Interior decorator Simone Haag shares advice on layering interiors with purpose and meaning through a multigenerational project in Melbourne’s St Kilda.

Working within an iconic 1920s heritage building, award-winning interior decorator Simone Haag and design lead Cindy Phillips were tasked with redefining three residences – a penthouse and two separate apartments below. Following the 1920s idea of the ‘art of textiles’ and lifting inspiration from Australian painter, wallpaper and fabrics designer Florence Broadhurst, Simone and Cindy’s bold brushstrokes are revealed through playful injections of colour, organic shapes and geometric patterns. 

We speak with Simone about how she responded to the client’s passions with her signature approach and the importance of sourcing quality rugs in creating a unifying thread across all three levels. 

In partnership with Halcyon Lake 

The penthouse is the client’s main residence, while the two apartments below are for parents and in-laws to live with the client when needed. Simone primarily focused on the penthouse, but the two apartments below needed to be cohesive and work collectively. 

The project’s location was integral to Simone’s brief, who speaks fondly of St Kilda’s contradictions, rigour and history, claiming the penthouse is one she would have marvelled at from afar. “It has a commanding prominent position in the strip of St Kilda, so to work on not just one but three levels of the building was very exciting,” Simone says. 

When Simone was introduced to the penthouse and apartments, she describes them as already having been ‘contemporised’. So, rather than maintaining a style with strict historical references, Simone could envision interiors that drew on the essence of the design era with the client front of mind. “The style responded to the client’s interests and passions rather than speaking directly to the architecture,” Simone says. “The project was a more visceral and responsive approach to the client’s wishes and her love of the old and new. It was our second time working with this client, and we were confident with our vision,” she adds.

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The furniture, lighting and object curation reflect Simone’s penchant for vintage pieces, sourced from Geoffrey Hatty, and combining them with contemporary elements. 

“We needed connectivity between all of the spaces. The Halcyon Lake rugs were essential in creating that consistency across the different levels and apartments.”

 

– Simone Haag

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The three residences share a visual language but are unique in scale, layout and how they respond to personal rituals.

Simone was familiar with her long-standing client’s notable art collection, which informed the different hues – mustards, blues, ochres and greens – accentuated in each space. She also credits the client’s appreciation for contemporary collectable design pieces. “They saw art as furniture and furniture as art,” the interior decorator adds.

The selection of quality rugs and custom carpets throughout each residence underpins these pieces. The client already had a Halcyon Lake rug from a previous project, so Simone made a ‘beeline’ for the Melbourne-based rug retailer’s gallery to explore their new collection. “We needed connectivity between all of the spaces,” Simone says. “The Halcyon Lake rugs were essential in creating that consistency across the different levels and apartments.”

Simone worked with Halcyon Lake on customising rug colours, sizes and shapes to fit different areas in the project. “There was a particular rug under the bridge table where a rectangular shape would have been too obvious, so an organic rug was devised to fill the space,” Simone says, adding, “Their design specialists know their trade, and we leveraged their knowledge.”

The stair runner, an expressive pattern that corresponds with the gridded steel frame windows and doors, was also a custom carpet by Halcyon Lake. “We see every project as an opportunity to learn from our supplier network, and we’ve got to the stage with Halcyon Lake that they completely understand our work,” Simone says. “I feel like we now have our own design language.”

Simone believes the impact of a rug within a space cannot be overlooked and is an essential ingredient when it comes to crafting a well-resolved space. “It’s the age-old adage that you get what you pay for. Rugs are interacted with all day, but they can also be works of art,” she says. By leading characterful, long-lasting interiors, Simone has successfully sewn together not one, not two, but three heritage residences for one client that all share the success of her signature handwriting.

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“The project was a more visceral and responsive approach to the client’s wishes and her love of the old and new. It was our second time working with this client, and we were confident with our vision.”

 

– Simone Haag

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