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The elegant transformation of a newly built apartment in Melbourne

Patterns and prints infuse this apartment with timeless charm.
A formal style living area with blue armchairs, bifold glass doors and a timber coffee table.Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay

A chance meeting between interior designer Melissa Balzan and her former client was the stroke of luck that sparked homeowners Fran and Con’s project. “I have been friends with Fran for many years and bumped into her at an event,” explains Melissa of Melissa Balzan Design. “She asked if I would come and see her new apartment and cast my eye over some of her selections. Our working relationship grew from there.”

A formal style living area with blue armchairs, bifold glass doors and a timber coffee table.
Soothing blues fill the living area, with armchairs in a base of indigo Mokum fabric, topped with a Lee Jofa braid from Elliott Clarke and a crisp Westbury textile. A Cromwell sconce adds formal flair to the wall mouldings in Dulux White Duck Half. Raymond Henry crafted the side table, the sofa features a Westbury fabric and the rug is from Bayliss. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Con and Fran purchased their Melbourne apartment off the plan and had already tweaked the layout. “We felt we could create more spaciousness and light by linking the family room with the dining and living areas,” says Fran.

A formal style living room with wainscoting, ceramic pots and blue armchairs.
Melbourne couple Con and Fran were hoping to put their stylistic stamp on their newly built apartment when a fortuitous encounter with interior designer Melissa Balzan led to a successful partnership. “I worked very closely with Fran, who is also a good friend of mine; it really was a true collaboration in every sense,” says Melissa, who oversaw the decoration. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

With the home’s open-plan potential freshly unlocked, they turned to Melissa for the finishing flourishes. “Fran was deciding what furniture pieces she loved and what she wanted to change,” says Melissa.

A grey sofa with a collection of classic patterned cushions.
Cushions feature a Jim Thompson ikat fabric from Milgate, a Gaston Y Daniela print from Domestic Textile Corporation, and a readymade cushion from L&M. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Who lives here?

Fran and her husband Con, who work in hospitality and are passionate travellers.
What was your vision for the interior? Fran: “To make it a comfortable family home as well as creating a classic design style with layers of decoration.”
Which rooms get the most use? “We use the kitchen and family room extensively for family and friends. My husband uses the study as a working office and to hold business meetings.”
What are your favourite features? “We love the design of the living room with the separate study area. It’s a very inviting, north-facing space to enjoy with family and friends. And we love the dark joinery and wall lights in the study, which create a moody and intimate club-like atmosphere.”

A timber coffee table with ceramic vessels, books and a rattan tray.
Suzanne Kasler inspired the interiors. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Part-decoration, part-curation, the project focused as much on rehoming the couple’s existing decor as it did on sourcing new pieces. Both Fran and Melissa envisaged a sophisticated space with lashings of refined grandeur, and both were inspired by the interiors of American designer Suzanne Kasler.

A blue and white armchair with a patterned cushion.
Blues and whites strike a tranquil tone. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

“We wanted every space to be different, but still work in harmony with each other and flow from area to area,” says Melissa. She used a palette of blue, white and timber against washes of beige and grey for cohesion, while delineating different zones by varying the shades and saturation.

A study with timber in-built shelves and a grey patterned armchair.
The handsome study with dark Milgate wallpaper, an old armchair recovered in Boyac fabric, a Whitecliffe Imports rug, and a Cromwell sconce and side table. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

In the rooms that remain dim for most of the day, Melissa took a cocooning and somewhat counterintuitive approach – which initially had Con and Fran unconvinced – with winning results. “The rooms that did not receive as much natural light were made darker,” says Melissa. “It worked beautifully and one of my favourite rooms is the study, which was papered in a dark grasscloth and layered with dark fabrics. We also used wall lights, feature lights and lamps throughout the apartment to create mood and ambience.”

Kitchen

A pair of Miele ovens are teamed with a microwave and steam oven to make light work of hosting Con and Fran’s big family. “My clients often have their grandchildren to stay, so we were mindful of the fabrics we used in the family room and on the kitchen stools,” explains Melissa. “These not only needed to be practical and hardwearing, but also look smart.”

A classic white kitchen with a marble island and leather stools.
Melissa used Contemporary Leathers for the bar stool seats. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Dining area

Fran and Con knocked through the wall that separates the living space and dining area, and linked the rooms with sliding doors. “We purchased the dining room rug from Behruz Studio after seeing it in the showroom – it was perfect and married the traditional formal sitting room beautifully with the more relaxed living area,” she says of the open-plan zones. A John Robinson artwork now overlooks the finely edged dining table by Raymond Henry.

A hallway leading into a formal dining area.
In a stroke of decorative genius, two Orient House ginger jars were converted into lamps for the custom console table in the hallway. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

“I wanted to create a layered, refined home, incorporating existing pieces collected over time by my clients.”

Melissa
A classic style dining room with grey linen chairs and a timber table.
Melissa covered the chairs with Colefax and Fowler ‘Linsmore Check’ textile in Stone and finished each with a stud detail and ‘Arlington’ rope around the bases. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Sitting area

“The large rug in this room was new and custom-made for the space by Whitecliffe Imports to set the tone,” says Melissa of the formal sitting area. She incorporated the home’s existing chandelier, along with Fran and Con’s antique mirror and Louis chairs.

A classic sitting room with a glass chandelier and vintage-style furniture.
For similar chairs, try ‘Elysee French Armchairs’ from Xavier Furniture. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Melissa used a rich grasspaper from Ascraft at one end of the formal sitting area. Fran and Con already owned the chest of drawers and lamp base, which was refreshed with a custom shade in silk ikat fabric from Tigger Hall Design.

A timber vintage-style set of drawers beneath framed art.
The two artworks above are by Hayward Veal. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

“When purchasing new pieces, not only did we try to find items we loved, they also needed to have longevity.”

Melissa
A classic timber writing desk with a paper organiser, glass vase and a lamp.
An antique desk graces the sitting room. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Main bedroom

“It took a while to find the perfect bedhead fabric and textiles for the accessories,” she says of the couple’s bedroom. “We visited every fabric house numerous times before it all went ‘click!’”

A classic style main bedroom with French-style doors, silk curtains and a grey bed.
Colefax and Fowler ‘Delano’ and ‘Portia’ in Blue on the bench seat and cushion. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

The textiles palette includes Nina Campbell ‘Bintan’ in 05 on the bedhead and Jim Thompson silk from Milgate for the curtains.

A bedroom chest with a blue lamp and ceramic decorative rabbits.
Raymond Henry made a bedroom chest to hide the TV. Lampshade in ‘Benjelloun’ in Teals on Oyster from Bennison Fabrics. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Guest bedrooms

To bring strokes of character and colour to the second guest bedroom, Melissa upholstered the custom bedhead in Galbraith & Paul ‘Lattice’ fabric in Marine on Cream Linen.

A guest bedroom with floral curtains, a timber side table and grey lined bedhead.
Yves Delorme bedlinen and an Hermès throw make the perfect companions. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

With their lyrical Manuel Canovas ‘Nina’ print in Cardinal, the curtains are showstoppers. Melissa repeated the fabric in a cushion on the couple’s armchair, which she recovered with an Ian Mankin textile from Domestic Textile Corporation.

A blue vintage-style armchair beneath a decorative sun mirror.
The curtains and cushion in Manuel Canovas ‘Nina’ print in Cardinal. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

‘Banyan’ in Charcoal Blue on Oyster from Bennison Fabrics is stunning in the other guest bedroom with Yves Delorme linen.

A vintage-style bedhead with a subdued floral fabric.
The Yves Delorme linen. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Alfresco area

“My clients enjoy staying at the Firmdale Hotels, which are beautifully curated and layered,” says Melissa of the Kit Kemp-designed venues. “It was this same feeling we wanted to achieve within the apartment.” The hotel-worthy style inside extends to the alfresco area, where a broad, sheltered terrace is flanked by camellias in vessels from Kellock Pots and Planters.

An outdoor alfresco area with rattan seating and green hedges.
For similar chairs, try rattan ‘Terrace’ chairs from Xavier Furniture. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Melissa bathed the alfresco area with layers of lighting sources, from the romance of candlelight, courtesy of a trio of hurricanes, to the stately lantern pendant overhead. For a similar pendant, try EF Chapman ‘Darlana’ outdoor lantern from The Montauk Lighting Co. For an extra wash of illumination, the interior lights brighten the terrace.

We love… layered lighting
An alfresco area nook with two metal seats and a table.
For this little nook off the outdoor dining area, Melissa sourced the classic table and chairs from Le Forge. Buxus and lilly pilly frame the perimeter with neat hedging beneath the beautiful fan-shaped leaves of a ginkgo tree. (Photography: Kate Enno / Styling: Annalese Hay)

Given the opportunity again, Melissa would go even further. “In retrospect, I would have added more layers and wallpaper – maybe on our next project together!” adding, “I love this apartment and am very proud of how it turned out.”

Interior decoration: Melissa Balzan Design, melissabalzandesign.com.
Interior design: Andrea Zidziunas, caisson.com.au.
Builder: Davies Henderson, davieshenderson.com.au.

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