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Greg Natale on how to combine classic and modern interiors

The Property Addict / Architecture & Design

Australia / Sydney

Feb 26 2018

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How would you describe the Greg Natale signature style?

"Sophisticated and tailored with a love of glamour and a strong use of bold patterns and colours. I’m particularly fond of monochromes accented by pops of bright hues, and I’m known for carefully edited interiors that feature a considered layering of elements to build up a warm, welcoming space."

What was your starting point for designing your collaboration with Grange for Domo?

"I had a couple of starting points. Firstly, the shapes of the furniture – I chose some of my favourite Grange pieces to work with, namely the angular architectural sofa, the Louis Bergère chairs and the humpback dining chairs. I love the silhouettes of these pieces but I knew I could update their finishes to achieve a more contemporary result. Secondly, the Grange tradition of coloured, painted finishes on furniture – again, I felt I could stay true to the brand’s style but introduce a bolder colour for modern appeal. I introduced a fresh, vibrant blue on one screen and that was the inspiration to continue the bold blues elsewhere."

What lead you to this particular colour scheme?

"My brief was to bring these traditional pieces into a more contemporary setting. While the furniture’s shapes were workable in any space, it was the finishes that needed updating. The brown wood of the furniture was a tone that anchored it in the past, so I changed it to sleek black for a sexier, more modern look. As I mentioned above, I introduced the bold blue because it is a fresh, striking colour (one of my favourites), which has contemporary appeal. I brought in geometric patterns, another love of mine, to inject some modern movement and vitality to the designs."

What are your tips for using period pieces in a modern home or extension?

"I recommend choosing furniture with straight, clean lines that will reflect the modern lines of the house, for example a square-backed Louis chair or fairly linear dining chairs. Then refresh the brown wood of the furniture, which really dates it, by making it black or white. And forget older fabrics such as velvet or brocade – replace these with more contemporary fabrics, possibly introducing some vivid hues and patterns. Basically, maintain the form of the pieces but update the finish for a sharper, more contemporary look."

...And for modern furnishings in a period home?

"Here, I’d embrace furniture that has curves and indulgent lines – these would work well in a period setting. In terms of finishes, you could use more luscious fabrics, such as velvet, and introduce brass accessories, rather than silver, for an old-world look. Whether you’re using modern furnishings in a period house or vice versa, the key is to create some sort of visual link between the spaces."

How do you achieve that ‘tailored’ look in each room of a home?

"I think it comes down to two approaches. The first is layering – a step-by-step process to building up an interior design that focuses on including all the key elements – walls, ceilings and floors, furniture, soft furnishings and accessories – that make up a complete and welcoming room. I believe that layering is essential no matter whether your house is minimalist or maximalist in style.

...The second is careful and constant editing – a process of assessing the look of a space as you go. I’m always standing back at every stage of the work and asking, ‘Is it balanced? Is there a dynamic contrast? Is there too much of one thing or not enough of another?’ Both layering and editing keep in mind the big picture of a design, where no decision is isolated, and where each piece, finish and fabric has a role in the room and relates to the next."

What are you tips for successfully updating a favourite period piece of furniture such as a family heirloom, to use in a contemporary home?

"I’ve mentioned changes such as altering the colour of the wood and updating the fabric, but I’d like to point out that often the piece itself (if it’s a quality investment) needs no change other than its surroundings. I acquired a walnut chair with pink upholstery from my parents (long story) that could date easily in the wrong setting, but I’ve made it work in a contemporary space by accompanying it with other pieces that make it sing, such as pops of pink accessories and a contemporary painting that brings out its warm tones. Similarly, a client of mine had much-loved black leather dining chairs that I brought into focus by creating a black-themed dining room around them. The result was dramatic, sultry and by no means dated."

You seem to effortlessly combine bold colours and prints in a space, what are some rules to follow at home to achieve this?

"I do love bold colours and prints for the interest and life they bring to a space. I think anyone can combine them successfully if they consider them as tools that can bring balance and contrast to a design, rather than the starting point of the design. I always recommend beginning an interior design with neutrals – for example, for larger pieces of furniture such as sofas and usually for curtains. Then you can introduce colour and print via more easily changeable pieces, such as cushions, throws and rugs, to add accents and draw a palette or look together. 

...I think two or three colours are enough to highlight, accent or offset – perhaps in a couple of ottomans, feature chairs, vases or even paintings. And prints and patterns can work wonders in pieces such as rugs, cushions and throws. Ultimately, it’s a question of balance. If you introduce patterned wallpaper, then keep other pieces neutral and have some solid pops of colour in soft furnishings and perhaps side pieces to contrast it. If your walls, floor and furniture are neutral, bring in some hits of colour and pattern through feature pieces, cushions, accessories and artwork."

What is your favourite style of period furniture to work with? 

"I don’t think you can find a more classically appealing piece than a Louis chair with a square back. Love it."



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