Gearing up for longer days spent inside, we turn to designer and art consultant Swee Lim who shares insight on injecting colour and personality into our home’s shared spaces.
An open plan kitchen, living and dining area are a home’s beating heart, where we come together to share stories and meals – reflective of a uniquely Australian lifestyle. Engaging designer Swee Lim of Swee Design, we took over a renovated 1980s Peter McIntyre home in Melbourne to create a functional and playful interior scheme with with timeless pieces for the King collection.
A home’s personality is best reflected in the living room. Swee Lim says one of the best ways to hone a personal aesthetic is through artwork – and that your initial reaction to art is often the right one. “Our reaction to art is often emotive and subjective, so I advise my clients to trust their instincts,” Swee says. “Overall, I don’t believe an artwork has to ‘match’ a room in terms of being the same colour and look but rather it should ‘complement’ or ‘enhance’ a room,” she adds. The soft pink and blue hues of ‘The Climb 7’ by Craig Handley emphasise the pink of the King Fleur Three-Seater Sofa and Fleur Lounge Chairs, evoking balance and harmony in the living room.
King are known for their enduring, hardworking pieces that reflect a relaxed Australian lifestyle; meeting the challenge of furniture that is both visually pleasing and incredibly comfortable. “In the past, reclining armchairs could be extremely comfortable but were often bulky and unattractive,” Swee Lim says. “Combining clever design with technology now sees stylish armchairs and sofas with adjustable arm and backrests as well as reclining and swivel functions.”
In recent years, we’ve seen a shift in the formality of our living areas. A more informal approach now sees a standout sofa complemented by statement mismatched chairs or multiuse furniture pieces like ottomans and nesting tables. The elegantly rounded silhouette of the new Fleur caters to the curved walls of this Melbourne home, softening the room and promoting flow and ease of movement. The Issho Coffee Table also taps into the curved nature of the home with an asymmetrical pebble-shaped top and distinctive sculptural base, together with the round Bongo Ottoman. The organic forms allow flexibility for additional seating when entertaining, and can be clustered or tucked away neatly for everyday living.
“The laidback Australian approach to living gives us the freedom to mix and match pieces,” Swee says. "Ottomans can work as a seat, footrest or side table, and can be paired with other side tables to form a nest.”
Swee highlights the 1980s glamour of the four-metre Cote D’Azur marble bench and deep navy blue cabinetry in the kitchen with the ceramic sculpture by Kirsten Perry and the Cassia Bar Stool. Swee says the key to working with colour is to ensure they fit together tonally whether they be muted, moody or vibrant. “Colour-wise, we are increasingly referencing nature to reflect our surroundings with a return to warm natural neutrals replacing cool greys, alongside earth tones such as sago, clay and rust,” Swee says. “If you want to be bold, try warm and sophisticated hues such as navy, olives, and spice colours.”
The olive buttoned leather seat of the Cassia Bar Stool brings a layer of sophistication to the contemporary kitchen, while the black timber frame works in harmony with the black frame of the nearby dining table and chairs.
The dining space is the first room you see entering the home, making a statement through the two-storey void and pitched glass roofline. The dining setting sits directly under this atrium, showered in natural light with easy access to the pool area, as well as the kitchen and built-in drinks cabinet. When selecting a dining table, Swee advises opting for a balance of durability for family dinners and a sense of elegance to host guests. “I tend to look for a simple, minimalist form in the dining table, which I then pair with more elaborate dining chairs,” Swee says. “Mixing a variety of forms and materials in the dining area is an easy way to create a strong design.”
The dark timber and Carrara marble Quay Dining Table complements the tactile upholstered Quay Dining Chairs. When it comes to the debate of dining chairs with or without arms, Swee argues that while dining chairs with arms will make more of a statement in a large dining space, there are alternatives for achieving a similar look within a smaller space. “If space is restrictive, then consider using dining chairs without arms but having the two end chairs with arms as a point of interest,” Swee says.
As a designer, Swee says that the most important part of styling your home is having fun, being creative, and not being scared to play around. “It’s important that a house works on a functional and aesthetic level while reflecting the personality of its owners,” Swee says. “At the end of the day, your home is your sanctuary, so it needs to be a nurturing space that captures who you are,” she adds.