Designer Flourishes

Last Updated: 18 Mar 2015
Jessica Rule

A stalwart from Perth’s interiors industry added her own touches to the home of iconic heritage architect Iwan Iwanoff… and the results are a knockout.

Renee has lived in the iconic Iwanoff home for four years now, with her husband and children (Orlando, 10, and Riva Ruby, two), and made the decision to snap up the house as soon as she saw it.

"My husband and I were driving around between the Christmas and New Year break, admiring all the divine mid-century homes in Floreat, and we came across our home on Lifford Road with a 'For Sale' sign," she says. "It was love at first sight."

In fact, Renee had purchased Iwanoff's own home, which he designed as a place to locate his studio and raise a family – not dissimilar to the way Renee herself now uses the property. "The home is a clean diagram, with the studio on the ground floor and the residence as a single level hovering above," she explains. "It's essentially an apartment with a balcony over the 'shop', or, in this case, the architect studio."

The sunken lounge includes a white leather sofa from Empire Homewares, and a horse picture from India overlooking it all. Original vintage Boho cushions from The Collector Design feature with a Missoni copper cushion, and white moulded swivel chairs designed by Word of Mouth in Bali. Renee sourced the coffee tables at vintage stores across Perth, then copper plated them herself.

The Bulgarian-born Iwanoff is now recognised internationally for his expressionistic style and his striking Brutalist buildings, and is considered one of our city's best and most influential architects. Indeed, his Marsala House is the youngest project to make it on to the heritage register in Western Australia.

"I really love Iwanoff's use of materials – glass, wood, textured wallpapers," Renee says. "The sunken living room is a great feature, as is the open-plan upstairs. There are no doors,which means each room flows into the next. I also like the use of floating cabinetry."

A metal studded coffee table and modular sofa, both from Empire Homewares, were covered in Decor Design tobacco leather for durability. The sofa pairs with cushions and throws from The Collector Design, designed by Renee, and a small marble coffee table with brass frame, also from The Collector Design. The marble tulip side table is from Saarinen.

Respect for the design has meant Renee undertook only cosmetic changes to the home. "Light features have been added, as well as new flooring," she says. "We've intentionally not made any structural changes."

While Renee says her natural decorating inclination is towards a minimalist aesthetic, she tweaked her style to better suit a mid-century genre.

"I love white, minimal spaces, but I had to adapt to the realistic nature of this being a family home not a showroom," she says. "So I designed my office/calm white room downstairs, and feel so happy and peaceful in that space."

She sought to keep upstairs neutral so as to not conflict with the raw beauty of the home's design.

The warmth of mid-century wood opens onto a sunny outdoor area in which the family can relax.

"I love texture, but it needs to be neutral – elk skins, leather, white glass, copper, metal, marble, wool, linen, and always fresh white flowers and green, living plants," she says.

Furnishing such an architectural icon may have been daunting to some, but Renee dived headfirst into the challenge. Indeed, she says the biggest hurdles were the home's inhabitants, including its many pets: Sneaky the Boxer, Audrey the cat, Stella the dwarf bunny, and Marshmallow the bearded dragon lizard.

"When it comes to sofas, I've had to choose several since we've lived in this home because they were all fabric and got ruined by our zoo!" she laughs. "I have now invested in a tobacco leather sofa because it's very hard-wearing and gets better with age. Plus it's also a modular sofa, so I can change the configuration around when I feel the need for some variety."

Orlando's room features Missoni linen, a side lamp and Alpine image by Empire Homewares, a black and white dog (a flea-market find) and a James Bond picture, found and purchased in Sydney and then block-mounted. The vintage radio is a family heirloom.

She drew on her key inspirations, including UK magazine Elle Decoration (her self-described "bible") and designers such as Ilse Crawford, Abigail Ahern, Tom Dixon, Sibella Court, Greg Natale, Kelly Wearstler, and her own her mother, Jill, and sister, Elissa.

For The Collector Design, Renee scours cities all over the world for unique, one-off homewares, furniture pieces and rare objects, which is a curatorial style evident in the international flavour of her own home.

"Some of my favourite destinations to source from include Tokyo, Paris, Rajasthan and Cairo," she says.

The family loves the lifestyle in Floreat, with a nature reserve opposite the property. "It's always quiet and with birdlife a-plenty," says Renee. "The beach is a stone's throw away and you can get to Northbridge in 15 minutes."

A Missoni throw rug, cushions from The Collector Design, and black-and-white hounds-tooth occasional chairs from Empire Homewares add interest and fun to Riva Ruby's room. Vases and accessories from The Collector Design punctuate the decor, as does an artwork by Sydney artist Leslie Walton.

However, the real joy is in living in a Perth architectural icon. "It is amazing living in the late Iwan Iwanoff's home, because it was built with such detail and commitment to total design," Renee says. "The detail in the floating cabinetry and the marble and concrete are elements [that]have never dated."

Iwan Iwanoff would likely be content that his home is still being used in the tradition he intended: loved and appreciated as a creative space.

Sneaky the Boxer is one of the home's menagerie, who made choosing furnishings a challenge!

Renee made only cosmetic changes to the home, in order to maintain the architectural integrity of Iwan Iwanoff's design.

Design File

Renee Coleman talks about her most treasured items, and the best places to shop for homewares.

What's great about being part of the Perth retail scene right now?
The Collector Design is my personal brand and is a curated collection of homewares, furniture and rare objects available online and at select stockists. More and more people are hunting for unique items that add individual touches to their space, so it's great to be able to bring them the best finds from around the world, and some of my favourite pieces.

What's your most treasured 'find' ever?
My favourite treasures are my white horse painting and the white vintage pendant light chandelier that I designed and had installed in the downstairs sunken living room.

Favourite shopping anywhere in the world?
My favourite stores include ABC Home (New York), Merci Paris (France), The Conran Shop (London), and all of the homewares stores in the 6th Arondissement in Paris.


The Collector Design 0404 272 260,
Designers Guild UK,
Emma Varga (artwork),
Empire Homewares (08) 9228 1022,
IKEA (08) 9201 4532,
Merci Paris, Paris,
Susanna Castleden (artwork),
Word Of Mouth, Bali,

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