This month we sat down with Melissa Penfold, one of Australia's leading authorities on style and design. Determined to make style easy, accessible and exciting to us all, Melissa honed her skills as interiors editor at Belle magazine, and as the shopping guru at the Sydney Morning Herald. She has a popular monthly decorating column in Australian House & Garden and has penned two best-selling books on the subject of Australian Style and Melissa Penfold's Little Black Book: Sydney's Shopping Secrets.
As a journalist, where did you begin your career and what made you head in the direction of interiors and style?
I was interested in style from the start. My mother and grandmother were over-the-top glamorous, with houses to match. And I saw that when people bought something new for the home they had an extra pep in their step. It gave them (and their homes) elegance and confidence. It was like magic. While at university, I did work experience with Kerry Packer at House & Garden magazine and ended up staying for more than 10 years. I did everything from styling to writing across all interior fields: bedrooms to bathrooms, kitchens to gardens, furniture to homewares. And started my annual pilgrimage to the Milan furniture fairs. By 23 I’d worked my way up to design editor at Belle magazine where I stayed until I was headhunted by Fairfax in 1996 to help set up the Domain section in Thursday’s Sydney Morning Herald, and more.
You’ve achieved so much - worked with all the major publications and written two books - what do you consider the secrets to your success?
Making good design accessible to everyone, and democratising good taste. A top designer might not be an option for all of us, but the paint colour they used can be. So can the table lamp, tiles, and cushions. My columns and books have helped everyone know where to go, what to buy, and how to be a smart shopper.
So many people look to you for advice on style and design. How would you describe your own personal style?
My style is about 70 per cent classic, and 30 per cent trends. I think that’s the best ratio for ensuring that your house (and you) are both timeless and up-to-the-minute. My homes are a mix of things from all times and places, from grand to simple. Whether it’s a cup or a commode, I buy only pieces that are well-made, do their job properly, look great, and bring pleasure to everyday living. My favourite colour combos are white, ecru, oyster, sand, straw, stone, tobacco, butterscotch, coffee and black.
In 10 years time, what would you like to be doing?
Checking out how the way we shop continues to completely transform. I don’t think we are half way there.
We’ve recently expanded our range to include more products for the home. Could you give our readers some tips on how to style a Knotty in the home?
Group your Knotty towels together in one place. It’s tidier that way, and they become extra-chic when there are lots of them. Hang them together, with an eye to aesthetics, wall to ceiling. It’s a great way of decorating if you can’t afford art. Think of a wall covered in Knotty towels. Very little money, but lots of style – and a great conversation starter. Try hanging your Knotty towels or throws on simple wall pegs, strategically place. Or hanging them on a row of iron hooks, lining them up in neat piles along open shelves, or stacking them on a chair (or stool). They will bring life to a hallway, kitchen, laundry, child’s bedroom, bathroom or pool house. Ideal for city, beach or country settings. Think Long Island or Montauk chic.
To read more of Melissa's great styling tips and advice head to www.melissapenfold.com