Categories: Brands To KnowInterviews

Colourful Living with Designer Kate Challis

An industry trailblazer when it comes to her unique and playful use of art and colour in unison, we explore the home of interior designer Kate Challis as she talks us through her brave use of colour through a rich, bold and often unexpected palette of Porter’s Paints.

Since exchanging a pathway in art history in 2015 for her self-named studio, Melbourne based interior designer Kate Challis has a honed eye for bespoke detail, a passion for art and craft and a joy for colour. All part of her distinctive aesthetic- Kate is a fan of embracing block colour and is never one to shy away from deep saturating hues.

We chat with Kate to explore what inspires the paint palettes behind her award-winning designs, how paint informs these spaces and how her own family home (on Fitzroy’s gritty Gertrude Street) defines her individual style. Offering us rare insight on exactly what it takes to craft a curated, layered, and bold spatial identity, scroll down to read our Q&A colour in context masterclass with Kate Challis.

Produced in partnership with Porter’s Paints.

You’re well known for your bold application of colour, what are your key considerations when selecting paint(s) to include in your projects?

Kate Challis: When selecting paint there are two considerations: colour and texture. Colour is highly emotional or evocative. It is an incredibly effective way of creating ambience. As an interior designer, my primary job is to evoke emotions. Of course, a space has to function seamlessly,  but for it to sing it needs to feel amazing. Interior designers are really in the business of creating emotions.

How does paint selection inform your overall designs?

Kate Challis: Paint selection is at the heart of all our designs. Interestingly, like all the creative endeavours the process is not always a straightforward or linear one. Sometimes it is a particular colour around which everything else is based. Other times we know the feeling that we wish to create and we search for the colour and texture which evokes that emotional state.

Our studio often is engaged to work on historic buildings where paint selection is particularly critical. We pride ourselves on finding colours and finishes which pay respect to the history of the building while also feeling contemporary and fresh. At times that means creating custom tints which we love to do with Porters Paints.

Blue Reef | Porter's Paints | est living Design Directory

Where do you find inspiration for a certain colour or palette?

Kate Challis: I love art whether that be contemporary or historic from different places and times cultures and religions. Again and again, I find that art is my main source of colour inspiration.

For example, the palette of the living room in my own house (Gertrude Street Residence) is based on a still life painting of a vase of flowering Blue Gum by the Australian modernist, Margaret Preston. The dark green distemper paint for this room was a custom colour I created with Porters Paints which we named Tea of China. I am very excited that this colour will be part of their new Smooth Impasto collection.

What I love about looking at art is that artists never use just one colour. They play with contrast and subtlety to create feeling or effect. Colour is complex. It is relatively easy to use one colour in a room or project and make it work. What is more complex is the use of a variety of colours throughout a project. As humans we are thereby creating a variety of moods and feelings is critical. These also need to work as a seamless harmonious whole.

Whisk | Porter's Paints

What I love about Porter’s Paints products is they have a vitality to them. The colour is responsive: it can subtly change depending on the time of day or the season. “

– Kate Challis, interior designer.

How does your own home define your individual style as an interior designer?

Kate Challis: Working on my own project was one of the most challenging and also rewarding projects I have done. The house has two primary functions neither one more important than the other. Firstly, the house was to act as a showroom, a place I could bring the clients to show them what can be achieved with some courage and boldness.

Equally important was the functional component: the house had to work with the ease as a family home for myself, my husband and our 10-year-old son. These two elements are really the heart of a great design: it is this seamless dance between aesthetics and functionality.

Gertrude Street draws upon the works of two preeminent Australian female artists, Margaret Preston (1875 – 1963) and Valerie Sparks (b. 1961) and their interest in native flora and fauna.

Upon entering the residence visitors step into a fully immersive art installation by Valerie Sparks depicting a mythical landscape which envelope the walls of the kitchen/dining. The kitchen joinery is painted in a dusty green-blue enabling it to seamlessly integrate into Sparks’ installation. Located in the former shop, this room is the lightest and brightest in the residence.

The palette of the living room at the rear of the property is inspired by Margaret Preston’s ‘Western Australian Gum Blossom’ (1928) with its deep sea green walls, dusty pink chaise, vibrant yellow lamp, dark parquetry floorboards. Similarly, the dusty pink of the powder room is the colour of flowering blue gum.

A luminescent jungle green is used on the walls of my son’s room and contrasts with black detailing to give it an urban edge. The soft warm grey in the master bedroom creates a meditative quiet aura to complement Petrina Hicks photographic piece.

Bloom | Porter's Paints | est living Design Directory

What qualities do you look for in a paint?

Kate Challis: High-quality pigments are essential to achieve a depth of colour. What I love about Porter’s Paints products is they have a vitality to them. The colour is responsive: it can subtly change depending on the time of day or the season. In terms of finishes, I love flat finishes. These create amazing effects in low traffic areas. Whereas in bathrooms and kitchens a low sheen acrylic is more suitable.

And lastly, what has been your favourite project to work on to date?

Kate Challis: It would have to be toss up between my own house and the recently completed Elibank House which was originally built in 1857. During the Cold War it was the German embassy. We were charged with the job to restore it back to its former glory as a luxurious family home fit for modern life while still respecting its incredible heritage.

For this project, we created a range of custom colours with Porter’s Paints. We also worked closely with a number of local artists and craftspeople to create bespoke pieces of furniture, as well as sourcing some beautiful antique and vintage pieces. The result is breathtaking.

Kate Challis | Gertrude Street Home | est living
Aniseed | Porter's Paints | est living Design Directory
Megan Rawson

As Acting Managing Editor at est living, Megan has built her career in the interiors media industry. Prior to joining the Est team, Megan spent the last few years working both internationally and locally with interior design studios, most notably Tom Dixon and Mim Design. Follow her visual journey here:

Recent Posts

Caulfield Residence by Pipkorn & Kilpatrick

Art Deco-inspired, Caulfield Residence by Pipkorn & Kilpatrick shows how a refined and reserved muted palette can drench an artist’s home…

4 days ago

Patio House by OOAK Architects

A Greek summer home by OOAK Architects set over two plateaus provides a lesson in architectural contrasts and parallels.

5 days ago

Donaldson’s Farmhouse by Hecker Guthrie

Set overlooking the sprawling vines in Red Hill, Donaldson’s Farmhouse by Hecker Guthrie sees a restored 1950’s home open outward…

6 days ago

Getting to Know Loom Towels Founder Mikala James

In conversation with Loom Towels founder Mikala James, on how she’s established eminent looped textiles through an ancient Turkish craft.

7 days ago

Darlinghurst Residence by Studio May

Studio May preserve a dilapidated 1860s sandstone home in Sydney's covetable postcode of Darlinghurst, with a rich and varied former…

7 days ago

Interview with Sally Caroline

We chat with Sally Caroline about her laser-sharp focus on bespoke residential design, design influences and what’s integral to the…

2 weeks ago