When you have a collection of furniture and objects that hold sentimental meaning, it can be an overwhelming task to decide what should stay and what should go when downsizing. The task becomes even more difficult when those pieces are valuable antiques and traditional family heirlooms, and you’re relocating into a brand-new, modern apartment in the city!
Navigating this delicate balance between function, form and sentimentality was the dilemma for the owners of this Brisbane apartment, who are avid collectors. When the time came to move their much-loved pieces from their former classically styled home to a sleek, contemporary sky-high residence, they turned to interior designer Fleur Hartigan of Fleur Hartigan Design for expert direction.
“When my clients moved into their beautiful new city apartment, along with their existing collection of gorgeous antique furniture, rugs and artworks, they were, quite naturally, a little stuck on how to successfully use their older pieces in such a modern space,” says Fleur, who helped the couple transition into their new abode with ease.
“Rather than impersonating a different time, which can translate in-authentically in a modern setting, or trying to use every piece only to end up with rooms that look like a museum, we designed the living spaces to merge only the most cherished of their eclectic collectables with a fresh new look,” Fleur explains. “This selective process has resulted in a beautiful blend of new and vintage, and a home full of visual interest and layered personality.”
Fleur utilised the best of her clients’ existing older pieces to act as a grounding element to the apartment’s more contemporary architectural style, creating a bridge to “now” through the inclusion of some carefully chosen furniture and accessories.
Creating a more functional layout was pivotal for Fleur Hartigan Design in making the combination of heirloom pieces and streamlined rooms work. By determining how her clients preferred to live day to day and how they liked to entertain, Fleur worked out a new floorplan for the open-plan spaces, with a better separation of dining and living zones in the open plan living area, and plenty of storage included.
“The next step was to work through the existing collection of furniture pieces my clients would keep and what pieces would be gifted to family, or gently let go,” adds Fleur of the culling process. “I always love including furniture pieces with meaning, as your home says so much about who you are, and I believe the most successful interiors are the ones that tell those personal stories well. We used as much of the existing collection as possible, then worked on some bespoke new furniture pieces that would tie cohesively into the modern architectural style of the building. Working back from the antique pieces – some with softer, more traditional detailing like the feature armchairs, and others with more modern lines, like the new coffee table, sofa, ottomans and custom rug – helped us to create a harmonious mix of furniture styles.”
The apartment is blessed with a beautiful aspect of the river city from every room and window. The lounge room boasts expansive views over the winding Brisbane River below and the city skyline and mountains beyond. Rather than compete with the view, Fleur suggested a palette that reflected the exterior environment, using the same soft tonal play of blues and greens throughout the main living areas.
Overscale pieces help ground the expansive open-plan living space, like the custom-designed rug and the custom-made three-metre sofas, which were designed by Fleur Hartigan Design in sections to allow them to fit perfectly into the apartment building’s lift for ease of installation.
Continuing the connection between past and present, an old family portrait hangs over an antique console, a new buffet is home to a prized clock and heirloom chinoiserie lamp, and unique accent pieces like the feature armchairs from Xavier Furniture add an elegant touch of whimsy. “I am particularly partial to these beautiful chairs,” says Fleur. “We had them custom upholstered in the GP & J Baker ‘Ramayana’ fabric, which became the inspiration for the rest of the living room scheme. I love how the fabric collects the colours of the sky, river and mountains that make up the spectacular view from this room. Plus, the palm trees are a nice Queensland subtropical reference as well.”
A coordinating fabric used for the custom loose cushions atop the timber kitchen stools subtly ties the lounge room with the adjoining cooking zone, enhanced by a serendipitous find among the homeowners’ treasures.
“Going through my clients’ collections of ceramics, we discovered Wedgwood platters signed by Josiah Wedgwood, so I quickly repurposed these from serving ware as art pieces,” shares Fleur. “These older pieces further connect the colour story from the adjoining living and dining room areas and are a great example of how you can mix old and new.”
With several timber tones, from mahogany to light oak, highlighted throughout the homeowner’s heirloom collection, Fleur ensured all the new furniture pieces that were introduced had a painted black timber finish. “This allows the antique pieces to stand out and enjoy their individuality, without appearing too busy or overwhelming,” she explains.
In the guest bedroom, a mix of emerald and sapphire tones is used for the new twin beds, which feature Fleur Hartigan Design custom bedheads upholstered in an indigo velvet by Catherine Martin, a custom valance in the ‘Fala’ fabric from Cloth & Print Co, and new lampshades and cushions covered in Schumacher’s ‘Lotus Garden’. A former dining chair has been repurposed as a bedroom chair, reupholstered in Cloth & Print Co’s ‘Assam Stripe’ fabric, to continue the eclectic theme.
In the master bedroom, the mood is light and lovely. A soft and harmonious palette of grey, gold and a touch of black in the deeply patterned feature fabric (‘Hothouse Flowers’ from Schumacher) on the new Fleur Hartigan Design custom bedhead and cushions give the room a relaxed yet luxurious feel.
By carefully curating and layering furniture, artwork, rugs and accessories, Fleur Hartigan Design has skillfully allowed past, present and future to cheerfully coexist, creating a sophisticated yet charming apartment that honours history, while telling the next chapter of the
story of the people who live there.
Words: Natalie Bannister | Photography: Hannah Puechmarin