TURN UP THE VOLUME
– the Australian fashion designer whose home is a riot of contrasting colours
Fashion designer Vanessa Kortlang’s home is a world of riotous
colour and pattern – this is how to live loud.
There’s something to be said for the wise, predictive powers of those who forecast trends for a living – evidenced in the decision by Australian fashion designer Vanessa Kortlang to purchase a home in the then largely migrant populated area of South Yarra 27 years ago. The fact this locale has become one of Melbourne’s most soughtafter neighbourhoods is of secondary importance to Kortlang, however, who felt an immediate connection with the old Victorian house.
She purchased the small single-fronted weatherboard cottage in 1989. It had been inhabited by the same woman for more than 60 years and it was falling down around her. The cottage had a simple floor plan of rooms off a hallway and very dated amenities. Kortlang regarded it as a rescue mission and felt excited to take on the challenge of renovating such a dilapidated property.
She immediately discovered the piles underneath the house needed to be replaced, likening the experience of being inside the property to being on a listing ship. “I will never forget the first bath I took there before the repiling – I had to hang on to the sides for dear life so I didn’t slide down to the other end,” she laughs.
After some urgent rewiring, repiling and painting, Kortlang could begin to stamp her colourful personality onto the property’s interior, a process that has taken years. “This has been a work in progress for me. My home is an evolution not an instant overnight renovation. It has taken more than 20 years of collecting, morphing and tweaking to get it to where it is today,” she says. “Patience is a virtue!”
Kortlang’s renovations included a new bathroom and kitchen fit-out 10 years ago, and more recently knocking down a wall between two smaller rooms to create a single, larger space. The slow process was
Below: a painting by Arite Kannavos hangs above a blue replica Florence Knoll sofa from Clickon Furniture. The French-style two-seater is from Vavoom. The wallpaper is Peek-a-Boo Graphic Trellis by York Wallcoverings.
beneficial, she says, allowing her to live in the space to see how she used it before making big – and costly – decisions.
Religious iconography, pop art, stencil art and mutinous colour combinations all feature heavily in Kortlang’s home. “I think a house is a reflection of its owner and tells a story about the person who lives there,” she says, adding that the ‘happy chic’ vibe of her interiors keeps her upbeat. “I am a colourful person by day, by night, by fashion and by interiors. I adore colour and celebrate it in all of its glory.”
Kortlang used wallpaper to add an instant injection of colour and personality to her rooms, and proudly confesses that her love for wallpaper pre-dates its fashionable comeback (she bought her dining room’s silver wallpaper 15 years ago from a local op shop for just $2 per roll).
For the most part, she opted for simple but striking patterns in a monochrome palette. The only room in which she deviated from her largely black and white wall theme was in her bedroom, which features a striking blue pattern and large mirrors to give the illusion of a bigger room.
“I wanted the bedroom to feel different and the aqua ikat wallpaper by Schumacher did the trick,” she says.
With such busy walls, Kortlang deliberately kept her floors plain. The white floorboards were designed to give the rooms space to breathe, to create theatre, and allow her multi-coloured
I’m pretty much interiors obsessed so I read magazines, blogs and books constantly. I get inspiration from these sources, of course, but my biggest inspiration really comes from the things I love
and from within.
Above: an installation of antlers and crosses hangs above Kortlang’s bed. The blue ikat wallpaper is by Schumacher.
furnishings the chance to ‘pop’. Despite being warned about the impracticality of white flooring, Kortlang says she is pleasantly surprised at how well the floors have worn.
When it comes to the colourful objects, art and furnishings that adorn every room, Kortlang says she finds inspiration everywhere – “I took an aqua Tiffany bag into my local paint shop and had them match it and that became the colour of my front door” – and references to her previous life as a singer in a rock‘n’roll band are scattered throughout her home.
“I’m pretty much interiors obsessed so I read magazines, blogs and books constantly. I get inspiration from these sources, of course, but my biggest inspiration really comes from the things I love and from within,” she says.
Kortlang believes that if you love something you will always find a space for it, but admits her greatest
The red dining chairs make a statement against the graphic wallpaper while a glass cabinet
reflects light around the room.
challenge was in combining her diverse tastes into a cohesive whole. “I have so many different interests and passions and am drawn to a lot of diverse cultures and styles,” she says. “The challenge when you have broad and eclectic tastes is how to put so many different styles together and make it work. There needs to be an underpinning of colour you build on and a natural sense of display to make it work as a whole.”
The success of her approach shines through in every room in the house and, unsurprisingly, the busy designer cherishes time spent at home.
“I love putting on some vinyl, poring over a design book and enjoying my time with like-minded people,” she says. “I also equally love throwing open the courtyard doors on a balmy summer night and cooking for my friends – you’d never know you are in the heart of the city out there.”
Living so close to the retail Mecca that is Chapel Street means indulging her shopping habit is all too easy for Kortlang.
“When I buy for my home I like to shop local and support the small local retailers. South Yarra and the surrounding area has so many great unique interiors stores, where you can find some really quirky and interesting pieces. Being a total shopaholic that suits me down to the ground,” she laughs. “I can always fit more onto those shelves.”
The challenge when you have broad and eclectic tastes is how to put so many different styles together and make it work. There needs to be an underpinning of colour you build on and a natural sense of display to make it work as a whole.
Above: the verdant deck is Kortlang’s urban oasis. The replica Acapulco table and chairs are by Sokol.
The colourful Melbourne home of Australian fashion designer
Far left: Kortlang had the paint for the aqua blue front door colour matched to a Tiffany bag. The floor runner was custommade by Fenton & Fenton.
Left: a piece by graffiti artist
Pure Evil hangs behind a chair, which Kortlang had upholstered in a bespoke colour. Below left: a colourful bracelet sits on top of a book on fashion designer Stephen Sprouse. Below right: Kortlang painted 70s Anaglypta wallpaper bright yellow to contrast against the black and white striped wallpaper from Timney Fowler.
Above: the bone inlay chest of drawers in the bedroom is from Fenton & Fenton. The painting above it is by Stephen Langdon. Below left: a display of pieces collected by Kortlang on her travels.
Above: a Ramones poster and guitar case hint at Kortlang’s former
life as a singer in a rock’n’roll band. Above right: her diverse tastes see taxidermy birds displayed alongside a Fornasetti jar.
Right: a Mexican Day of the Dead skull shares the mantelpiece with an orchid and
glassware in complementary colours.
from the Grand Chateau collection by Norwall covers
the ceiling in the white kitchen. The Bertoia Barstools are from De De Ce. Right: the star light
is from Fenton & Fenton, and the gold rabbit is from Down
to the Woods.