Laura Steele has had a passion for creating beautiful spaces for as long as she can remember. So it is natural she started a business that does just that. Branche Designs specialises in both new and refurbished residential projects, and in it Laura has crafted a brand with the basic principles of listening to her clients’ needs and requirements. This month we sat down with Laura to learn more about the business.
Who is Branche Designs?
Branche Designs is a Sydney based Interior and Exterior design studio specialising in both new and refurbished residential projects.
How did you get into Interior Design?
I have always been passionate about designing and decorating interiors and exteriors. I come from a family of creative people. So, it started at a very young age – I would be moving furniture around and redecorating my bedroom regularly. Lucky for me my dad is a painter, so I would often take advantage of the fact that I could change a feature wall when I was bored of it. It wasn’t until I was heavily involved in my first renovation at 21 that I decided to take my passion a little more seriously and turn it into a career.
I read on your website you studied in Milan. That must have been an amazing experience; can you tell us more about that?
Italy is one of my favourite countries in the world to visit. It is also where my family’s heritage originates. My grandfather was an artist in Italy and was often commissioned to paint and restore the interiors of churches and cathedrals. So naturally when I was presented the opportunity to study in Milan – the worlds capital of fashion and design, it was a defining moment for me both personally and professionally. During my time there I attended lectures by some of Italy’s best Architects and Designers while temporarily living the Milanese lifestyle with my husband. And upon leaving Italy, finding out I was pregnant with our first daughter was also a highlight!
Describe your working style, are you a sole operator or do you like to work in a team?
I definitely prefer working in a team! Team work makes the dream work, and this is a fundamental principal that our business is built upon.
A part of your business is property refurbishment for sale. Is it as easy as it looks on the block?
I always say that renovating an old property is often like opening up Pandora’s box. When you start knocking walls out, or excavating outside for example, you may start to uncover past owners “hidden” or “patched” mistakes.
On a recent project, it was when we began excavating the front yard to begin laying the foundation for a new driveway, that we discovered there was tonnes of asbestos packed down underneath the existing concrete driveway – This is obviously a huge expense to dispose of properly due to safety regulations. I think that what The Block doesn’t honestly display to its viewers is how a budget can easily blow out when renovating older homes, and how important it is to allocate at least 20% of your budget to these kinds of mishaps.
From your experience in your projects, can you give us any tips on what buyers are looking for? What are some renovation things to avoid?
I think these days buyers are looking for a home to have more of a lifestyle feel to it. With how busy people are with their careers and families, when it comes time to be social they would rather entertain friends at home rather than going out all the time. This means that people are looking for a home with great entertaining spaces; such as a large deck out the back or an outdoor kitchen / BBQ area etc.
My tip on what to avoid during a renovation would be trying to fit too much into your home. Make a list of the areas you and your family spend the most time in – kitchen, bathroom, bedroom & living room – and focus on maximizing those spaces. For example, in an average size home, rather than having a formal lounge room, casual lounge room and even a cinema room, think about where you spend the most time, and cut down to only one or two areas that are used most by the family. Allocate more space and more of your budget to making those areas superb.
Tell us about a recent stand out project you have recently completed?
A standout project for me was a pool & landscape design that we recently completed in which we incorporated a stunning combination of natural stone finishes. We used a white Himalayan sandstone paver around the pool and a light grey freeform quartz stone on a feature wall that runs the entire length of the pool. Both the pool & this stunning stone feature wall has become the center piece of this “U” shaped property as it can be seen from various different aspects within the home.
You design and renovate both interiors and exteriors. Do you have a favourite?
I don’t have a favorite, I love both equally! I have a very holistic approach to design. I believe the interior & exterior must complement one another to complete the whole picture.
What are your tips for linking an exterior space with the interiors of a home?
Using a combination of the same colours, textures and finishes that you used internally and applying them externally and vice versa. You can do this with furnishings, such as using an outdoor rug or some cushions and throws that are of similar patterns or colour to your interior. Or even introducing pots and greenery into your interiors also helps to unify the two spaces.
Whose work inspires you?
I am inspired daily by so many amazing designers and architects both in Australia and abroad. However, at the moment I am particularly loving the work of Perth designer, Mon Palmer.
What is your favorite pot from our collection and why?
I love the entire range, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be the large muffin top. I like to use a combination of different shaped pots close by one another to create interest within a space, and I think the muffin top introduces a unique rounded shape into the mix.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
There isn’t a lot of spare time when you have a 2 ½ year old haha – But I would say when I do find some spare time, I love to get out amongst nature and have a picnic, or when summer rolls around spend lazy days by the pool with a good book.
Branche Designs – Laura Steele