Does It Spark Joy? Inspired Storage Ideas From Five Great Australian Designers

Thanks to the wonders of Netflix, Marie Kondo is having a real moment. The Japanese guru of tidying has everyone assessing if their old sports tee-shirts spark joy, following a new folding regime, and de-cluttering their lives with joyful abandon.

We’re not entirely on board with the purist Kondo approach though. Aside from the deluge of clothes hitting Australian op-shops, it all just feels a little, well… extreme.

So, in the spirit of tidying up without purging your entire wardrobe, we have asked five of our favourite Australian designers for their best storage solutions! Minimal living shouldn’t be about discarding things, but rather about careful purchasing, and functional home storage. And these excellent ideas from Lauren Li, Mim Design, Louella Boitel-Gill, David Flack and Carole Whiting are sure to spark joy!

Miriam McGarry

In this project by Sisällä, the in-built cabinetry slides open on both sides, to reveal a hidden TV behind the bookshelves, and a door though to the guest room beyond! Photo – Tess Kelly.

Interior by Lauren Li of Sisalla. Lauren highlights, ‘My number one storage tip is to start with the entry. When everything has its place where the family enters, the whole house runs smoothly.’ Photo – Tess Kelly.

Lauren recommends storage that has a mix of open and closed compartments incorporated in the design, such as the String System from Great Dane, as seen in Derek Swalwell’s house, captured by Eve Wilson.

‘Built-in storage in kids spaces is so valuable. It can be customized to fit specific school bags, sports bags and library bags. Shoes are stored, ipads charged and notices are noticed’ says Lauren. Photo – Tess Kelly.

Where built-in isn’t an option, a few key pieces can serve a function and still look great. A bench seat, hooks, mirror and a console for keys and to store mail means that the space works and you’ll never lose the keys again. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

Miriam McGarry
7th of February 2019

Lauren Li of interior design and decoration firm Sisällä guides us through her strategies for keeping and displaying sentimental items, and using beloved objects as forms of decoration.

Hey Lauren! What is your take on the Marie Kondo craze?

My take away after delving into the Konmari method is, don’t be too hard on yourself or you may live to regret it! Hold onto sentimental things that hold special memories, and instead of throwing them out, move them to a new spot in the house. Those pieces that ‘sparked joy’ when you first laid eyes on them may look a bit tired now, but just store them and bring them out in six months. You’ll feel that spark again and be so thankful you still have it.

Don’t go too extreme. For me, the most depressing thing about ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ is that an absolutely bare room is celebrated. No-one should live in a house so minimal that the rooms have absolutely no furniture or artwork (what is the purpose of an empty room?). In the process of throwing everything out, the soul of the space is thrown out too.

What’s your advice on storage solutions?

When storing sentimental pieces, keep a combination of closed and open storage. Pieces like vases, candles, ceramics and décor objects can be shown on display on open shelving and occasionally refreshed and swapped out with other pieces stored in cupboards.

Where built-in isn’t an option, a few key pieces can serve a function and still look great. A bench seat, hooks, mirror and a console for keys and to store mail means that the space works and you’ll never lose the keys again. Shelving that has closed storage incorporated in the design is perfect, such as the String System from Great Dane.

MLB residence by Mim Design, with storage under the stairs and concealed cocktail cabinet. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Exemplary cellar storage in Mim Design‘s NNH Residence. Photo – Peter Clarke.

Walk in robe designed by Mim Design. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

MLB residence by Mim Design, with storage behind fireplace for TV, games and technology. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Award-winning Melbourne-based interiors practice Mim Design offers direct and succinct storage advice – very Marie Kondo!

What are your top tips on culling?

My top tips are only; keep what you love, and, if you haven’t worn or used an item in the last 12 months, it’s time to cull.

What favourite storage solutions do you turn to time and time again?

There are so many great storage solutions suited for different purposes: I use Blum storage for kitchen cupboards and joinery, Howards storage for make-up and jewellery and Metro storage systems for the garage and store rooms.


Details of the Bilgola House by Louella Boitel-Gill.

Storage design in the Bilgola House by Louella Boitel-Gill.

Louella Boitel-Gill (formerly Louella Tuckey) is a brilliant interior designer and stylist whose stunning Bilgola House renovation caught our eye recently on instagram!  She offers some solutions for keeping items you love, while avoiding clutter.

Hey Louella! What is your take on the Marie Kondo craze?

A tidy house is an easy house to read, and when you can read a space easily it has a calming effect on you. Marie Kondo is spot on! In saying that, I’m a magpie and I struggle with letting go of things!

My trick is to rotate things and to group things clearly. I block things into groups of colour and texture. I have shelves with groups of bits and bobs in whites, wood, orange for example. If I group them together it simplifies what you’re reading when you scan the space. It’s easier on the eye, and the brain.

When I worked in London for Terence Conran I remember his wise words, which were that if you want to organise a space, take everything out, and only put back what you really want/need.

What’s your advice on choosing storage solutions?

I love a good set of pigeon holes – they create order and structure. You can store and display things at the same time with a calm sense of order.

I also love the Spencer 2 Drawer cabinets from Officeworks in white. You can line them up along a shelf from easy filing!

This inspired shelving display at Flack Studio’s Fitzroy HQ is designed to keep the team inspired!  It showcases a constantly rotating edit of favourite magazines, imagery, materials and textures inspiring the studio’s current projects.

As with every Flack studio project, The Malvern House project features distinctive bespoke cabinetry, with a mix of open and closed shelving for storage and display. Photography – Sharyn Cairns, Styling – Marsha Golemac.

Bespoke cabinetry in The Malvern House project by Flack Studio. Photography – Sharyn Cairns, Styling – Marsha Golemac.

Bendigo home by Flack Studio, utilising the sleek USM from Anibou storage unit. Photo – Brooke Holm, Styling – Styling – Marsha Golemac.

Melbourne’s Flack studio are not known for their minimalist aesthetic, self identifying as ‘equal parts Gio Ponti and Vincent Van Duysen with a dash of Dame Edna…’! So it is refreshing to hear how a maximalist vibe can respond to the minimalist trend!

Hey David, what is your take on the Marie Kondo craze?

Firstly it’s important to remember it’s a craze. I’m a maximalist at heart – but I agree with the sentiment of only purchasing things of joy. The common mistake I witness when people are either setting up new homes or renovating – they want it to be perfect straight away, we always recommend layering a home slowly and through consideration.

Rather than thinking ‘will it bring me joy?’ – I ask clients to think about whether they will still love it in years to come – this will prevent costly mistakes and landfill.

Can you recommend a favourite storage product?

We love designing custom joinery – however when we specify furniture we can’t go past USM from Anibou or Vitsoe shelving units.


Sleek cabinetry  brings a contemporary edge to this heritage designed by Carole Whiting. Photo – Jack Shelton.

Carole Whiting explains. ‘I often conceal joinery – or give it a double use – for example a dividing wall that doubles as a pantry. The door handles are also hooks which help conceal the fact that it is essentially a cupboard.’ Photo – Jack Shelton.

Clever storage solutions abound in the compact O’Grady House by Whiting Architects and Carole Whiting Interior Design. Photo – Sharyn Cairns. Styling – Carole Whiting.

Storage solutions in the O’Grady House by Whiting Architects and Carole Whiting Interior Design. Photo – Sharyn Cairns. Styling – Carole Whiting.

Carole Whiting Interiors and Design is a Melbourne based multi-disciplinary firm, with a particular knack for designing beautiful custom cabinetry, and squeezing the most out of a small space (remember this exquisite house?). Carole takes us through her strategies for keeping clutter to a minimum.

What are your top tips on culling?

It’s great to have a cull every year or two. But even better to stop buying things that you don’t need.
 Don’t buy ugly!  By that I mean, think about what you’re purchasing. If you are buying something – anything from a dress to a pair of scissors – think carefully first. If you have beautiful things, you are more likely to look after them, and love them for longer.

Can you offer advice on storage solutions?

Think about your storage needs. If you have the correct space for things, its much easier to be tidy. There needs to be a space specifically for each item. Give yourself some hanging space in your laundry for underwear or shirts to hang on a rainy day. 
Design it so you either don’t see it or it adds to the aesthetic of the space.

On the flip side – I usually give my clients a cupboard or drawer for the ‘I don’t know what to do with this’ things. We all have them – string, old keys, pens etc. BUT clean it out regularly. It’s a space for shoving things when
 you need a quick tidy up, but don’t let it get out of hand.

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