The Style Counsellor

After a successful career as a top model in Europe, Karin Conelly knows a thing or two about style. As Anna Washington discovers, she’s now applying her unique flair to apartment interiors, making the most of what you’ve got.

When Katrin Conelly walks into someone’s home, she paces around, sits on the couch, stands up again to view everything from a different angle, checks out the chairs, inspects the tables and runs a hand across the surfaces …

Finally, she pauses for a moment. She needs to get acquainted with the space, to pick up a feel for it, to let it talk to her. Then, suddenly, the ideas start flowing.

“I just love creating amazing spaces out of challenging homes, particularly apartments, and making spaces work for daily living,” she says. “Nobody wants to live in a showroom, and too many apartments are being left blank, with very little personality at all. A home should be a home; it needs to be cosy and practical yet still have lots of character.

“Walls, for example, can be partially decorated with items you’ve picked up during your travels so you’re reminded of happy times whenever you see them. Or maybe it’s unexpected pieces you’ve found at an antique auction. And there are no rules. It’s fine to combine old and new, contemporary and antique, anything – just as long as it ‘speaks’ to you.”

For Katrin, it’s this kind of passion that’s fast seeing her recognised as one of Australia’s top apartment and house stylists. She doesn’t believe in encouraging people to buy in expensive pieces of furniture or the very latest in fashion accessories. She prefers to encourage people to de-clutter instead, then indulge their own tastes, preferences and sense of fun.

“I just like to do magic with what people already have, although often they don’t realise the kind of treasures they need to properly showcase,” she says. “Owners often don’t recognise their homes after I’ve finished with them.

“But it makes me feel even more strongly that people should sort out their homes much more often, and certainly not just when they want to sell them!”

German-born Katrin, 48, started her business Home Dress Up, based in Sydney, just three years ago, after degrees in garment engineering and tailoring, and careers as a model and in fashion with some of Europe’s top designers.

After meeting her Australian husband while working in Vietnam – and getting engaged to him after just nine weeks – she settled here in 1994. Now she’s found her keen eye for style, experience in problem-solving and flair for real estate is paying huge dividends in her new career.

Common mistakes people make with their homes, she believes, include allowing too much clutter to accumulate and feeling obliged to put every family photo and gift on display. Everything then jostles for space and attention, and nothing looks good.

“Fewer pieces in the right spot are far better than too many everywhere,” she says. “Less is definitely more. Sell the pieces you don’t need, or store them until you can bear the thought of getting rid of them permanently.”

Old furniture can often be repurposed by painting with limewash to bring out even more character, while flowers always brighten up rooms, and every bedroom can be transformed by good quality linen. Be wary of too many clashing colours as well, or lots of different hues of wood. A coat of limewash on floorboards make apartments lighter and shows off other timbers.

“Precious items can often be moved from the lounge to the bedroom or into the kitchen to create completely different effects,” Katrin says. “People should sort out their homes much more often. It’s always such a fantastic moment when you can make a client so unexpectedly happy in their own home.”

Katrin pictures by Lorrie Graham
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