go. At the end of the day, I pack it all away and make sure the visible rooms are clear of any work ‘noise’ — and that’s when I get all the lamps in the house going. Ryan and I love our ‘layers of light’ at home, and we have a bit of a lamp addiction. I switch off the big light and get a soft, ambient glow coming from all corners of our living space. It’s calming and changes the mood from a workspace to a home again. It’s all about using different rituals to delineate how we use the space every day.
What other at-home rituals do you enjoy? I recently bought an oil burner and I’m so happy with that choice! After a morning gym session, I love to open up the balcony doors to let in the fresh air, then light our burner from Fazeek with my scent du jour, A New Path to the Waterfall by Black Blaze. It smells amazing and there’s something so calming and almost meditative about starting the day with a special scent. It puts me in the right headspace.
What else does living here do for your wellbeing? The thing I love most about this apartment is how much it inspires me. It’s an ever-evolving home, but there’s something so special about it that makes me so happy to be here. From the soft, curvy shapes to the textured fabrics, everything acts like a big hug, and combined with the bold colours and beautiful décor, it’s all the things I love in one place.
I’ve never felt more inspired than I do right now, living and working in this apartment. It’s taken six years to get here, but I think things will be staying as they are for a while.