Australian stylist Simone Haag is a woman of many talents. Not only does she helm her own Melbourne design studio, she is also a co-host of the Aussie television program Dream Homes Revealed, an influencer with a following 68,000 strong on Instagram, and an expert curator of furniture, art, and objets. And her latest project, the decoration of a character-filled Victorian, only further proves that Haag is a design force to be reckoned with.
The client, Sarah Fischer, a freelance stylist for TV shoots, needed some help making the historic home—characterized by its stonework, high ceilings, bay windows, and ornate mouldings and cornices—suitable for her and her husband’s newfound lifestyle as empty nesters. After a decade in Singapore, the family had returned to Australia but wanted their grown children to be able to visit for intermittent stays. They also wanted to highlight the home’s history while bringing in a fresh array of furniture and objects.
For Haag, the project was a dream one: “A lot of my recent work had revolved around furnishing new builds, so I relished the opportunity to work on a period home,” she says.
During the initial walk-through, Haag was struck by the 19th-century home’s grandeur. This project, however, was far from being a blank canvas. Each space, from floor to ceiling, had already been painted a different tonal hue, from green to buff. “To walk into a home where the client had such confidence in color, I wondered why she needed to engage a designer,” remembers Haag. “But then she shared how the rooms had remained empty since day one [six months before], and she needed to tap into someone to share the journey with and give confidence.”
“I had always done my homes myself, but the scale of these rooms was just a little out of my comfort zone,” Fischer agrees. “I had watched Simone’s trajectory via Instagram and wanted to be able to work with her as long as she knew it meant that I was coming along for the ride.”
The color, therefore, stayed. And a journey through Fischer’s wardrobe only ascertained the surprising choices. “In one of our meetings, we started with our usual commentary about my client’s epic outfit selection, which led to a walk-through of her wardrobe,” Haag says. “I could see that every piece of clothing she owned was khaki, mustard, olive, or rust, and it was a natural springboard for the interior’s palette.”
The resulting rooms feel contemporary yet maintain an old-world atmosphere, via vintage finds, Italian and American classics, as well as Australian art and ceramics. This cool-and-collected feeling begins as soon as guests set foot in the door. Fischer had specifically expressed interest in Tacchini’s low-slung Five to Nine daybed. It now anchors the entry hall, whose peculiar layout starts narrow before opening up. Ancillary pieces, like Luciano Bertoncini’s Gronda mirrored coat rack and a triptyque by Australian artist Kirsty Budge, were chosen over cups of tea for “their perfect scale and mix of elegance and quirk,” Haag explains. Two separate arched rugs, meanwhile, address the quirky floor plan and perfectly match the client’s wardrobe. “We giggled that if she wore [one particular jumper] whilst lying on her entry rug, she would camouflage,” Haag jokes.
In the moody parlor (or Whiskey room, as the client and stylist call it) painted a camel color called Swamp Fox by Dulux, the brief consisted in creating a welcoming and comfortable room that was an invitation to drink a whiskey, listen to music, or have a morning coffee daily, as opposed to using this space only on special occasions. In addition to the bucket chairs, which the homeowners owned and were reupholstered in a combination of olive-toned mohair and bouclé, is a sentimental record player, which Fischer received as a birthday gift from her family, that sits on a Florence Knoll cabinet. “We sourced a number of vintage pieces that collectively create a dynamic dialogue about style, form, and pattern,” Haag explains. “The graphic Dedar wallpaper pulls everything together.”
Materials like wool, suede, shearling, and walnut timbers meld perfectly with the earthy tones and echo Fischer’s fashion aesthetic in every nook. In the green main bedroom, for instance, Haag maintained the tonal palette to create an atmosphere where calmness is the mantra—and where the two family dogs can stretch out on a curved bench.
“I like to think of a house as a story wanting to be written, a tale waiting to be told,” Haag says. “My job is like that of a journalist—to investigate your personal story. It’s only with this information that I can design an immersive narrative.”
Styled by Simone Haag and Melissa Strauch