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Otherworldly – Immersion & Escape

Gertrude Street Residence by Kate Challis Interiors

We don’t always consider the influence of visual arts in interior design. In many projects, artwork is selected as a decorative enhancement. A piece will be carefully chosen to reinforce the design language, provide a quirky touch, fill a void or simply finish a space.

There is nothing inherently wrong with such an approach, however the transformative function and influence of the art itself is disregarded.

Consider instead a home filled with pieces collected, commissioned and selected with a passionate approach. Imagine a space designed to blur the line between art and design, where layers of texture and colour are inspired by the art itself. A space which creates a truly immersive experience, enriching and reflecting the metaphysical world of the resident. Often unnoticed, other times quietly appreciated in passing, sometimes bold in presence and impact, all with the ability to transform mood, evoke emotion and divert from the outside world.

apaiser has had the pleasure of being featured in a very special residence where visual arts, history and interior design are intrinsically and demonstratively linked. It is wonderous space filled with immersive works, commissions and bespoke pieces. Breathtaking and distinctly individual.


Upon entering this Fitzroy house designed and owned by Melbourne-based interior designer Kate Challis from Kate Challis Interiors – visitors are immediately transported into a mythical landscape.

Fitzroy house designed and owned by Melbourne-based interior designer Kate Challis from Kate Challis Interiors

With a background in art history, Kate “…had always dreamed of incorporating the work of Melbourne artist Valerie Sparks into an interior”.

An immersive photographic installation by Sparks, inspired by the 19th century French scenic wallpaper Le Brésil by Desfossé, lends an oneiric quality and invites you into a whimsical world abundant in fantastic birds.

There is an air of surrealism to the space enhanced by a specially created, desaturated colour palette. The works are the main source of colour inspiration, in the kitchen the joinery is painted a dusty green blue to seamlessly integrate into the installation.

joinery - painted a dusty green blue to seamlessly integrate into the installation

I set out to see how far I could blur the lines between art and design – says Kate

Kate Challis Interiors - reinventing the escape


Originally conceived as a 19th century shop front, Kate’s residence on Gertrude Street was once Melbourne’s first feminist bookshop, established in 1970s.

Kate set herself upon a journey to transform the time worn space into a functional, expressive and otherworldly family home. Fusing the romantic charm of grand Victorian houses, bold colour palette and one of a kind art pieces, she achieved a fascinating, dream-like like ambience, reminiscent of 19th century escapism.

Colour is employed to dramatic effect throughout the project. Each room is different. A mix of vintage, antique and bespoke furnishings and joinery are featured in all spaces, and a distinctly individualistic spirit is evident everywhere.

The cosy formal lounge is inviting and moody with hot pink velvet armchairs adding vibrance and extravagance to the space. Art is dominant in this room – numerous paintings and photographs by female artists are displayed on dramatic, distemper painted deep sea green walls, a colour inspired by Margaret Preston’s painting ‘Western Australian Gum Blossom’ (1928).


“The art in the living room is filled with works that I have collected over the years…It only occurred to me once they were hung in the room that it was an unconscious reference to the history of the building which was Melbourne’s first feminist bookshop.”, adds Kate.

Kate Challis Interiors - interior designing of the living room Kate Challis Interiors - interior designing of the bookshelves

For the original Victorian staircase Kate opted for a whimsical wallpaper with subtly etched cloud pattern which she paired with a nineteenth century vintage chandelier. Upstairs, both master and kid’s bedrooms were thoughtfully painted and finished in monochrome for a striking visual impact.

Kate Challis Interiors - interior designing of the wall


An entirely atmospheric space, the feeling of fantasy and otherworldliness continues in the master bathroom. There is a remarkable feeling of tranquility and serenity in the space, despite the moodiness of the palette. Chalky Tadelakt covered walls echo the depth of black brush painted canvas, adding a velvet-like texture which perfectly accentuate a mural of ceramic ‘feather’ tiles.

The play of textures and contrasts creates a dramatic stage for the sculptural freestanding bath. With its organic, sculptural form the apaiser Solar bath (past collections) is the hero of the bathroom.

It is a wonderful contrast to the otherwise dark and moody palette, beckoning you with its striking shape and contrasting brilliant white tones – says Kate

Kate Challis Interiors - bathroom designing

In projects like the residence by Kate Challis Interiors, we see wonderful examples of interdisciplinary bathroom design. Inspired spaces which fuse art, experience and individualism. Kate believes the bathroom should be more than just a functional space. It can be a vehicle to transport the bather into an otherworldly realm, where one can find refuge and time doesn’t exist.

Kate Challis, Principal of Kate Challis Interiors. Portrait by Sharyn Cairns

As Kate says, “…Unlike other areas of the home that are generally communal, there’s something beautiful about creating a space where one can invest in themselves, cocooned from the outside world.”

We cannot agree more.

Project Credits:
Interior Design: Kate Challis Interiors
Photography Credit: Sharyn Cairns
Immersive artwork (kitchen): Valerie Sparks