All or Nothing

From both an architectural and decorative perspective, committing to a style of home is a decision to make early on, as it will affect every aspect of your new house. Lara Bailey explores the style spectrum, from minimalism through to intricate detail.

There are various factors that will influence the design of your home, and your personal taste is just one of them. If you’re building or renovating in a heritage-protected area, your dream of an ultra-modern abode may be thwarted by the need to select certain façade colours, for instance, or alternatively you may find the traditional-style home you’ve had your heart set on will look completely out of place amid a strong of contemporary houses in your street.

Determining whether your home will be intricately detailed – and possibly traditionally styled – or a modern masterpiece will influence its interior design, décor, layout and ambiance. Here is Melbourne Home Design + Living’s guide to design in all its forms.


Minimalism entails just what the name suggests: pared-back, flourish-free and simple design, on a grand and small scale (i.e. from a building’s structure through to its fixtures and fittings). While you won’t find intricate cornices or copious handles in a contemporary minimalist space, it is far from boring. By having an understated canvas to work from, you can add bold splashes of colour, an intriguing mix of textures, and experiment with materials.

Minimalist, clean design is the go-to style for contemporary homes. Distinctive geometric facades, often with a range of earthy and vibrant colours and materials, set the tony for the interior. The external palette is often comprised of neutral tones and textures; such as a cream base with charcoal rendering and a timber door or a bright-hued portico that adds visual interest and can set a house apart from its neighbours.

Inside, strong geometric lines again dominate. Despite a lack of embellishments, there is plenty of scope to personalize and tailor indoor spaces in ways that align with minimalist style elements. In kitchens, the design works best when a room is created to be clutter-free and low-key. A combination of long banks of cabinetry with shadowlines and push-to-open doors that don’t require candles will keep the aesthestic streamlines and ensure smooth visual flow.

Concealed appliances also keep the main kitchen area clear. Whether you choose to showcase one or two items and conceal the rest – or hide all of them away – there are innovative ways to achieve this. From large appliances like a fridge contained behind cabinetry, to hidden doors in benchtops that house power points and small appliances that sit flush with the ben when closed, there are many inventive and practical methods for containing kitchen clutter.

Bathrooms, too, can easily incorporate a minimalist aesthetic. Abundant storage is a must, I order to keep towels and beauty products from sight, and a frameless showerscreen – or shower that doesn’t require a screen at all – should also be incorporated. Instead of traditional shelves or shower caddies, recessed shelving should be utilized in shower walls.

If the home’s façade and other living areas embrace the geometric patterns and design discussed, it’s a good idea to continue this into the bathroom to ensure consistency. Large-format tiles with little group require minimal maintenance and provide a clean, simple look. A large mirror over the vanity in a sleek or bold design will also bolster the contemporary edge (again, opt for framless).

With adequate storage and a vivid colour and material palette, a minimalist home can become a modern masterwork, so banish any thoughts of a pared-back space not being cost or relaxed. By adding personal touches throughout the home, like hung artworks and furniture in your favoured colours, as well as warm materials such as timber, your contemporary abode can be as invited as a more traditional design.


At the other end of the spectrum is intricate, detailed design. Whether it’s a meticulous recreation of traditional elements or a style with a modern spin, every inch of a detailed home can be tailored to your liking.

Façade design is virtually limitless. Traditional style runs a gamut of options, from imposing rendered columns to weatherboards in conventional colours and combinations of brick and bluestone and timber. Often accompanied by impeccable gardens and a white picket fence, detailed traditional design has a warm and timeless appeal.

Inside, rooms tend to be grandiose and décor abundant. This type of design ensures there is a home for knick knacks and family photos, with plenty of display cabinets and shelves to show off books, images and mementos.

In the kitchen, clutter is not the sin that it is in more contemporary homes. Glass cabinets show off crockery, appliances are kept on benches and cookbooks and vases full of flowers are on display. Elaborate light fittings – even chandeliers – fit nicely into the look and ambience of traditional kitchens, and complement embellishments like ornate handles, exposed brick walls and intricately tiled splashbacks.

Set the mood with plaster cornices, architectural floor and ceiling mouldings and warm colours, materials and textures. Rich tones in paint and becnhtop materials and the use of timber, glass door fronts and tiles that suits the look and feel of the space will all contribute to your desired aesthetic.

Creating a traditionally-styled bathroom is a delight. Conjure luxury with a claw-foot bath, dramatic colour scheme, bold light fittings and grand, imposing vanities. By matching the colours and/or products to your kitchen, you can create visual continuity through your home, so try to keep some resemblance to the other aspects of your abode.

While clutter may encroach on your space, it’s best to embrace it; after all, traditionally-styled spaces are all about creating a welcoming and relaxed ambience. This design is suited to families with young children, as things like bath toys, bubble bath and children’s towels will make their way into the space whether you like it or not! It can therefore be much easier to accommodate youngsters in a detailed space with plenty on display than in a style that promotes tidiness.

Whether your preferred style is ultra-contemporary or ornate and traditional, there are plenty of ways to personalise your space, which your designer will be able to assist you with. As well as what you love, consider what will work best for your family now and down the track, and what will blend harmoniously with neighbouring properties. Remember that a traditionally-styled home doesn’t necessitate foregoing modern amenities, and also that ultra-chic contemporary housing can have long-term appeal (just look at some of Australia’s modernist mid-century architecture for evidence of this).

Ultimately, if you choose what you love, your house will always feel like home.