Interior designer Simone Haag and her husband, Rhys, were living in a tiny Melbourne apartment in 2011 when they found the raised bungalow they now call home on Modernist Australia, a website that tracks mid-century houses for sale around the country.
Back then, the house was less breezy and bright, more dingy and dark: Bright yellow laminate countertops, grimy wood paneling, and mishmash flooring made the small space feel cramped and dated. But two renovations and eight years later, the home—which the couple share with their three daughters, Goldie, 5, Clover, 3, and Juniper, 6 months (and Tank, the Great Dane–wolfhound mix)—is a peaceful haven infused with modern Italian and Scandinavian details.
The first remodel took care of the basics: new floors, a coat of paint, fresh carpet, and an updated kitchen and bathroom. “We furnished the home the best we could with the budget we had as newlyweds,” recalls Haag. But three kids later, the couple needed room to grow. They called on architecture firm Kennedy Nolan to extend the living room and add a private master bedroom dressing room and en suite bathroom. Here, the accomplished designer shares how she transformed her home from drab to dreamy.
Don’t List It, Love It
Haag and her husband toyed with the idea of moving many times before going through with the second phase of their renovation. One day, a lightbulb went off. “Rhys was looking at the front of the house (where we originally had a balcony that we never used because it was so high and we were nervous the toddlers might climb over the balustrade) and he said we should encase the balcony and use that space on the inside,” she recalls. “That sparked a thought that maybe we didn’t have to move at all.”
The newly extended living room now has plenty of space for breakfasts, kiddie performances, and entertaining friends. “It gave us the opportunity to put a lovely marble table in the window, which serves as a dining area, styling surface, or spot for a cuppa with a friend,” says Haag.
Decorate Based on Your Mood
People often talk about decorating styles, but Haag likes to use mood as her jumping-off point. Her home, which was all white following the first renovation, got a blue-gray lick of paint after the second remodel. “We figured if we were going to renovate and refurnish, we might as well change the paint color,” she explains. “The gray is so livable. But one day, I would love to change all of the paneling to an olive green!”
The designer paired her newly painted walls with cane built-in storage and lots of white ceramics. “My husband encourages my refreshing the space with new pieces of furniture and objects. With time and confidence, I have found myself opting for more unusual items with a vintage Italian sensibility,” she says.
Collect Items Over Time
Haag will never stop collecting objects and furniture—one of her latest purchases is a Tobia Scarpa sofa still in its original nubby fabric—but her most revered pieces have followed her from home to home. “The fluffy Patricia Urquiola chair and the Hans Wegner bedside tables came from our previous apartment,” she recalls. The Charles Hollis dining chairs and pendant lamp from New Works are new additions.
“I see myself as an ‘arranger of things,’ and I work intuitively,” says the designer. “I always have feelings about what, where, and how things should go. I sense what works and what doesn’t, and I’m not afraid to let a bit of serendipity come into play.”
Create Calm With Colors
In the second renovation, the couple swapped bedrooms with their oldest daughter to allow for an en suite extension to be built. The new space includes a large walk-in closet and bathroom, both of which look out onto a private deck. While Haag kept the rest of the house in similar light gray hues, she designed her bedroom in a moody navy-and-emerald combo to foster peace of mind.
In both rooms, a narrow, wall-to-wall shelf gives the designer a place to display favorite mementos. “Grouping items by color is always calming,” she explains. “Home shines a light on what we value and our need for a place to call our own. It gives us security, control, belonging, identity, and privacy, among other things. But most of all, it’s a place that provides us with a centering—a place from which we leave each morning and to which we return each evening.” If you were looking for a reason to embark on another remodel, there you have it.