At home with interior designer Darren Palmer.

DARREN PALMER: How to make a house a home

DARREN Palmer might be a judge of some of the trendiest spaces on The Block, but admits he doesn't follow them.

The interior designer is a big believer in simply creating a home that suits our needs and supports our lives. A home should be something much more personal, says the author of HomeSpace.

"There isn't a family unit we call nuclear any more and everyone seems to run their own lives, in their own way, with their chosen places of habitation reflecting their lives, their families and their styles," Palmer says.

"I avoid trends like the plague. I don't think chasing a trend in a slavish way is productive in terms of expressing your own sense of self. There are always good things to find in trends. You can pick pieces out of a trend you like and interpret them in your own way for your own family."

He says his latest book was a sensible extension of his first, Easy Luxury. "It made sense to look at how you apply all the fundamentals of the first book in the real world so this book is based on case studies and focuses on commonality on each project and the differences that are a reflection on the design briefs.

"Everybody's brief is going to change the outcome, but the fundamentals stay the same.

"The more planning you do and education you have and the more you lay it out and test it before it goes into reality, then the more successful you will be."

Palmer shares more about his own home, shared with husband Olivier Duvillard and son Hugo, below:


My home is homely, friendly and comfortable. We have pets and a child so we don't worry too much about stains or spills. The house is clean and tidy, but also pre-reno, so we're not too bothered if things don't look like a photo shoot is just about to happen.

My design process is pretty intuitive. I get a feeling for people and what they need and usually ideas are bubbling just below the surface. Sometimes things take a little more exploration which is totally fine too. All good design goes through iterations and refinements to get to the finished outcome.

The last thing that inspired me was having a break. I've been to Audi Hamilton Island Race week last month and earlier this year was in Fiji at the Intercontinental, a place I'll be back to later in the year as I loved it so much. I think being able to step out of work and have a calm mind pays dividends.


The mass of choices  overwhelms people, says Palmer. The answer is to start with what you need from your space.
The mass of choices overwhelms people, says Palmer. The answer is to start with what you need from your space. FELIX FOREST

My little luxury is sleep. There's nothing quite like an early night or waking up later on a weekend or holiday. Afternoon naps are totally underrated too.

My biggest influences are my family, nature and the work and businesses of people like Christian Liaigre or Tom Ford. Being able to build a brand and such a substantial array of design IP is absolutely inspiring.

Colour is subjective just like music. The way people perceive things can be grouped together by trend or style but no two people see colour the same way, just like we all get different experiences of music.


The best designs are the most refined. Simplicity doesn't come from the easy answer, it usually comes from being reworked, recreated and refined.

I often get asked "where do I begin?". The mass of choices out in the market overwhelms people but the answer always is to start with what you need from your space, and what your family needs too. Defining a brief is the answer, narrowing your field of vision to a more manageable array.

Not many people know I am also good at - I wouldn't say I'm good at it but I cut my hair and Olivier's as well. We have the same haircut, roughly speaking, which does tend to make us look a little too similar, but it's a good cut and only one of two that I know.



Darren's five tips for creating a homely space

1. Layers - layering in textures and fabrics adds softness visually and physically. Think soft furnishings, rugs and drapery.

2. Contrast - the difference between big and small scale, smooth vs textured, new and old together, creating a play between light and dark, all these things create contrast in your space. Don't forget about colour, texture and pattern for an opportunity to add contrast to your interiors.

3. Complement - tying together elements is what really finishes a room. You can add in more layers and more elements if you just tie them all together by using different amounts of the same treatment in smaller ways in different locations. What that means is if you use a lot of, say, emerald green in one place, you use just a tiny little bit of it somewhere else within your line of sight.

4. Impact - Every good room has a focal point. It could be a fireplace, an artwork or an architectural feature, or even the view, but look for things that really pop as they are the things that elevate your rooms.

5. Personality - A sense of "you" needs to be represented in your spaces. This is as simple as layering through objects from your travels and things that have some sentimental value to you. Working them into your styling vignettes adds life to decoration and also can really make your sentimental pieces shine.


Darren Palmer's HomeSpace is now in book stores and online (Murdoch Books, $39.99).