With its weatherboard exterior and corrugated roof, Cameron Kimber’s house in New South Wales’ Southern Highlands looks typically Australian. But step inside and you would be forgiven for thinking you had been transported to a house in the English countryside. Though born and based in Sydney, Cameron has long enjoyed a love affair with English decoration. ‘I wanted a simple house that was quite cottagey, but I had some big paintings and collections, so I just stirred it all together.’
Cameron honed his skills working alongside the late interior-design doyen Leslie Walford. Since going solo around 20 years ago, he has specialised in Australian residential projects, but has worked on properties from Los Angeles to London.
‘I like quality, whether I am doing something modern or traditional, and I like comfort,’ he says. Comfort certainly rules here, where he retreats most weekends with his pug-beagle cross Jaspa, often joined by family and friends. ‘It’s refreshing after being in the city all week, where my apartment is more streamlined. Here it’s all flowers, porcelain and pretty colours.’He says the relaxed feel draws him to the English aesthetic. ‘It’s really easy to live with and I like that it’s not too precious; it’s also conducive to having a dog. In a minimalist, contemporary interior, if you put down a handkerchief, you’ve ruined the look.’
Cameron spent a year building the house from scratch, but it looks far more established. ‘I built it to look like an old house – as if it has been added on to and changed.’ He used recycled building materials, reclaimed windows and antique chimneypieces. Three years on and it is a confidently curated haven of pattern and eye-catching colour. Cameron’s much-loved vintage printed fabrics and antique furniture are mixed with Chinese and English ceramics, lacquerwork and oil paintings. Despite this, restraint is key, with white walls and neutral flooring providing a minimalist background. ‘I used simple, hard-wearing coir herringbone matting. It’s a brilliant backdrop for antiques; it grounds them and stops a space from looking too over-decorated.’
One exception to the pale neutral scheme is the snug, painted an inky brown. ‘In all my houses, I’ve had a room that feels cocooning and enveloping – more of an evening room. This is a small room and I’ve used large-scale furniture, which I find really comfortable.’ Another bold choice here is a cabinet painted green inside.
He says clients can be nervous of using print or strong colour, but here, Cameron was able to indulge his personal taste. ‘I love printed fabrics and wallpapers; it’s what you put with a print that makes it work.’ Large paintings give the air of a house that has evolved. ‘Formal portraits are not everybody’s taste, but I Iike the scale and depth of them,’ he says. ‘I wanted the house to be trad-itional – nothing to do with fashion – comfortable and welcoming.’
Cameron admires British interior designers including , David Mlinaric, Veere Grenney, Ben Pentreath and Nicky Haslam. ‘I like the way English interiors have a handed-down look,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t matter if something doesn’t quite match or isn’t perfect, and it’s OK to have the dog bed in the sitting room. Things are beautiful and comfortable, and that’s really all that matters.’