The Bronte home of interior designer Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher has everything they were looking for in a rental property: it’s a top floor apartment in a medium-density building; north-facing windows; cross ventilation; easily personalised interiors; and some communal outdoor space to grow vegetables.
The pair moved into the building mid-2020, and have spent the last two years slowly styling the space with renter-friendly modifications.
The first order of business — switching out the existing ceiling light fixtures for secondhand George Nelson pendants in the bedroom, study and dining room. ‘This already made such a difference in achieving a sense of permanency in the apartment,’ says Monica.
The couple have also hung ready-made linen curtains in the bedroom to soften the space and diffuse harsh sunlight. ‘They were so easy to install; you just tie the knots and hang it on a rod!’ says Monica. ‘This means we can easily dismantle the curtain and take it with us to our next home.’
Ben and Monica’s approach to styling is to invest in new items they’ll have forever, or shop secondhand. ‘It’s kind of like slow fashion but for furniture and objects. We don’t rush into buying things that have a short lifespan; instead, we invest in staple pieces (secondhand or new) to last us a lifetime, or at least have excellent resale value,’ Monica says.
With that in mind, Ben and Monica have invested in a few pieces in their home; an Akari lamp, silk bamboo rug from Zouzou Rugs; and a modular USM Haller sideboard. ‘Our goal is to never throw any furniture out onto the street for council pick up!’ Monica says. ‘If it takes us two years to save up for a furniture item then, so be it. We’d rather wait and invest in something we really love for the long run than to buy something cheap to fulfil a short term solution.’
These pieces form the base of the interiors, layered with natural materials, the occasional check or stripe print, and paintings by Monica created for the very purpose of brightening up the apartment!
‘I start each piece by referencing a photograph of a space, or a designed object, or even a concept from a designer/artist that I’m interested in… I’d say the contents within our home have also inspired some of these paintings, [such as the] colour, composition and form,’ Monica says.
Ben and Monica hope their home interiors will age like a ‘fine bottle of wine’, much like the bones of the 1930-40s apartment.
On weekdays you’ll usually find the couple working from home or on Forme Studio side projects in the evenings, but when the weekend hits, this home is all about the beach!
‘Particularly in summer and on weekends, the apartment is an absolute surf shack…Our favourite ritual is an early morning swim in the bogey hole or surf on the reef, followed by catching some sun up at the concrete deck at the Bronte pool, and of course, a sneaky sourdough croissant from Iggy’s Patisserie,’ says Monica.
‘Bronte has that effect on you where you feel like you’re on holiday, even though it’s just the weekend!’