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Greg Natale: “I have always loved the bold, the sophisticated and the glamorous”

It’s September – time to start an exciting new season here on Interiorator.com. My MUDE Blues of August are finally behind me and you will not believe all the great stuff I have lined up for you over the next couple of months! And I mean it! I’m publishing not one, not two but three amazing makeovers by yours truly, I’m going all the best design festivals and I’ll feature more jaw-dropping interiors than you can shake a stick at. Speaking of which…I got the opportunity a while ago to interview interior designer extraordinaire Greg Natale.  “I have always loved the bold, the sophisticated and the glamorous”, Greg told me and I, needless, to say, wholeheartedly agree. Greg Natale is about to release a new book called with a foreword by Jonathan Adler no less. It’s called The Tailored Interior and I’m sure it will look great on my brand spanking new second-hand coffee table.

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So Greg, what did you design for your first client? And how did it go?

My first client was my sister, who wanted a sumptuous, dramatic makeover for her one-bedroom apartment. I had no idea at the time what a big deal this would turn out to be in terms of my career path. I installed wall-to-wall custom-coloured wallpaper by Florence Broadhurst, layering it with matching artwork and linen. The apartment was published in Australian Belle magazine in 2002 and the UK’s Wallpaper* magazine in 2005, and from this point people really started to take notice of the work I was doing. The uniqueness of this project won me my first award, the 2002 Belle Wild Card award, a category that was created especially for me. So I guess you can say it went well!

How did you develop your own style? Is it still changing?

I have always loved the bold, the sophisticated and the glamorous, in the design worlds of both interiors and fashion. I’ve also always been a fan of prints, patterns and textures. So it felt natural that I looked to these areas when I started to develop my style within my own business. At the time, the industry was just coming out of its obsession with minimalism, and I knew that to be noticed I needed to really make an impact. Inspired by the work of the late English designer David Hicks and Danish designer Verner Panton, I began playing with prints, colours and geometrics, and contemporary and classic lines, layering these to create warm, livable interiors. My style has evolved but remains essentially the same, and I make sure to tailor it to the particular space I’m working with. I’ll always champion the bold use of colour and pattern, but I’m mindful of whether I’m incorporating these into a classic or contemporary space, or into a minimalist or maximalist interior. Fusing design and decoration in these different spaces, and via different products, fuels my evolution and creativity.

Which page of your new book are you most proud of and why?

This is such a difficult question to answer because I am so proud of every page. But if I had to nominate a particular image or images it would be the double-page spreads featuring the house in Brisbane, Queensland (on pages 76–77 and 122–123 of my book, The Tailored Interior). I worked as both co-architect with Hully Liveris and interior designer on this three-storey, four-bedroom residence, and I love how the photographs showcase what is possible in terms of layering. Inspired by the house’s angled roofs, lines and geometrics feature throughout the interior, for example in the panelled ceiling squares in the living and dining areas, which reflect the black and white marble floor squares below. Lines also feature in the chevron-panelled walls and chic Hermès fabric on the dining chairs, offset by the curves of the chandeliers, armchairs and coffee tables, and graphic swirls of the painting beyond. The repetition of squares in ceiling and floor connect both and make the large space more intimate, supported by the different visual heights provided by the lighting and seating choices. With its pops of navy against a monochrome palette, the house is a study in balance and contrast; a bright, bold space that is full and layered with a contemporary deco feel.

How would you decorate a home on a limited budget?

There are so many changes you can make that are relatively small yet have a big design impact. What I think is important about working within a budget is identifying where to invest and where you can be more restrained. The most simple area where you can make instant updates is in your accessories such as ornaments, books and flowers, which can bring a new look to a room without breaking the budget. Cushions, too, are an easy and fun way to refresh a space without spending a fortune, as they can be replaced and changed easily. Curtains and sofas tend to be more long-term purchases and therefore worth investing in, whereas rugs can be changed more often and don’t always require the same level of investment. Updating a room doesn’t always have to mean buying new pieces – reframing an artwork or re-upholstering a piece of furniture are affordable ways of renewing your design while also giving old favourites a new lease of life. And looking beyond your furniture and furnishings, there’s a lot to be said for a fresh coat of clean, white paint on the walls or a new stain on the woodwork of your floors – both can bring a dramatic new look to a familiar space.

Have you ever made any decorating mistakes?

Yes – my biggest mistake, and the one that taught me the most valuable lesson, was one I made in the last year of my interior design course. I’d designed a living room for a boutique hotel but got the proportion entirely wrong. New Zealand-born Australian architect Ian Moore, who was one of the examiners, pointed out that the furniture I’d chosen was too small for the space and, as a result, became lost in it. This was a real turning point for me – he showed me the essence of getting proportion right: in a large space, you need bigger pieces of furniture and more of them; in a small space, you need to reduce the size of the furniture but not necessarily its amount. Since then I’ve always valued the role of proportion in design.

What is the one piece of advice you’d like to pass on to new interior designers?

As well as ensuring that you have solid qualifications from a respected institution and that you’re skilled up in all relevant computer programs, I would advise new designers not to get too caught up in your ‘look’ too soon. It’s inevitable that as a newcomer to the industry, you’ll be working for others, so it’s important that you make yourself adaptable and objective. Stay open-minded and soak up as much learning and expertise as you can during this stage – there’s plenty of time to develop your own special voice and your particular style.

September 2015 will see the launch of Greg Natale’s first book, The Tailored Interior. With a foreword by Jonathan Adler, this is a design lovers tome, demystifying the process of interior design by addressing the process holistically and in real terms, accompanied by breathtaking photography of Natale’s projects by acclaimed photographer Anson Smart. 

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