Melbourne’s Lyn Gardener is best known for her incredible eye for vintage, showcased through her Albert Park emporium Empire Vintage and her interior decorating firm Gardener and Marks. Her Daylesford property, The White House, is much in demand for holiday accommodation, and now she has opened The White Room in Fitzroy. We get to the bottom of her unique style…
How would you describe the style of the White Room?
It’s a mix of curated vintage items collected over many years, brought together in a pure white floor to ceiling space. A touch of industrial with a Scandinavian feel, perhaps? I am struggling to fit it under one heading to be honest.
The space is a mix of luxury (French linens) with vintage pieces, often worn and aged. Is this contrast something you strive for, and why?
I absolutely love the mix of old and new. The older vintage items always seem to shine even more with their tattered edges, peeling leather and faded old frames. I have always loved old for the character it brings – I love that age on furniture is more beautiful than the new because the character is there, it has a history and a past life. The crisp French linen adds to it all, and makes it casual but lushly extravagant at the same time.
The White Room has a very consistent look throughout. How important do you think consistency is in interiors?
I love and must have consistency throughout. I love a theme and if you were to walk through the White Room and then cross over to the main warehouse space (my home), you would see that it all ties in. White walls white floors, a beautiful mix of fabrics in hessian and raw calico, vintage pieces in natural timbers, faded rugs, a little bit of old French furniture tied in with some industrial pieces and so on. I think it’s common sense to make your home consistent – to me, it’s a must to walk through the front door and have a common theme flow through all the rooms.
You’ve worked with a very limited colour palette. What is the secret to making this look work?
I think because I have only chosen 2 to 3 colours – whites, greys, naturals and some blacks – it’s quite easy and I don’t think you can go wrong. If, for example, I added yellow somewhere, I would have to add a few different items in the same colour to make it all work and make sense of the room.
How do you hope people will feel in The White Room? What do you think is key to creating a feeling of comfort in a space?
I so far have been overwhelmed with the response to the White Room; every one has mentioned the cosy cosy, homely feeling and the attention to detail. The room features a central bed which is luxuriously covered in the best linen, heated concrete floors warm the room in winter and there are one-off pieces highlighting every corner. There is every comfort required, both beautiful and practical, in one small studio room in the heart of very cool Fitzroy. I guess I have thought of all the features that I personally look for when I stay somewhere special.
You have honed your eye for (and collection of) vintage furniture and items over many years. What advice would you give to someone who wants to decorate in this style?
Just be strong and use your items as a feature in the room. Most vintage pieces have character and will be the first thing people will take notice of in a room. Have your own style by collecting what you love so you can show who you are through your collections. You may start with a theme as I like to do – one portrait form the 1880’s turned into an entire wall of male portraits and now makes an amazing statement as soon as you walk in the door. Try not to have too many styles going on in every room; aim for a consistent style and make sure you put your personality into it all. Have fun!
Your collections, gathered over time, add personality and interest to the space. What are your top tips on displaying collections?
I love collections, and to me more than 3 of anything is the start of a collection. For example, I collected the glass domes displayed on a table in the centre of the room, and I feature even more collections within them, like old cutlery in bowls and gorgeous 100 year old books. I have always loved paintings on walls and I group them in themes. In my bedroom it’s all old oil paintings of the sea or landscapes with old tainted, faded gold frames, featuring hints of blues to tie in with the bed linens and theme of the room.
My advice is to try and theme your collections and group like with like – that way it really is a statement. If its glass bowls or milk glass or ceramic vases you love, for example, have shelves made and feature every single one of them in rows. Every corner in my home seems to have some collection I’ve put together from my travels or markets around the world. It makes me happy to have all these memories around me.
Does your personal style change over time, and how do you adapt your interiors to suit?
I have always collected old, from a very early age. Over the years my style has changed, but I have never changed my habit of collecting old wares. My first home was a rustic country house with old painted original furniture. I then moved to a large warehouse where I went for a very industrial and masculine look. From there I moved to where I live now – a very white warehouse I decorated 15 years ago. It started out very feminine with lots of authentic French furniture whites, florals and pale colours. Over the past 4 years I have changed to a mix of old and a touch of new – I’ve taken all the florals away and have charcoal linen couches, a mix of rugs on the floor from a trip to Turkey with an overdyed mustard rug overlapped by a textured raw sisal rug. Male dark portraits fill the wall as does industrial lighting that features in many corners of the rooms. I use tarnished silver wares and more muted tones and colours.
Are there any items or elements that you simply must have an every space you decorate?
Yes, something collected and found that is old item with all its original character – always! That will never change for me.
Quick fire questions:
I caught the collecting bug when: I was 16
My first collection was: milliners’ hat blocks
My most treasured find is: I can’t pinpoint just one as I have so many!
Right now I’m inspired by: my new country house just purchased that will be transformed into a whole new look all over again!
The next place I want to travel to is: New York it is!
Images by Lisa Cohen.