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Simple palette

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Black and white makes a strong statement in any interior, particularly when it's not all straight lines and solid blocks of colour


As humans, we adapt better than we think to someone else's vision. A point in case is when buying an existing home. This will always be another person's blueprint for living.

When interior designer Russell Grainger bought this town house construction was well under way. With the framework of materials and colour already decided by the architect, Grainger was left to personalise the space with furniture and accessories.

Grainger says as a child, his world of colour was limited to black and white and grey, with a peppering of olive green.

He returned to this monochromatic palette when moving into his new home, where the interior spaces were a backdrop of white walls and light-coloured timbers.

Grainger says he began by amassing the furniture he had collated during his 30 years of interior design. "It was most extraordinary but the furniture fitted as if it had been made for the space."


He describes the home as well designed, with a good sense of scale and volume.

"The furniture sits away from the wall, making it feel spacious and luxurious."

The main living area is open-plan, allowing for flexible use of the space. Furniture defines the living and dining areas, with the kitchen positioned along the back wall.

While all the furnishings are black and white, it's not all straight lines. The low-slung armchairs by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto are upholstered in a zebra-striped fabric and help to enhance the room's sense of height, says Grainger. On the plain grey flannel four-seater, the cushions are cow hide. The only straight lines in the soft furnishings are found on the settee.

Colour is even absent from the one piece of dark, moody art work in the living area.

"Not living with colour does in fact sharpen your perception of colour," Grainger says.

Warmth is offered through the use of natural timber (Australian hardwood Messmate) on the floor, which enriches the blonde-coloured wooden furniture.

Grainger chose his furniture to be versatile in its use.

"I'm a firm believer in making furniture do double duty, " says Grainger.

For example, the settee is the right height to provide additional seating at the dining table, the trio of Aalto tables are also narrow bench seats, and the round three-legged coffee tables double as stools.

The same simple palette of materials feature in the kitchen, the one practical addition being stainless steel for the benchtop and appliances.

Wood and stainless steel stairs teamed with a glass balustrade seemingly disappears, enhancing the sense of space. The stairs lead to the master bedroom and ensuite bathroom on the third level.

Grainger says the bedroom has five-star hotel quality. It comes complete with its own balcony and is spacious enough to accommodate his large antique furniture.

The one concession to colour is in the ensuite. Here, the Marblo vanity is a watery blue-green, the pale colour an accent to the fresh, clean decor.

First published date: 07 December 2004

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Credit List

Interior Designer Russell Grainger Design Consultant
Architect Julian Martyn (RAIA)
Main contractor Kurtz Brothers
Flooring Supertuft carpet, Messmate timber floor
Window treatments Roller screen blinds from The Lidi Group
Benchtops and splashback Stainless Steel
Oven, hob and dishwasher Bosch
Bathroom cabinetry Marblo resin
Taps Fantini
Bath Caroma Starlet
Ensuite flooring Indian limestone