Vivid Imagination

A brand-new home meant a complete change of style for this modern Novocastrian – and colour was the secret weapon in her decorating arsenal. When Catherine Farragher relocated from a heritage-style home to a harbourside apartment in the recently-completed Lee Wharf development in Newcastle, New South Wales, it signalled the start of a whole new way of life.

Free to follow her heart with a style she’d long admired, she ditched her old furniture in favour of a new contemporary look that reflects her optimistic spirit. In doing so she faced the challenge that undermines many a home decorator’s confidence: how to introduce colour without it being overbearing. In recent years, bold feature walls have been the answer – but Catherine came up with a different solution. By hand-picking bold accessories that pop out against a sleek, all-white backdrop she allowed each piece to speak strongly in its own right. In this way, she’s been able to introduce every colour imaginable into her apartment in graphic prints and patterns, without creating a messy clash of concepts. In fact, the look is fresh and up to date with a mix of designer prints in cushions and fabric wall art, and unique vintage finds. The overall look is urban and modern but, as this mother of three attests, “you don’t have to be young to embrace fun interior choices.” Closely associated with Catherine’s shift in outlook came a change of direction in her career as well and she left behind her work as a legal practice manager to open a homewares store called interiorz, where she stocks the best designer objects from around the world and also sells them online. Missoni, Marimekko, French Bull and Florence Broadhurst are just a few of the iconic brands represented, and they all have a starring role in her home as well.

The open-plan living area is spacious and light with a full-width wall of glass sliding doors offering enviable views across the harbour. Here Catherine maintained the all-white background of walls and ceiling and added retro-shaped white leather lounges from Nick Scali to provide a blank canvas on which she added punches of vivid colour provided by an assortment of graphic print cushions and a striking rug. The funky coffee table is a piece she loves with its white top, chrome legs and unique circular insets that can be turned over to reveal large orange dots. While it looks like a high-end piece, Catherine actually discovered it at a store selling used office furniture and got it at a bargain price. She enjoys pointing out its quirky versatility and often draws visitors’ attention to it. Modular side tables, such as the classic Componibili unit, suit her no-fuss, no-clutter style not least because they can be moved freely around the room as needed. In a clever marrying of two iconic designs, Catherine customised a vintage sideboard with metallic wallpaper in the Turnabout pattern from the Florence Broadhurst range, and re-purposed it as a television cabinet. Above one lounge she has displayed a collection of treasured family photographs in matching white frames of different proportions, creating a wonderful heartfelt discussion point which is complemented by a Karlsson ‘Timezone’ black and white clock.

In the kitchen, the sleek white island bench and cupboards are offset by a bold red splashback and cabinets in warm beech timber. The apartment came equipped with Miele appliances, including gas cooktop and oven which scored a tick of approval from this keen cook. “The kitchen’s a dream with its easy-care benchtop and floor,” she says, “and it really integrates so well with the lounge and dining areas.” She chose a funky Tord Boontje ‘Until Dawn’ screen for the window and it allows light to filter into the space through its unique laser-cut floral pattern design. The dining table is a classic Tulip design, sourced from a vintage store, which saved her hundreds of dollars, although it “needed a good clean with Jif!” she laughs. Matched with classic white tulip chairs, the result was definitely worth the effort. Once again, the all-white setting allows her to mix and match graphic platters and French Bull servingware to bold effect. And creating quite a statement as it arches over the tabletop is a Libra lamp. A long balcony stretches the length of the apartment and is accessible from both the lounge and the two bedrooms. It’s a popular spot for entertaining and Catherine has furnished it with relaxed but stylish L-shaped chaises and piled on bright print cushions. To emphasise the ‘outdoor living area’ effect, she’s also hung one of the fabric artworks she makes, and, like the other fabrics used here, it’s specially treated to withstand the elements.

Catherine says the main bedroom suite is “fantastic” describing it as a completely separate and private oasis with an indulgent bathroom and a walk-in wardrobe down a short passageway from the actual bedroom. It looks out over the harbour and opens onto the balcony, making it the perfect retreat. Her magic touch is evident here as well, as once more her trademark palette of white with white plus bold pops of colour fairly sings of spring and the freshness of life. The simple bedside tables were sourced from a commercial supplier and were originally intended for office furniture, though you’d never know from looking at them now dressed with simple candle-shaped ‘Pina’ table lamps. Catherine chose white waffleweave Sheridan linen for subtle texture that lets graphic cushions take centre stage. More Marimekko fabric features in the second bedroom, this time the well-known ‘Kaivo’ pattern in chocolate brown and black is introduced, but, with white linen balancing the scheme, the look is far from dark.

There’s no looking back for Catherine now her life has taken this bright new turn. Her low-maintenance, fun and colourful apartment suits her busy lifestyle perfectly and allows her the freedom to focus on her business. And, between home and work, she is constantly surrounded by inspirational design and beautiful fabrics – it’s no wonder the creative ideas just keep coming.


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