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How to Create Fun + Playful Interiors, With Studio Joy’s Kristel Marshall

Design Eye

There’s an art to bringing just the right amount of fun and personality into your home. Picking out the perfect colour combinations, art and furniture, that all work together – and in a way that won’t date – it’s easy to end up with something that feels either too mismatched, or too simple.

But balancing this fine line is Melbourne design firm Studio Joy’s forte. That’s why we turned to founder and interior designer Kristel Marshell for her top tips on creating playful interiors, for the latest instalment in our Design Eye series!

Today Kristel shares how her team curated their signature ‘minimalist maximalist’ style in this beachside Melbourne home, with the help of some timeless furniture picks from DOMO.

19th January, 2023

One of Studio Joy’s recent renovations, Project Blue, sees colour and personality carefully injected into a bayside home in Melbourne. Photo – Stephanie Rooney

Studio Joy founder and designer Kristel Marshall. Photo – Phoebe Harford

The Ligne Roset Cimbo Carver Chairs from DOMO have been paired with an antique table as a way to blend old and new. Photo – Stephanie Rooney

Ligne Roset Plumy Settee in Vanille and the Pulpo Mila Side Table in Grey from DOMO enhance the soft colours of the living room. Large Leaf Floor Lamp in Shiny Brass also from DOMO. Artwork by homeowner Kirsten Jackson. Photo – Stephanie Rooney

Ligne Roset Plumy Settee in Vanille, Pulpo Mila Side Tables and Large Leaf Floor Lamp in Shiny Brass from DOMO. Artwork by homeowner Kirsten Jackson. Photo – Stephanie Rooney

Christina Karras
Thursday 19th January 2023

‘We use bold materials, colour, strong pattern, impactful furniture pieces and statement art – with deliberate restraint’ – Kristel Marshall

Studio Joy founder and designer Kristel Marshall describes her interior style as ‘minimalist maximalist’. She’s known for incorporating playful colour and furniture in a way that manages to feel equal parts contemporary and timeless.

And this creative ethos comes to life beautifully in Project Blue, where Kristel created a fun-filled interior renovation for a ’90s home in Hampton. Key design elements like a striking powder-blue kitchen and peach feature walls helped bring in plenty of personality, while still leaving space for distinctive artworks and sculptural furniture.

Kristel worked with with Bea + Co on the interior styling and furniture selections, opting for the Ligne Roset Plumy Settee in Vanille in the living room, alongside the playful Pulpo Mila Side Table, both from DOMO. Meanwhile other pieces like the HC28 Cosmo Bol Armchair and Ligne Roset Cimbo Carver Chairs offer sculptural curves and a contrasting pop of green in their luxurious velvet upholstery.

Kristel reveals below how she played with different textures and materials in this space (in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the senses!) – and her advice on getting this look in your own home.

Hey Kristel! You’ve created some beautiful residential and commercial design projects across Melbourne. How would you describe your general aesthetic as a design studio? 

I’ve been using the term ‘minimalist maximalist’ a lot. While it may sound counterintuitive, we design with scale and proportion at front of mind, and celebrate the use of negative space. We use bold materials, colour, strong pattern, impactful furniture pieces and statement art – with deliberate restraint.

Our project’s built environment is constructed with clean lines and simple forms on a pared-back foundation. So, maximalist concepts in a minimalist way. We artfully use colour to surprise and delight in small doses, or more liberally to connect interior spaces.

Project Blue really demonstrates your love of colour and a sense of playfulness. How did you approach this project and what was the brief?

Project Blue is the beachside home of Melbourne abstract artist Kirsten Jackson. We were tasked with giving the Studio Joy touch to a 90s built home with wonderful bones. In the kitchen, we understood the drama we would create with our bold Blue Calcite stone choice, so we colour blocked the joinery elements to create visual calm within the space.

The renovation was crafted to give a space for art to sing, which is why we used a foundational pastel palette. Soothing ocean blues and peach and lilac that were drawn from the large-scale art pieces we selected, and little pops of bold brights and pattern. The brief was to be a little daring, which is reflective of the client’s personality and why we were such a wonderful fit.

What’s your advice for creating a fun and playful interior? What are the key ingredients for a home that has this feeling?

We understand the buzz of family life, and use negative space to achieve a sense of overall calm. Prioritising spatial distribution within the buildings themselves is key. This means your eyes will always find a place to rest, amongst the bright and bold. This is where we apply our minimalist maximalist approach.

You can create an overall sense of fun using a paint colour in a room that has tonal elements in the surrounding furniture. Also consider repeating joinery materials throughout, so they blend in to the built space and provide a serene backdrop to moments of the unexpected.

It can be a fine art, but our advice is to take in the overall space, understand where you need to have negative space for your lives to inevitably fill, i.e. hallway spaces, busy bathrooms and bedrooms for rest. Then, building up smaller vignettes of interest around these spaces will allow for some incredible ‘wow’ moments.

When it comes to finding the right furniture for this style of spaces, what are the main considerations to have in mind? 

Beauty and practicality. We value quality craftsmanship and specify furniture items that often become heirloom pieces. In addition, many of our clients have something that has been handed down over time. In Project Blue, we paired an antique French dining table with the Ligne Roset Cimbo Carver Chairs from DOMO in an amazing forest green velvet. This one piece allowed us to convey our client’s unique story within the context of her newly modernised home.

We love the use of the Ligne Roset Plumy Settee and Pulpo Mila Side Table – they have so much character! Can you describe how these pieces help set the tone in this space?

The Plumy is a timeless sofa that is incredibly comfortable. And in the delicate velvet finish, it is as lovely to sit in as it is to the touch. The softest colour, like vanilla butter icing was selected as the perfect complement to our pale peach walls.

We picked the Milas side tables because they add a subtle, sculptural element to the spaces, but also add that ‘look at me’, maximalist punch. Practicality is always at the forefront of our design work and these cuties can be moved around to accommodate additional guests, or if my client decides to read or sip tea following the sunlight as it moves through her space.

What’s next for Studio Joy?

We have an exciting year ahead. Studio Joy is expanding to provide a design and construction arm to our clients. We are moving into a larger, brighter studio space to accommodate our growing team and to welcome clients who are looking for a studio that can design, build and final-layer-style their renovation projects of all sizes. We look forward to sprinkling some more design joy around!

For nearly 40 years, DOMO has remained Australia’s exclusive stockist of prestigious design brands from Europe, and across the globe.

With showrooms in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, DOMO offers a curated collection of classic, contemporary indoor and outdoor furniture ranges that last a lifetime.

For more design inspiration, follow DOMO on Instagram here.

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net