The Beachside Home of Interior Designer Thea Kiel

Images by Saskia Wilson

This week on the Journal we meet Thea Kiel, an interior designer at Sydney based design practice Arent&Pyke. Thea, along with her husband Jeremy, live in a sunny semi in the back streets of North Bondi. Although the couple have only recently moved into the space, Thea has already managed to create a calming sanctuary with her eye for detail and an array of personal touches. We spoke to the up and coming designer about her creative process, favourite Bondi haunts, and asked her to share a few handy hints that anyone can employ in their own space.

“We have recently moved into our new home in North Bondi, which is just a short walk from the beach and only a stone’s throw away from our last residence. Jeremy and I have lived in the area for the last seven years, and although we are missing the sparkling beach views from our last apartment, we are loving the slightly quieter neighbourhood and community vibes within this new precinct of North Bondi.”

“A bedroom to me is all about finding a space of stillness and rest, and the palette is one way to engage this sense of calm. I generally like to keep the bedding scheme quite neutral and play with a moment of colour through a contrasting pillowcase or flat sheet. Shades of terracotta, pink and blue are my go to.”

Thea’s bed is dressed in IN BED 100% linen in Lilac, Dove Grey & White.

“As the bed linen stays quite neutral, it’s always nice to know that my bedroom still feels lively and interesting. I have been on the hunt for a Bonacina rattan mirror for many years now, and finally snapped up a vintage one last year. This piece hangs above the bedside table, with a series of artworks adorned on adjacent walls, adding those layered moments of personality and colour. Lighting in a bedroom is also really important to me as it needs to feel soft and ambient as you wind down for the evening. As a nightly routine, I love popping on my tracksuit and slippers and flicking on the switch for my Akari floor light. The warm glow that omits from this light is just so magical, it’s definitely one of my favourite pieces within the home.”

“I’ve really enjoyed collecting art over the years and I feel that each piece brings its own special value or sentiment. In 2018 I bought a Laura Jones artwork from her first monotype series, and can honestly say that it brings me so much joy everyday - the bold orange and Yves Klein blue is such an unexpected but heavenly combination. I don’t really feel that I’ve ever bought something for my home that I’ve regretted. I really treasure the hunt for collecting pieces that resonate with me and it’s even more pleasurable knowing the true importance and use that they have at home. In our living room there is a bit of a special corner where a Myles Young artwork sits next to our Sika bar cart and Atollo table light. It’s a really gorgeous grouping that’s classic, contemporary, personable and lively all at once.”

“It wouldn’t feel like a finished home, amidst the art and furniture, without those styling ornaments and objects, and here there is no limit to the amount of coffee table books, vases or trinkets that you can collect. My interior style is quite simple and refined, so I really enjoy buying styling pieces that feel slightly unusual; it’s those abstract shapes that differ from the norm that I admire. The handmade terracotta vase atop my living room coffee table, by The Locker Room, is a great example of this, as well as the super unique and almost regal forms of terracotta planters that I have on the deck.”

I’ve really enjoyed collecting art over the years and I feel that each piece brings its own special value or sentiment.

"There are so many great spots in Bondi and we are totally trapped in the ‘bubble’ of living here as it gives you great reason to never leave. The obvious attraction is the amazing coastline and incredible beach, where on morning walks I’ve had those pinch me moments whilst watching pods of dolphins, migrating whales or beautiful sunrises. It’s such a motivating way to start the day. The short walk to many local cafes, restaurants and shops can be dangerous, but also so lovely! My jewellery collection from Lucy Folk continues to expand, and it appears that I am buying a new Aesop soap most weekends. It’s truly such a wonderful community and I’m lucky to have this all on my doorstep.”

“I actually started out my career in the fashion industry and spent many guided years learning the ropes from talented fashion directors, stylists and creative directors. I can attest to the many wonderful years of experience in a talented and diverse creative industry and feel they have shaped my foundations and all rounded understanding of design.”

“My mum is a huge inspiration for me and her passion for art, architecture and design became the catalyst for my career move into Interior Design. When I was at a bit of a loose end and looking for the next thing in my career, she provided me with the confidence and direction to break out of my comfort zone. If you fast forward a bit, I have now re-trained as an Interior Designer with a second design degree, some late nights of studying and full-time work, to now, five years into a fabulous job in a ful-filling, ever inspiring position as Senior Interior Designer at Arent&Pyke. It’s such a dream working with the lovely ladies behind Arent&Pyke, Juliette and Sarah-Jane, and I’m so appreciative of how they have fostered my career, constantly believing in my passion, creativity and dedication to design.”

“My day on a plate is a euphoric cornucopia of colour, texture, materiality, pattern, form and composition, and having the task of bringing this all together for an interior space presents endless possibilities, hence no two days are the same. I’m fortunate enough to be working for two strong and independent ladies, and amongst a team of passionate and hard-working women, so coming to work for me feels liberating and inspiring. We create beautiful spaces for people to live in and it’s always so rewarding knowing that you have added to the greater sense of self, comforts and enjoyment in their home.”

My mum is a huge inspiration for me and her passion for art, architecture and design became the catalyst for my career move into Interior Design.

Thea’s sofa is dressed with an IN BED Alpaca throw in Brown Check 

“The creative process is definitely an emotional response to the clients values and our task is to bring that to fruition. Some early planning and a few quick sketches with butter paper ignites the ideas, and then a sourcing trip to our tile, fabric and furniture showrooms assists with forming the palette and design schemes. It’s amazing where your mind takes you when you start to explore different materials and forms.”

“The imagination shift for me turns into reality quite quickly as I love preparing 3D design’s of my clients home in the program sketchup. It’s such a great tool to see things holistically, and before you know it you can see the whole design take shape. I find more joy building ideas through my own design wand - wherever the next mouse click takes me - a much more invigorating journey than spending endless hours on the Pinterest trawl.”

“The best learnings from Arent&Pyke is the ability to weave personality into every space through the inclusion of colour, texture and materiality. Don’t be afraid to experiment with this, as it can be harmoniously found in many different shapes and formats. For me, it was about creating walls that acted as blank canvases so I could let the artwork, furniture and styling speak volumes.”

“We have all spent many years collecting our own accouterments and developing individual aesthetics and tastes, so I would never suggest a full re-fresh as the new life is probably already right in front of you. Ensure there is soft ambient lighting in the room, a mixture of old and new is always interesting, and play with textures that feel complementing; a creamy boucle fabric with oak timber for example. If that isn’t enough, delve slightly deeper by painting the room in a soft eucalyptus green, or a warm shade of taupe-pink - Dulux Bongo Drum is a current favourite.”

Thea’s table is dressed in an IN BED 100% linen tablecloth in Marigold and napkins in Marigold Gingham.

“Our eyes have been a little bit starved over the last few years, and as much as I’m not jet-setting abroad, I’m excited to see the plethora of great creations that come out of the Milan Salone del Mobile, and Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design. As a complete contrast to the European summer that I’ll secretly be shutting my eyes to, I’ll instead be heading off to the Tasmanian east coast for some fresh air, and an abundance of delicious food and wine. There are also some really exciting projects that I’m working on at Arent&Pyke and I look forward to an inspiring second half of the year.”