rustic kitchen exposed brick

True colours

Interior designer Lisa Stewart of The Inside Project shows that she is not one to shy away from going against the trends.


Kate Veteri
The interpretation of a modern interior is one classified by clean, sleek lines, uncluttered surfaces and a neutral palette. For Lisa Stewart of The Inside Project it’s about creating allurement through minimalism and bold colour choices. Lisa talks to HOUSING about how she’s making her mark today, and her plans for future design domination.
Lisa Stewart
Interior designer Lisa Stewart of The Inside Project

Q: Why did you want to pursue a career in interior design?

LS: Looking back I was very interested in design when I was a child. I was obsessed with changing my room around and decorating it! I distinctly remember times when I would find the strength to move heavy pieces of furniture from one side of the room to the other.

After school I studied environmental design and management, and that was mainly from the direction of my school counsellor; in hindsight, it probably wasn’t the right career for me, so I decided in my late-20s to go back and study a Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration at RMIT. I realised I wanted more creativity in my career and I didn’t want to be working solely in an office; I wanted to be in and out, meeting people.

Q: What styles do you love?

LS: I certainly get a lot of my inspiration from the showrooms I visit in Melbourne and retail fit-outs, and also Instagram. I like a lot of accounts coming out of Denmark at the moment and follow minimal-style interior designers.

We don’t do a lot of minimalism in Australia, but I’m hoping the trend changes because a lot of people like the minimal look but contrarily they think that they need excessive storage space. So for me, I look to balance my love for minimalism, functionality and practicality – following the rule of ‘less is more’.

Where possible I like to also choose materials and finishes that are classic and not necessarily on-trend to improve longevity. At times I play it safe and do a little bit of each; so part modern part on-trend, with some of the trusted materials and finishes that won’t date too quickly.

Q: What’s the best way to incorporate colour?

LS: Where people get the most concerned about including colour is in homes they are hoping to sell. For those people, certain colours and textures that are safer to play with are used in the detailing of door handles and splashbacks, fittings that are easy to remove once you change the design later down the track.

It’s easier to put colour in accessories rather than in the cabinetry and flooring, but certainly the projects where clients decided to use colour are always the ones that you remember the most. You remember them because they stand out. A lot of the time we will use colourful flooring tiles but then we will keep everything neutral around it except for other inclusions and accessories that will harmonise with the feature colour. Often those who decide to use colour in their design never regret it because they end up looking amazing.

Q: How do you balance your creativity and the client brief?

LS: I believe personal chemistry is important; it’s not always all about design. It’s about making sure you’re the right fit for that person. The process of transparency, making sure the client is comfortable with how you’re designing a new space for them, is also important. Not only to balance their expectations but also mine. At the end of the day they have to be happy with what they are going to get.

Q: What makes a good designer?

LS: Some people just have a talent for design. I tend to like and follow designers that take risks and don’t just follow the trends.

I find that in my current job – which focuses on renovations – it’s all based on experience. I’ve had to learn some tough lessons on the limitations in trade elements, because not all design ideas can be executed well. I’ve definitely learned a lot being onsite and watching it all happen, you can see just how realistic some ideas are and others aren’t.

black kitchen

'I always want to create long-lasting design spaces for my clients that will surpass today's trends'

Q: Can you describe your design style in five words?

LS: Clean, purposeful, practical, minimal and detailed.

My main goals as a designer is to introduce ideas to clients that they may not have thought of and work collaboratively to create a dream space. I always want to create long-lasting design space for my clients that will surpass today’s trends.

Outside the lines


Q: What do you do in your spare time?

LS: At the moment I am pregnant, so in my spare time I like to look at ways of decorating the baby’s room and buying all the outfits.

Q: What is guaranteed to make you laugh?

LS: I really love – this is silly – memes. Memes that reflect general life situations where everyone can relate, I love those. I also love reality TV shows! I find them really funny and they are just so not serious but they’re my guilty pleasure.

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