The Journal

An Ode to Minimalism with Carole Whiting

As one of Melbourne’s most accomplished interior designers, Carole Whiting is no stranger to industry accolades and the admiration of her peers. However, it is the genuine relationships she has forged with clients over the years that gives her the greatest joy. Thoughtful and articulate, the veteran designer shares why less is truly more when it comes to curating a timeless aesthetic.

What was the first piece of design that really mattered to you?

When I was a primary school child, my parents took me out to buy bedroom furniture and they let me choose whatever I wanted.  I remember it all being red and white, with a lot of plastic and chunky tubes.

Sage House photographed by Jack Shelton.

You are one of Melbourne’s most accomplished designers. Has there been a shift in what drove you when you first started out in the industry versus what you are passionate about now?

When I started, I was helping out in someone else’s business. I started to get requests from clients and it pushed me along. My work in the film industry definitely influenced my design work but now that feels a long time ago. I feel totally immersed in design now and look at everything through that viewfinder. I’m always motivated by how the end product is responded to by our clients. It’s that feedback you get much further down the track once you’ve handed over a project and they send you texts on a Friday night to say how much they are loving the space or some detail that they weren’t sure of in design stage. It is a driving factor – having that ongoing relationship with your clients.

Sage House photographed by Jack Shelton.

How would you describe your aesthetic? Is there a common thread that runs through all your projects?

There is a common thread that you can see – it’s one of honest materials, pared back palettes, simple elements and maintaining a calming environment. I always think, “How will I feel in this space? Do I want to be overstimulated or relaxed?” And invariably it’s the gentle and easygoing vibe that sits well for me.

You come from a background in film and advertising. Do you think that experience brings a special lens to your approach as an interior designer?

Yes, certainly – the idea that in film you have very little time to convey a vast amount of information to the viewer – be that words, images or sound – hones your skills at the art of storytelling. And with interiors it’s about restraint and subtlety, allowing the client’s personality to be part of that story and set the mood.

Calabash Bay for Wild Luxury Co photographed by Pablo Veiga.

You’ve created some breathtaking family residences. What are your tips for striking a balance between functional elements and more aesthetic design details?

Well of course they always have to function well – that’s a given. Function is different for every client – people all have different ways of moving within, immersing in and using their spaces. So that really has to come first. But form plays an equally strong role so it’s like fitting a jigsaw puzzle together. You get all the pieces in the brief and have to put them together to make the right picture.

Recent studies show that our surroundings have a very real impact on our wellbeing. Is that something you’re cognizant of as a designer?

Yes, I strongly believe that your environment has a huge impact on your everyday wellbeing. It’s a way to enhance your life. In lockdown, I think a lot of people will understand that their home environment is a determining factor in their daily mood. That’s why we look to calm and relaxed vibes in our projects.

Haines photographed by Jack Shelton.

We’re honoured to have some of our rugs featured in your projects, as well as your own home. How would you advise our customers in choosing rugs for their homes?

A rug is a major part of the room, but for me it’s also a more recessive part of the overall scheme as are all floor surfaces. It’s fine tuning the balance between making a statement and influencing the mood of a room. You’re introducing something tactile and beautiful, and allowing it to be the canvas for a lot of other features.

Haines photographed by Jack Shelton.

We strongly believe in buying fewer but better things. What are your reasons for investing in quality, timeless pieces?

I totally agree – I feel we are accumulating way too much as a species. Buy it when you can afford it. I would much rather wait and get the right thing when I can, than compromise. The best thing doesn’t necessarily have to be the most expensive. It’s finding the right thing. Is it something you can see yourself having in 10 years? I don’t change my rugs often – eventually children, dogs, spillage, wear and tear can have an impact, so I’ve only just changed the main rug in my living room after 10 years.  I have one of your pieces now in my living room and it looks like it totally belongs. I’m still collecting a few things for my house, but I know I really have to love them before I commit.

Peace Project photographed by Sharyn Cairns.

There’s always something timeless about the spaces you design. What’s your advice for creating a home that will defy trends?

Hire a designer – don’t buy stuff off the high street or the latest thing that is trending on Instagram.  Stay true to yourself.

Are there other designers in the interior space, either contemporary or historic, whom you find inspiring?

I think there are so many great Australian designers out there doing beautiful work. Interestingly, some whose style might be a long way from mine but I can see the beauty in their work. I must say I miss travel – those trips to Italy and Northern Europe are such a source of inspiration.  Heartbreaking…

Netherlee House photographed by Sharyn Cairns.

What’s keeping you inspired during these uncertain times?

If I’m honest it’s a bit of a rollercoaster emotionally. Lockdown has worn very thin. Having said that, we have some really great work in construction and in design that’s all still moving along, so the projects we are engaged with are keeping us sane and motivated.

Finally, we can’t help but ask – what’s your favourite Armadillo rug to have underfoot?

Ooh, I love the Etoile with its curves and luxurious feel.  But in my own home I have the Winnow, which has that lovely woven texture and soft colour tone. Don’t make me choose!

Netherlee House photographed by Sharyn Cairns.

Follow Carole Whiting on Instagram.


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