Darren Palmer is a master of creating effortlessly luxurious spaces. Darren’s incredible new book Easy Luxury (Murdoch Books; $39.99) is a stunning showcase of his work that’s also filled with some of his best design advice for creating an atmosphere of relaxed luxury. We caught up with the interior designer and The Block judge and asked him to reveal some of his secrets for cultivating calming wellness at home.
What does Easy Luxury mean to you as a concept? How does it shape part of your aesthetic?
Easy Luxury as a concept is delivering your own perfect idea of comfort, beauty and functionality in your home. As a book, in terms of the message of Easy Luxury, it gives you an understanding of design fundamentals that underpin great decisions for a beautiful, coherent and considered result. One that looks great and feels fantastic to live in and is suited to your life, family, budget and home.
Do you believe there is a link between people’s homes and their happiness and general wellness?
Absolutely. There is definitely a link between feeling great in your home and feeling great in life. A more prosperous feeling space will also breed a general sense of prosperity and wellbeing that knocks on into other parts of your life, including your relationships and work.
Imagine how good it feels to come home to a space that fits you perfectly and that supports your needs? A space that has already solved issues like storage, light, mood and style will put you in a better frame of mind simply by removing the frustrations of mess and clutter. Just being able to walk out the door quicker with more ease every morning will make you feel happier, let alone having your home compliment you in every way.
Can you give us some simple tips for creating a serene atmosphere at home?
Consider the mood you want your home to have. Solve this problem and you have the answer to things like colours, materials and elements.
Have a place for everything. Being able to simply put things back where they belong makes cleaning and tidying your space a breeze. Having a clutter free space will make you feel better in your home.
Have lots of softening elements that contrast with bolder, stronger decisions for balance. The softness of materials like wood and woven textiles are great for a relaxed mood, but you need compliment and contrast for any great space to work. So consider what those contrasting elements might be for your space. Whether they be glass, mirror, stone, metal or concrete. Striking the right balance of soft and hard will make your space sing.
Can you share some stylish ways to bring an element of nature into your interior?
Succulents are pretty low maintenance and look great in small pots for a little side table interest and softening contrast. I love small ferns though they take a little more effort. They are very delicate, both visually and physically, so it’s best to treat them kindly.
I love an arrangement of bromeliads, succulents and mosses gathered together on a piece of bark for an amazing centre piece.
You can also capture some of the real nature outside by strategically placing mirrors in your space to reflect leafy outlooks and hidden glimpses of views unrealised previously.
What can urban dwellers who don’t live anywhere near the bush or ocean do?
Balconies are opportunities for small contained gardens using appropriate plants for the floor space you have available. Courtyards are much the same. Consider using things bamboo to screen walls, vertical gardens for both decorative and edible plants, potted trees or grasses and even the inclusion of some high quality AstroTurf to add that element of green life to a concrete jungle.
What are some things people can do to bring some health spa luxury into their everyday environment at home?
Look at reference for what your idea of spa luxe might be. Whether it’s Balinese luxury, Thai inspiration or something more tropical or even tribal-inspired. Then build your palette of materials and colours around that to suit your home. Don’t force a style onto your home that doesn’t fit your area or geographical location though. Avoid beach theme in the CBD for example or a Mexican hacienda in the suburbs. It feels incongruent and will be visually jarring to most, even if you love it and may effect the way others feel in your space.
Are there colours you’d recommend to evoke certain emotions at home?
Not at all. Colour is like music, one person’s interpretation and response will be different from the next. There’s information out there about colour psychology, but the truth is you need to measure your own responses to colours to gauge how appropriate they will be for your space.
To do this make sure you bring home samples of any paints you’re thinking of using. Apply it to a large piece of cardboard so you can move it around from wall to wall, rather than applying it to the walls directly. It will be harder to paint over as well as being less flexible to move according to the light and time of day you need to view colours properly in.
If you’re considering using a colour on upholstered furniture get a large piece of the colour and fabric if possible and drape it over the piece of furniture. Then sit in it to see how you feel and how you respond to it. Also take time to view it from different angles and vantage points to understand how it will work in your space.
Any other advice about cultivating an atmosphere of wellness at home you’d like to add?
Candles! You can never have too many. Keep them in cupboard and always have a few to burn. They enhance the mood and smell of your home.
Gather your belongings in vignettes that are styled to tell a story of who you are and what you love. Gather things together with variation of height, texture and size creates interest but scattering things randomly through your home without giving them other things to relate to just creates clutter. It’s a balancing act. But when you treat each vignette as an opportunity to showcase something special from your travels or something close to your heart you get a personal and appealing result.
Photography by Felix Forest