A golden, tiger-like rug may be an intimidating purchase for some, but not Penelope Cohen. In fact, it was the piece the creative director of Aussie fashion label Skin + Threads and her interior designer, Simone Haag, first bonded over.
“I liked Simone’s fresh approach; she was eager to try new things, play with color, and be bold,” says Cohen, who enlisted Haag to redecorate her 1890s Victorian home in Melbourne’s Armadale suburb, which she shares with her husband, Andrew, and their three kids, Sam (10), Phoebe (9), and Tom (5). “During my first meeting with her, I knew she understood my aesthetic and would take it to the next level.”
The property had previously been renovated by powerhouse firm Hecker Guthrie (where Haag once worked), so hiring the designer—who is fearless when it comes to clashing prints and selecting unusual vintage pieces—to furnish the house was a natural choice. “My family and close friends are ever-present, so our home needed to be relaxing, inviting, and liveable,” explains Cohen. Here, Haag shares her tips for creating a fashion-forward home that still jives with day-to-day functionality.
Pick Your Building Blocks
“Being in fashion, I knew Penelope would have an open mind, be seduced by palette and texture, and have an understanding of the process,” says Haag. It took no time for Cohen to yea or nay various fabric swatches and rug samples (they went custom in the end), giving Haag a good sense of what direction to go in. “When you throw something in the mix, you just get an innate feeling of whether it’s right or wrong,” she explains. “We knew we wanted to create something pretty whimsical.” Reviewing the various design elements helped the duo put the puzzle together one piece at a time.
Set the Foundation
Given the house had already gone through an extensive remodel, a few simple updates, like replacing the French doors with steel ones and painting the walls a taupey hue, were enough to give it new life. The rug’s mustardy hue and abstract motif channeled a ’70s-but-sophisticated vibe in the living room. From there, they brought in softer accents to complement the existing colors. “We chose muted pinks, reds, and browns for the textiles and pendants,” says Haag. “So many of our clients are fearful of pattern, but with Penny, that was far from the case.”
Master the Mix
Haag shopped around to curate a balanced collection of custom furniture and vintage finds for the living and dining rooms, like the puffy gray lounge chairs sourced from the 1stdibs showroom in New York City. “They wanted comfy chairs with a high back,” Haag recalls. “I’m not sure if it’s because I had been racing around all day, but when I sat in them, I thought they were the comfiest chairs ever.” A Maralunga sofa by Vico Magistretti for Cassina, vintage bronzed-glass Max Ingrand coffee table, and new Matteo Leorato terrazzo side tables complete the mix.
In the dining area, Haag paired a custom table by Thomas Lentini with classic Cesca dining chairs by Marcel Breuer. “We wanted something that was robust enough for everyday family use but still interesting and stylish,” explains the designer. She topped the neutral combo with colorful pendants by Artemest.
Finish Off with Personality Pieces
Another lucky discovery: the large vintage arc lamp with a marble base. “It was one of those pieces that you show to a client but secretly hope they don’t buy so you can keep it for yourself,” Haag laughs. “Penny was slightly nervous that there were a few too many vintage pieces going into the space, but we assured her it would look contemporary.”
When Cohen didn’t have time to pick up the finishing touches, like books to fill out the rest of the book shelves, Haag jumped in to help. “We brought in a bunch of titles and styled up a storm!” Just like the rest of the space, the books are eclectic, ranging in topics from fashion to feminism—and they happen to be some of Cohen’s favorite details. Great minds decorate alike.