10 Tips: An Artfully Undecorated Melbourne Loft

A pair of Aussie creatives apply a cool, collected aesthetic to their laid-back rental.

Erika Geraerts and Charl Laubscher's all-white Melbourne loft is a lesson in living minimally and artfully. 
Erika Geraerts and Charl Laubscher's all-white Melbourne loft is a lesson in living minimally and artfully. 


Highly traditional interior design types maintain a strict set of statutes when it comes to composing a prim and proper space: the chandelier should hang so many inches above the dining table. Window treatments should just brush the floor. Wood tones and metal finishes ought to coordinate in each room. But what happens when you put two accomplished creatives in a bare-bones industrial space and proceed to toss the rule book out the window?  If you're multi-hyphenate Aussies Erika Geraerts (co-owner of communications agency Willow & Blake and skincare company Frank Body) and Charl Laubscher (owner of the branding agency Love&Money), you establish one simple code: to only bring home the things that inspire you.

The couple's Collingwood, Melbourne, loft is essentially a hip iteration of decorating godfather William Morris's mantra: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." Far from Morris's probable intention, however, the resulting space is a collection of spare furnishings, beloved art, and what amounts to a small, but well-cared-for jungle. No paint chips were involved. No gallery walls were mocked up with craft paper. And certainly no decorating guides were consulted. But somehow the undecorated cool of it all works. Below, the pair share their insights on low-key loft living. 

The creative duo run a bevy of businesses, ranging from a beauty company to a branding firm to a cafe.
The creative duo run a bevy of businesses, ranging from a beauty company to a branding firm to a cafe.
The home's previous tenant, an illustrator and friend of the couple, installed the standout kitchen.
The home's previous tenant, an illustrator and friend of the couple, installed the standout kitchen.

1. Jump For Your Love. It pays to follow your instincts, or in Geraerts and Laubscher's case, your Facebook feed. So often the best homemaking stories start with a leap of faith—a questionable fixer-upper purchased on a whim or a rental snapped up sight unseen. When an artist friend posted about giving up this unique space, the couple jumped at the chance. "I had seen photos of the place and knew how amazing it was," explains Geraerts. "So I contacted her straight away and told her that we didn’t even need to see it."

2. Stick With a Few of Your Favorite Things. When they first moved into the apartment, the couple's small collection of furnishings barely made a dent in the sprawling floor plan, but they decided it best to just live minimally. "Don’t rush buying pieces to fill your space," says Geraerts, "even if it means all you have is a table with no chairs for a while." Now, each piece present has come into the home organically and tells a bit of the their shared history.

Laid-back black seating is balanced by delicate plants and a statement-making art print by Andreas Gursky.
Laid-back black seating is balanced by delicate plants and a statement-making art print by Andreas Gursky.

3. Reevaluate Your Walls. "When we moved in the bedroom was a little more contained," says Geraerts. These days, bookshelves and wardrobe units have replaced solid walls, and can be moved around easily so that the layout is flexible. "As it’s just the two of us, we love that it's so open and that the light from the windows wakes us up each morning."

4. Just Play It Cool. The loft is a constant work in progress according to its tenants, and even the big pieces are considered sort of transient. "I’m still searching for the right sofa," Geraerts allows, "I'm currently coveting a gold-velvet Danish piece." Even the layout is up for constant reinvention. "I'm known [mostly by Charl] for rearranging spaces, be it our apartment or my office. The lounge room and dining areas have flipped a few times." 

5. Let One Color Sing. The loft's jungle-green-and-stainless-steel kitchen cabinetry is nothing if not a showpiece. Its sheen, sharp edges, and bold hue contrast nicely with the eclectic and collected vibe of the rest of the home's decor. The color even manages to tie in with the assortment of flora that share its space. 

Geraerts is the green thumb responsible for the veritable jungle beside the loft's soaring windows.
Geraerts is the green thumb responsible for the veritable jungle beside the loft's soaring windows.

6. Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends. The couple chose to collect most of their design items either on eBay or in Danish vintage stores. "We try as much as possible to have our friends make us furniture," Geraerts adds. "My dad has made us chairs, our friends have made us office furniture and mirrors." Next up, a custom bed and wardrobe to weed out some old Swedish fast-furniture pieces. 

7. Create Privacy, but Keep Light. A simple yet innovative element of the loft is its transparent window shades, which pull up from the bottom, rather than the typical top-down. It's especially essential for keeping cool during hot summers down under. 

Items collected during the couple's international travels animate a bookcase, which also acts as a room divider. 
Items collected during the couple's international travels animate a bookcase, which also acts as a room divider. 
The bed is framed by two mismatched tables, one vintage danish piece, one from Ikea.
The bed is framed by two mismatched tables, one vintage danish piece, one from Ikea.

8. Welcome the Jungle. Geraerts is the loft's resident botanist, and unsurprisingly has a very laid back outlook on plant life: "Once you by one and see it grow, it becomes an obsession. Once you have several plants, it completely changes the feel of a room." She frequents the nursery in their up-and-coming neighborhood nearly every weekend to add to her collection. "My favorites are definitely the maiden hair  fern and the fiddle leaf fig. There is something calming about the routine of looking after them which I think quiets my crazy mind."  

9. Steer Clear of Matching Anything. The couple often throw signature "awkward dinner parties" where they invite ten or so guests who aren’t well acquainted over for a potluck meal. Incidentally, the concept is mirrored by the setting: "As everyone is pretty different, it made sense that the chairs would be different too. I think both of us stray from anything too uniform (besides wearing black)."

10. Have an Open Door Policy. The dining table was an old monastery window, but the glass top was broken during the move in, and Geraerts's father suggested using an old glass shower door as a replacement. "I thought he was crazy," she says, "but when he brought it over it made the table twice as long, and it looked amazing." It's a solid decorating technique if you can swing it: half artful collecting, half twist of fate. 

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