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A Magazine Maven's Sentimental Good Room In The Southern Highlands

The Good Room

In this modern world, where attention spans are shorter than Insta-stories, it’s hard not to be impulsive. We see something, we want it, we buy it online. Often by the time it’s delivered, we regret it. Did we need those touch screen iPhone gloves in winter? Did we need those pants that were one size wrong but were heavily discounted? And was a haircut 24 hours after a break-up a good idea?

Sometimes it’s best to wait a little, or in the case of business consultant and ex-Condé Nast CEO Robyn Holt, wait 20 years (!) for an opportunity to strike.  We visited Robyn in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, where she relocated from Sydney four years ago, and where she has created the ultimate home sanctuary.

30th March, 2020

Robyn Holt’s grand yet cosy Good Room in New South Wales’ Southern Highlands. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Although Robyn has only lived in this house for the last four years, she’s made it feel like she’s been there forever! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Ex Condé Nast CEO and business consultant/mentor Robyn Holt in her Good Room. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘For me a good room has the patina of time and includes personal collections of books, objects and things that offer connection’ says Robyn. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A well-stocked book shelf. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A collection of eclectic books, paintings and sculptures. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Another view of Robyn’s Good Room. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Details from Robyn’s Good Room. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Sentimental pieces collected over the years. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Botanical drawings and a mini bar. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Robyn is a book fanatic, and has amassed quite the collection, some kept from when she was a child. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lisa Marie Corso
Monday 30th March 2020

‘For me a good room has the patina of time and includes personal collections of books, objects and things that offer connection.’ – Robyn Holt.

“I’ve literally been talking about moving to the Southern Highlands for 20 years,” business mentor and major magazine maven Robyn Holt says. But the timing was never quite right, until four years ago when Robyn and her husband were in a position to split their time between the city and the country. “I thought, why not have a go at it?” she says. “So, we sold our house and bought an apartment in the city, and a wooden house on five acres in Exeter, which is about 135km from Sydney in the Southern Highlands.”

Robyn has built a career on being a good decision maker, and guides others to make them too. She was previously CEO of Conde Nast in both Australia and Russia, before moving to London where she worked with Tyler Brûlé to launch Monocle magazine. Robyn eventually found her way back to Sydney, where she currently works as a business consultant and mentor.

Working as a consultant for interior designer Cameron Kimber ultimately led Robyn to her own good room, when she and her husband started renovations on their country house. “Cameron helped us get the very best out of our ideas,” she says. “When you’re doing your own interiors, you realise there’s so much choice and you really need someone to help you edit.”

Robyn’s vision for this room was to bring “a life lived” into a new space. Of course, a new house is always a canvas for a new beginning, but Robyn wanted the room to feel like home, with the personal stuff she’d collected over the years.

“I wanted to use the things I had gathered over the years because it’s these things that make a room feel like it’s been there for a long time,” she describes. “For me a good room has the patina of time, and includes personal collections of books, objects and things that offer connection.” And it’s a mantra she’s completely loyal to. Her good room is layered with furniture and paintings she’s had for 30 years, the couch she’s had for 25 years (she updated the slip cover), and the same book cases she’s had since she was twenty eight, stocked with books she’s collected since childhood.

“I am a book-a-phile beyond belief, and I believe having books really reflects who you are and what you love,” she says. “I’ve been collecting books since I was a child, they add warmth to a room in a way nothing else can do, I have books everywhere, ones I’ve bought, ones given to me and others from people who have passed.”

Robyn’s bookshelves bring her endless joy, and her home library is her greatest at-home passion. “I would love to start a company that provides a service to organise people’s bookshelves,” she confesses.

Positioned in the centre of the home, this open living, dining and kitchen space, is the place where Robyn and her family congregate, exhale and relax. “My husband is an amazing cook, and when my daughter’s family visits with my grandchildren it’s divine.” On the days though when it’s just Robyn in her good room by herself, she’s never truly alone. “I just pick up a book and read and I love it.”

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.