Natasha Levak of Natasha Levak Interior Design has experience with some of the most notable publications and companies in Australia including working in styling for Australian House & Garden, and she spent nine years at Coco Republic Interior Design.
Along with the inspiration she received from her mother at a young age showing the impact a well-designed interior can have on your quality of life, she uses her professional experiences to bring clients spaces that are balanced through contrast, and tell a story of their lives.
Natasha also believes in being brave with her designs, and she feels the strength of her work lies largely in her understanding of how things should come together with an appreciation for all elements of a room. Natasha also works to ensure each project is completed within a social and environmentally-responsible framework.
We had the opportunity to speak with Natasha about her work, her projects and ultimately what inspires her.
1. When did you first decide to become an interior designer and stylist and how did you get started with your design business?
From an early age my sisters and I witnessed the creativity of our Mother, whose endless ideas and ability to create beautiful rooms within our family home influenced us all. This is where it all started for me. Just by being her, she showed me the ability of an interior to improve our quality of life, lift our mood, not to mention the fun and rewards that can be gained along the way particularly when you find that one-off hero piece that just sets the tone. Her love of antiques is also something that she introduced me too and this appreciation has only grown and is very much a driving force for my creativity. The decision to work for myself was one that I realised early on in my career.
2. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Co-ordination. In truth, the success of any project or client experience hinges on the ability of my practice to co-ordinate all the little teeny, tiny elements alongside the big ones. Whether it be getting the right door way opening achieved on a proposed DA floor plan or refining the upholstery detail to the cushions on the sofas, at the end of the day there is challenge experienced with co-ordinating all the elements and managing all the required trades together. I get a lot not only professionally, but personally, out of the working relationships with my clients and trades and it is important to me that projects achieve the design aspirations and run as efficiently as possible but, it must all be co-ordinated!
3. Is there an interior design style you favour and do you have your own design aesthetic?
For me, there are many styles and periods that I am drawn to, architecturally and furnishing wise. Architecturally to me the classic proportions of the Georgian movement and here in Australia the Colonial movement result in timeless beauty and structures that not only look great but, ‘feel’ great with large windows, central hallways and decorative timber detailing. Having just travelled the East coast of the states, on a quest to visit the historic homes from the plantation houses in the south to the pretty timber cladded, deep wrap around verandah houses of Cape Cod in the north, I am, absolutely at this moment, obsessed with timber constructions.
Having said that, I also appreciate contemporary builds and the ‘blank canvas’, if you like, that they achieve, allowing the furnishings to create the story and personality.
Ultimately, I design for my clients and I am focused to bring a fresh set of eyes and an individual approach to every project that I work on. However, my approach could be described as ‘restorative’. I love restoration work and refurbishing original period builds back to the integrity of their initial erection. To me there is nothing more beautiful than and interior that features architectural integrity – whether it be a Victorian build or a 1970’s build. Maintaining the integrity of the architecture but personalising the interior with a current, contemporary approach to furniture and furnishings.
4. Who are other interior designers you admire?
The recent sleek, geometric work of Washington based Thomas Pheasant has my attention, but time and time again I never cease to appreciate the work of the American architect Gil P Schafer III or Interior Designer Victoria Hagan. Earlier to these, the practice of Parish-Hadley Associates with the late Albert Hadley and Sister Parish is undeniably beautiful.
5. What inspires you?
At the risk of sounding cliché – travel. Walking, window shopping, eating out, admiring architecture, people watching. All the while observing, reflecting, comprehending details around me. This is what inspires me. I make an effort to travel to both interstate and overseas trade fairs annually. While not always convenient with work schedules, the inspiration I gain from looking, touching, smelling and seeing is unmatched back home.
6. What do you think is the essential piece of furniture we should all have in our bedroom?
An armchair, or if fortunate enough with space, a small sofa. Handy to drape/throw/dump (as we are all guilty of) clothing, perch our rear on to put on shoes, take a private phone call or simply sit and enjoy a view (if you have one) out the window.
7. What key element do we all need for a chic living room?
Adequate lighting ranging from statement table lamps, to task reading floor lamps, to well scaled ceiling lighting. Poor lighting works no favours in any interior and it is an essential element to incorporate. Harsh downlights have their place – in a hallway or to service rooms such as the laundry - but they do nothing for a living room interior.
8. Do you have a favourite project or story behind a project?
My favourite projects are those projects where the client / designer connection is instant and natural from the very first meeting. I find absolute pleasure in working with my clients through the myriad steps of decision making, and it is made all the more enjoyable when trust and a common understanding of the ‘end picture’, is established upfront.
Let's Get Personal .....
1. What else are you passionate about besides your work?
Work aside my true passions still lie in a segue field of my work – antique or vintage finds. I absolutely love sourcing, searching, stumbling across by accident, any form of original piece. From antique silverware to walnut occasional tables. I know, it is technically still work for me so aside from work it would be wine and hosting dinner parties for friends and families. I love shopping at the local markets for ingredients, I love preparing a meal that excites and challenges, and of course I love styling the dinner table for us all to enjoy! (All of which is inevitably followed by several hours of cleaning up, but alas). More recently ceramics have me hooked and I have just enrolled in a pottery course. If I can master turning a potter’s wheel into some form of useable object that will be goal tick and achieved, good enough for me.
2. What is your most treasured belonging?
Technically not a belonging but, I would have to say my family. My 2 sisters and I did everything together growing up and nothing has changed. We all travel together, cook together, shop together. We are fortunate to have my parents support us not only in the big things but in day-to-day life they are always there and available – a rare thing indeed when we all lead such busy lives.
3. What's one thing people may not know about you?
I know the lyrics off by heart to quite a few Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney songs - I don’t mind the odd bit of country music. Having married a country man – it was inevitable!
4. In 10 years I'd like to be ....
Working in my own practice with a strong history of successful client projects behind me. I’d like to have children around me and to enjoy time on beach holidays and camping adventures (albeit with plastic flutes packed and a champagne bottle chilling in the ice box).
5. What can't you live without?
Tea. Herbal, black, white, with lemon. I start every day with fresh pot and on days when I am super busy, I do miss it. I think it has wonderful health benefits too. At the moment I have been brewing a milk thistle seed based one from Ovvio – bitter and a little astringent at first, but lovely and cleansing.
It’s likely that in the years to come Natasha will continue growing her portfolio, spending time on restoration work and sourcing antiques, and also finding inspiration through broad sensory experiences, whether locally or abroad. Of course, she’ll do it all while taking time to savor a cup of tea whenever possible.