Real Home Tours: Week 5 - Suneiah's colourful, contemporary Australian home.
Welcome to week 5 of Real Home Tours. In week 1, we visited Sandra in her Welsh seaside sanctuary. From there, we hot-footed it to Hythe to stop in on interior designer Lisa. Week 3 was all about Lauren's beautiful home in Essex and last week, we popped over to designer Kate's location house.
This week, we are travelling to the other side of the world to visit strategy specialist Suneiah aka @parkplayhome. In her spare time, Suneiah is an interiors addict: take the tour around her casual and colourful, contemporary Australian home.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
"My name is Suneiah, I was born in Australia, but grew up in Saudi Arabia and England and now Australia. A strategy specialist by day (sustainability and energy) and and an interiors addict by night, I started my career in journalism moving into business development and then experience design. After doing one of Sophie’s colour loving courses, I realised I needed a creative escape to the more logical world of engineering."
Tell us a bit about your lovely home.
"As a self-taught design dabbler, I have been slowly converting our builder grade ’new’ (1997) build into a multi-generational home filled with colour, contrast and global influences (my Mum’s Indian heritage and Arabic pieces feature heavily). Until recently, we had two beautiful big dogs that lived with us.
Our double-storey brick house sits in the suburbs of Brisbane and is lived in by myself, my husband, our two young kids and my mum. I have lived here on and off (in my late teens, and ultimately moving back in when my dad died). We love that we’re a minute's walk to the park, five minutes to the river and are surrounded by trees, water dragons, singing magpies and sometimes snakes (don’t love that). I don’t think we ever thought we would all live here under the one roof, hence why all the renovations. The house looks very conventional from the outside, but is anything but on the inside."
Describe your interior style.
"If I had to put it into a sentence, it would be ‘a colour and contrast lover who doesn’t take life or interiors too seriously’. I am obsessed with the power of paint (pink and green features strongly), punchy patterned wallpaper, chalky hues, natural materials (oak, marble, sisal, jute) and industrial influences (concrete, straight lines). If I had to pin it down to styles, I’d say somewhere in the middle of maximalism meets minimalism (Jake Arnold); and industrial meets country cottage (Hendricks Churchill). I love contrast and contradiction - whether it’s coloured walls with jute rugs; polished granite with reclaimed wood, Carrara marble meets Ikea. The friction it creates gets me every time."
Have you done any work to the house since moving in?
"Yes lots, but somehow my to-do list gets longer not shorter! The big-ticket changes have been knocking through our shoebox kitchen into an open-plan luxurious kitchen, and dining. Think an over-generous island, made out of reclaimed architectural drawers, lots of marble, granite and lush convex Carrara tiles (total splurge), and convex oak wrap installed piece by piece. We also removed our ugly 90s tiles, ground and polished our concrete slab - creating totally much desired industrial vibes. These changes transformed the way we live, and made our house into a home. "
"Our first project my husband and I tackled was wallpapering our lounge room (potentially a marriage-limiting move). I chose this vintage-looking wallpaper with life-sized birds on a green background green. And I used the same wallpaper in pink in our pantry (to match our pink tap). I loved that the wallpaper is designed and printed locally, supporting local industry with a smaller carbon footprint is really important to me. The paint we’ve used is either Porters Paints or Tint, both low VOC, low carbon footprints.
Since then we’ve also painted (and repainted ) numerous rooms including lounge, dining (twice), kitchen, bedroom (twice), powder room (twice), study (twice) and the kids room. We’ve also wallpapered our pantry in pink bird wallpaper, painted the ceilings in our laundry and walk-in wardrobe cause why not (in reality we had limited budget and needed an interim fix). Our dining room will undergo a third reiteration next year with the walls going to green and white stripes when I have the emotional energy/ budget to tackle that. I will also be framing some Indian textiles that I have held onto since a kid, which will be the centrepiece of our home."
Have you done any DIY or upcycling?
"Yes, lots. Most have been driven by a lack of budget, but my favourite so far has been our kitchen island. I bought this vintage set of architect drawers from a design shop I was obsessed with that was closing. One day, I saw it being advertised on Instagram because they were closing their bricks-and-mortar store (thanks COVID). Anyway, before I even knew any dimensions of our kitchen, I knew this piece would be our island. We had our carpenter knock the base off the island to bring it to the right standing height once topped with stone."
"We sanded and oiled the drawer frames (thanks kids), and wrapped the island’s exterior, which was water damaged, in individual convex oak pieces. These were sanded and oiled by hand, which is the perfect contrast to the glossy black and white granite on top.
The piece is only lightly nailed to the slab so we can take it with us when we move. The drawers are almost a metre deep - so it’s great for stashing bake-wear, trays, wrapping paper, and seasonal kitchen decor.
My biggest DIY is DIY designing. When we were starting to refresh our home, I had just returned from maternity leave, I didn’t have the budget for a designer - so I enrolled in a short course to get some foundational knowledge. I used this with my ‘experience design’ skills to DIY-design almost every room in our house, all have been budget makeovers, some more than others.
Some of my favourite transformations are DIY, painting, prints, wallpaper. For example, printing off royalty-free car blueprints for artwork for my sons’ room. Using shower curtains to make super-sized art, or art gallery prints in lieu of headboards (the inverse scale really works); using peel and stick wallpaper to make our laundry drab to dreamy."
What are your favourite features in your home?
"My favourite feature of my home is seeing how my family live in it, and enjoy it. Everything I have designed, and we’ve tackled is to create a space that we can chill out in but also feel comfortable, creative and safe. Whether its eating around the kitchen island, watching a movie on the couch, or building Lego forts on the floor, I know this home has been designed by us, for us."
"The work we’re embarking on now is a breezeway integrated, self-contained annex for my mum. We’ve just hit slab completion, and the budget has totally blown out already. But after three years of being stuck in design and planning, we’ve just finalised selections (burnished concrete, deep teal, walnut finishes) so that’s keeping me going, and might become my next favourite project. In part, because it’s going to be in total contrast to the main house - but again because it will transform how we live."
Are there any features that you don’t like or would like to change in the future?
"Where do I start? The stairs and stair runner, the upstairs carpet, our walk-in wardrobe. Our wardrobe is a total pain point. And one I need to fix. It’s actually stressful, and not a great way to start the day. Our 90s bathroom - but after the cost of our extension, and our pool that will need relining and repaving - it’s going to be more of a case of how can I make better with what we have (new counters, tap-ware) rather than a redo of waterproofing, tiles etc. This will be a champagne taste on a beer budget makeover. But think 90s baby blue and pink tiles meets Norwegian Rose Marble and matt white taps. We need to tackle our pool renovation next year - it’s an expensive reno and probably not where I want to spend AUD50,000+ but it’s one of those things. Right now, I am lusting after brushed concrete meets green quartzite. Totally out of my budget, but one can dream, and often that’s where I start, as a DIY designer - how I can get the same look and impact for less. "
Where do you get your interior design inspiration?
"Galleries, museums, thinking of places I visited as a kid, or grew up in. My heritage definitely has a huge design impact. Other designers and artists of course. But how my family lives and what we need informs a lot of my design choices. What’s working, what’s not, which then I have to revisit and reinvent because of the budget. It’s that constant constraint that drives me, and my creativity. I don’t always have the budget to get what I want, but obsess over it then figure out how to make it work on the budget I have. Our kitchen is a great example of this, Ikea cabinetry, marble countertops. "
Anything else you’d like to share about your home…
"We are far more creative and capable than we give ourselves credit for. Play to your strengths, not your limits. I am not handy, so I outsource that, but I am great at visioning and design so I play to that. If you are unsure where to start, find some inspirational images that speak to you, and create a mood board pulling colours from there. And if you don’t love it, paint over it, it’s not the end of the world."
Click the underlined words to go straight to the relevant page!
Shopping Page - Curated shopping guides and shoppable mood boards.
DIY tutorials - Step-by-step tutorials on DIY projects for your home
Seasonal Styling - Interior styling tips and tricks to get your home looking its best, whatever the season.
Online Courses - Self-paced, affordable online courses on DIY, Home styling, upcycling and styling with flowers and foliage
Foraging - Guides to help you save money by foraging for flowers and foliage to style your home
IKEA hacks - transform basic IKEA flatpacks into bespoke-looking furniture to elevate your interiors
DIY Kitchen makeover on a budget - money-saving DIY and styling ideas
Real home tours - take a tour of a beautiful home and get inspired by reading the owner's story.
Home organisation - tips and tricks for organising your home with minimum fuss & maximum impact.
DIY tips and tricks - Advice to save you time and money and reduce the chance of mistakes on your DIY projects.