Old things, new blings: Australia’s takes on modern vintage design

Old-school vintage made a huge comeback to the interior design world a couple of seasons ago, but it didn’t go pop as-is. Retro elements hopped on the trending décor wagon in a brand new guise, providing a bottomless well of inspiration for architects and designers with a penchant for mixing old elements and modern touches. Designers in the Land Down Under fell in love with modern vintage at first sight – and here are some of the most inspiring examples of Australian contemporary masterpieces created by those who know the art and vision of interior design like the back of their hand.

Kali Cavanagh’s Vintage House

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Perched in Daylesford, Victoria, Kali Cavanagh’s Vintage House is a landmark example of how vintage, Scandinavian, and industrial elements can be blended together to achieve impressive aesthetic effects.

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Designed to blend in the country-style landscape, the Vintage House is a combination of wood, steel, lush fabrics, and cleverly juxtaposed colours starring soothing neutrals and solids. A place that thrives off creative use of rustic elements, tonal flow, and textural opulence, Cavanagh’s Daylesford House exudes an aura of a contemporary Nordic cottage enriched by tasteful contrasts for visual impact, as well as gentle personal touches, such as retro French canisters, vintage tubs, old-school blankets and bedclothes, animal hides, and ceramic pottery.

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Meredith Lee’s Clifton Hill House

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Over in Clifton Hill, Meredith Lee’s re-modelled home showcases a fine example of a Californian-style bungalow infused with shabby chic, industrial, and boho flourishes.

For Lee, eclecticism is a golden norm in design, at least in her home, and it reflects her playful personality, rendering a note of timeless yet casual elegance. Unlike Cavanagh, Lee is a fan of mixing different hues in a single room, and each accessory has a story of its own: many pieces were taken out of her family heirloom and touched up for fresh sparkle, and some of the quaint visual details on display were salvaged during her travels.

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In Lee’s home, a modernist pastel sofa sits next to botanical wallpaper in intense yellow-and-white colourways and the nursery looks as if it was transplanted from a modern fairytale, with bright hues and striped wallpaper defining the gentle room feel.

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The kitchen, office, and living room provide a strong contrast to boho ambiance: the kitchen is a textbook example of top-rate industrial style, with white backdrop punctuated by dark timber isle and modernist bar stools.

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The office overlooking the indoor garden is centred on Nordic barebones, while the mid-century-looking lounge provides a smooth transition to a lush garden.

Tammy Nathan’s Prahran Home

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Tammy Nathan’s former home in Prahan, Victoria, is a daring take on Victorian design blended with modern minimalism and a few Nordic touches.

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Nathan’s home showcases a masterfully executed integration of vintage finds, natural materials, superior Victorian elegance, contemporary accessories, and lush greenery. Elegant headboards, rugged platform bed, industrial-style bathroom with a standalone tub placed next to an antique mantel, and modernist dining room seating under an oversized pendant would look so much at home in very few interiors. The beauty of Nathan’s décor creation lies in the careful selection of vintage finds and modern elements which she managed to unite drawing on her personal feel for eclecticism and aesthetic contrast.

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Anya Haywood’s East Sydney House

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Principal designer Anya Haywood’s eastern suburbs Sydney home is a mix of antique, modern and bespoke design.

In Anya Haywood’s eastern Sydney home, modern design meets mid-century style, bespoke furniture, and Nordic accents.

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Characterised by grounded atmosphere, modern takes on old-school furniture, pastel colour scheme, and sparing use of dark and white tones, Haywood’s home is focused on natural materials such as timber, stone, silk, and wool. The soft hue palette renders a feel of evergreen sophistication to Haywood’s living area, creating a subtle backdrop for bold experiments with glass coffee tables, elegant rug, labyrinthine-framed oversized mirror, dark-hued mantelpiece, eye-level artwork, and plain upholstery textures.

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Creative director of The Gather Collective, Melissa Webster designs interiors and ‘eco-luxe’ homewares for family homes.

The solid-feel sitting room provides a dramatic contrast to the whitewashed kitchen designed following in Scandinavian footprints. The entire house is structured around transitions, with open-layout central room branching out to the office, kitchen, and living room.

Jeremy Bull’s Bondi Junction Home

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Jeremy Bull is the director of Sydney based architectural and interior company Alexander&Co, specialising in commercial and residential projects.

In his Bondi Junction home, Jeremy Bull put his immense designing talent to use, and managed to pull off a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that incorporates Scandinavian, mid-century vintage, and contemporary natural style.

A minimalist at heart, Bull designed his home with sustainability and function in mind: the house place is pervaded by timber, neutrals, and natural stone, with artwork and textiles providing a precious dose of stylistic contrast.

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From the Nordic-looking bathroom and minimalist nursery to nature-inspired living area centred on fine rosewood and plywood, and a Scandi-style kitchen extending to timber-clad patio, Bull’s house mimics the masculine approach to design and no-frills décor. An instance of modern meets vintage with a heavy Scandinavian overtone, Bull’s place embodies the best aspects of natural and manmade elements, creating an authentic and effective backdrop for everyday life in style superior.

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Vintage may not be the new modern in the literal sense of the word, but it certainly does play a huge role in contemporary Australian interior design. If you’re short on decorating inspiration, feel free to borrow tricks from professional designers: after all, their homes are the best spot to go fishing for ideas and insights into trending décor trends. You’re welcome.

Zoe Clark


Shop at Vinterior, London’ premier destination for stylish vintage furniture and home accessories.

We connect design lovers and makes it easy to buy and sell quality pre-owned furniture to one another.

Author bio:

Zoe Clark is a journalist, freelance stylist and blogger. She is a visual storyteller and aesthetician by heart who often writes about decorating and DIY ideas. She loves sparking creativity in people and giving them ideas for their own spaces. You can find her blogging at Smooth Decorator.

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