Interiors guru Lynda Gardener’s design tricks for a studio flat with a surprisingly roomy feel

‘White is my go-to,’ says Lynda Gardener. ‘It has become my trademark. When I bought this studio in my early 20s, it had dark wood floors and colourful walls. It was my first property and it felt instantly gratifying to completely whitewash the interior and see the space open up.’ 

Lynda Gardener flat
‘Vintage pieces are a big part of my signature style – it’s always been my thing,’ says Lynda. ‘When I started, it was harder to find good contemporary design, but today there is a great choice. I like contrasting things like Moroccan rugs and textured cushions with modern lighting.’ You can find similar rugs at tateanddarby.com. The wooden table is by hkliving.com.au; the sofa is by bisquetraders.com.au. Image: Marnie Hawson

Fast forward 30 years and the beach-side apartment, located in the heart of Melbourne’s St Kilda, has recently undergone another makeover. It is one of four properties that Lynda now lets as boutique holiday rentals. Set within a hidden oasis in a block of four 1950s apartments, The Studio offers a leafy escape from the city streets.

Lynda Gardener
Lynda’s personal style reflects the laidback, boho vibe of her interiors. The sketch behind her is a flea-market find. Image: Marnie Hawson

With a north-facing aspect (which is sun-facing in Australia), floor-to-ceiling windows enhance the feeling of light and space. Mirrored cupboard doors at the end of the studio reflect the plant-filled garden to the side and, by night, open to reveal a space-saving fold-down bed. ‘Good storage is a prerequisite in open-plan, bijoux interiors,’ says Lynda. ‘The only wall in the studio is to the tiny bathroom – clutter is hidden, allowing special pieces to create the wow.’ 

Lynda Gardener garden
‘In Melbourne it is a luxury to have a spacious garden,’ says Lynda. She designed the ironwork door and window bars at the studio entrance. Most of the plants were inherited from her mum. The white chair is from ikea.com; the trolley by adairs.com.au. Image: Marnie Hawson

The apartment’s white walls and floors are softened with warm neutral shades and natural textures – a linen sofa, a shaggy wool rug, sisal pouffes, a crocheted chandelier – all punctuated with vintage finds. ‘For me, interiors are about making people feel at home,’ says Lynda, and you can see why her cool but cosy style has gained an international following. 

A replica Eero Saarinen Tulip table (from templeandwebster.com.au) and Philippe Starck Victoria Ghost chairs add a contemporary edge to the interior. The lush indoor greenery mirrors the garden that surrounds the studio. Image: Marnie Hawson

Her passion for sourcing items grew from working as a concept-store merchandiser for Levi Strauss from the age of 19, and her mother was also a big inspiration. ‘Wherever I am in the world I cannot resist the draw of a flea market,’ she says. ‘My mother was very creative and taught me all about scouring markets and buying well.’ 

Contemporary modern kitchen units and original wooden floorboards painted white create a fresh simplicity. The side table is from ikea.com, the leather chair by barnabylane.com.au. Image: Marnie Hawson

After 12 years at Levi’s, Lynda opened her Melbourne vintage store Empire. It ran for 24 years, making way for Lynda’s new ventures: The Estate Trentham – an accommodation, shop, café and workshop experience in the Melbourne countryside – and Inside Story, a commercial and residential design business, set up with fellow stylist Belle Hemming. 

But although Lynda’s empire has grown, her down-to-earth attitude remains intact and is integral to her success. ‘I feel so lucky to have spent my working life creating beautiful spaces,’ she says. 

Shop the look

Think natural materials and a neutral palette

Sofa, £1,395, loaf.com

Basket, £85, habitat.co.uk

Cushion, £60, rockettstgeorge.co.uk

Table, £3,972, conranshop.co.uk

Faux aloe plant, £110, trouva.com

Rug, £240, designvintage.co.uk
Chair, £495, frenchconnection.com

Table, £1,185, juliajones.co.uk
Pot, £65, amara.com


Report by Ali Heath

MORE: How to weave white into your wardrobe this summer