At Home with Kylie

Kylie Sargent sitting at bench top in kitchen (Ivan Kemp) 267276_40

PRECEDE: Functionality and practicality are top priorities for Kylie Sargent when designing a home. The interior designer and home builder chats to Ash Bolt about the importance of making sure homes “fit the way a family lives’.

Practicality is the most important factor for Kylie Sargent when it comes to designing a home.

“A lot of people make that mistake of just wanting everything to be on trend and not necessarily being practical,” she said.

“But what’s important is how you live with it.

“A laundry is a good example. A lot of people want a laundry to be pretty.

“It’s important that it’s neat and clean, but it’s actually a utilitarian space – you need to be able to use it.”

A well-regarded interior designer and home builder, Kylie said making sure living spaces fit the way a family lived was the most important part of her job.

“It’s all about the end user,” she said.

“For a kitchen, you need to know how they cook, how they live, what they need and what the resale may be, so you can make sure they are getting a space they will enjoy using.

“For some people, the calibre of the house may warrant two ovens [for resale value], whereas for others it won’t be necessary … but then again it might if they do a lot of cooking and they need it.

“The layout is just as important and needs to work with how people live as well.

“Typically, a lot of people want to put fridges in silly places but fridges should be very accessible, so that one person can be in the kitchen and another person can get access to food without being in their way.

“There’s a lot of things that you need to think about that aren’t as important when you’re looking at a styled space in magazine.”

That practicality was the focus of Kylie when she built her Ocean Grove home with her husband Andrew and father Ron Dennehy, who she manages building company Dennehy Builders with, 10 years ago.

Living next door in another house they’d built at the time, Kyile said the house was built to their specific tastes, including the beautiful façade that featured lots of straight lines and textures.

“We wanted a home that was reflective of a mid-century modern sort of style, but that was still quite casual,” she said.

“We built it 10 years ago in the idea that it was not exactly what everybody had.

“I think a lot more people have [houses] like this now, but I don’t chase after what you see in the magazines.

“[Those straight lines] were the preference we wanted for this sort of house and we’ve brought some of it inside.

“We’d always liked a lot of the old homes here in Ocean Grove, and of course on the Bellarine and the Surf Coast, that they used to have a lot of off-the-beach type stone around the fireplaces.

“So we’ve brought that in too, ours is not from the beach, but the idea was to have that sort of walking slab, bringing the inside out.”

A keen cook, getting the kitchen right was the number one priority for Kylie.

“The kitchen and dining area is my favourite part of the house,” she said.

“I know the timber is probably not what’s highly on trend right now, but I still really enjoy it.

“I made sure it fit the way I live. For example I took a lot of care in choosing the cooktop because I like cooking with gas but I was specific about the functionality of it, because it’s very easy to pull apart and clean.

“I’m very dedicated to cleaning, so the black splashback is easy to take care of … [as well as] the concrete floors.

“It fits what I need and want.”

Kylie said kitchens were her favourite rooms to design, which had fostered her interest in several restaurant projects.

“I’m a keen cook so growing up it certainly thought about becoming a chef but the lifestyle doesn’t really appeal to me,” she said.

“But that’s probably why I really still enjoy designing restaurants a lot.

“I just recently did the renovation of Doc Hughes on the Esplanade in Torquay and I really enjoyed doing that.

“I like those bigger projects that can sometimes take years, where you build long-term relationships with your clients.

“I just finished one last year out at Curlewis, where I was on [the project] for four years and the builder was on for two years.

“I enjoy that part of really getting to know someone and figuring out what they like, so I can go away and come back with some ideas.”

Coming from a building background, Kylie got more enjoyment from the designing of spaces and picking the right fixtures and fittings than she did from styling.

That mentality is evident in her own home, where she has used a minimalistic approach to styling.

“I think the things you have around the house should definitely have meaning or have some reference. Otherwise it’s just stuff,” Kylie said.

“I’m not someone to buy ornaments. I collect them when I travel or people give them to me.

“I don’t believe in buying decor at all. I don’t think you should be buying things just for the sake of decorating.”

She said her favourite decorations were vintage posters on the wall of the dining area.

“I collect original French posters,” she said.

“I think it’s always good to have a theme, and I’m a scuba diver and a cave diver, so I’ve picked up a couple of posters.

“I got one in Melbourne and one when we were on a trip in the US.

“A lot of the other things I have around belonged to my family and have been passed down, like my grandmother’s tea set she had when she was a child.

“That’s the kind of decoration I like, something with a bit of meaning.”

Kylie said decluttering was one of her most important tips for anyone that was looking to restyle their living spaces.

“Interior design is just as much about what doesn’t work as what does,” she said.

“Sometimes all a space needs is a bit of a clean up and getting things in order, sorting out your bits and pieces, and taking the things that need to go to the op shop to the op shop.

“That can do a lot because everything looks bad when things are messy.”

Kylie said her other tip was picking styles that wouldn’t go out of fashion quickly.

“Particularly if you’re not planning to live there for a long time, then you’re not going to want to do something you may have to pull out again later,” she said.

“So as much as I am loathe to say it, you can’t go wrong with white.

“White kitchens, white bathrooms, white laundries – they tend to stand the test of time.

“They will always work and appeal to the biggest market.

“But that’s not for everyone. If I was building a house right now and wanted some longevity in it, I’d be going with brushed nickel and brushed chrome, matte white and timber finishes – you couldn’t go wrong there.

“There’s certainly a trend at the moment for a lot of moss and sage greens, which I don’t personally have, but I do enjoy using and I have a soft spot for the palette.

“I think that has some longevity in it, with the greens.

“And there’s always a trend for timber [and] for black.”

Having lived in her home for a decade now, Kylie said it hadn’t changed much in that time.

“Apart from changing the chairs in the dining area, not a lot has changed over time,” she said.

“I believe that if you’re going to live in a home for the rest of your life, it will probably need renovating every 15 to 20 years to make sure it fits the changes in your life.

“[Renovations] are something I think about doing a lot and I appreciate that within five to 10 years it’s probably going to need a refurbishment if I want to keep it on trend.

“But as far as functionality goes, it works really well for me and I wouldn’t change that.”