Megan Hess at home. Pictures: Eugene Hyland
ENTER the picture-perfect Port Melbourne apartment of international fashion artist and illustrator Megan Hess and you’ll feel as though you have stepped into one of her artworks.
Her signature style and passion for fashion has shaped her home, which exudes a timeless elegance.
“I like to create calmness in the spaces I inhabit, which is why we have gone for a largely white interior with a mix of metallics and graphic black. It’s more about pared-back tones here,” Ms Hess said of the penthouse-style residence in the roof cavity of an old church.
Ms Hess, who designs for high-end hotels around the world and brands including Dior, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier, Givenchy, Disney and Tiffany & Co., has an affinity for metallics and isn’t shy to mix and match them to bring a little fun and life into a room.
The colour white was chosen for its serene quality.
When they bought the apartment, Ms Hess and her architect husband, Craig Yelland, had already decided to gut the place and start from scratch. Their aim was to create a home to suit the long-term needs of their family, including daughter Gwyn, now 12, and son Will, 8, who Ms Hess was pregnant with when they started renovating.
“The blue carpet was the first thing to go,” she recalled. “We were also keen to work with the angled rooflines, allowing them to define the home’s various spaces, as well as making the ceiling less imposing.”
The house was renovated to suit the family’s long-term needs.
Styling comes naturally for this design talent, who has her own illustrated home and lifestyle
range (which includes cushions, coffee cups, stationery, tableware, prints and scarves) and has 365,000 followers on Instagram.
And when it comes to styling a room, she gravitates towards combining lots of rich textures.
“I love velvets and really beautiful linens and enjoy creating a layered effect with them — it gives a room warmth and depth,” she said.
One of her favourite spaces is the dining room, where the table has been tastefully set with her luxe Kingdom Collection tableware.
Each dinner plate bears the illustrated face of a mythical queen and is stylishly paired with a side plate featuring a golden carriage.
“I love our dining table because it’s where our family comes together every night to share a meal and talk about our day,” she said.
Live like royalty with the Megan Hess limited-edition Kingdom Collection, which includes The Baroque Crown plate, $95.
In the centre of the table sits a large silver champagne bucket Ms Hess picked up at a flea market while living in London in 2002, which she has repurposed as a vessel for flowers.
“I remember seeing it sticking out of a brown cardboard box in the back of a truck. It was all dirty and grimy, but I had to have it,” she said.
“I was also on my way to lunch with some girlfriends, so had to sit with it on my lap in a tight cafe until I got it home.”
But going to great lengths for the right piece is not unusual for this artist.
It was at another flea market, during Paris Fashion Week in 2014, that she found the large silver knight statue that now takes pride of place on her living-room coffee table. With just a few hours before she had to board a plane, she struggled with how to get the piece home.
“I was already over on luggage and had no room in my suitcases, so I literally wore half my wardrobe to fit him in!”
Ms Hess’ knight in shining armour, a Paris flea-market find.
The home is full of design talking points — some less obvious than others, such as the “secret” entrances. As you wander through, you’ll discover walls that are actually doors opening to reveal hidden rooms and concealed storage, such as the padded leather wall in the entry that also serves to buffer sound from the living area to the children’s bedrooms.
Even the kitchen cupboards are hidden behind pressed-metal walls, which Ms Hess said added a beautiful finish but were also easy to wipe down and keep clean.
A utilitarian focus can often overshadow the inviting feel of a kitchen, but not this one — it is a place of beauty, featuring a splashback with an eye-catching print of an etching that portrays a grand ball at Versailles.
“I have a bit of an obsession with 18th-century France, and a lot of my illustration work has been influenced by this,” she said.
From the splashback to the pressed-metal cupboard doors, the French influence makes itself felt in the kitchen.
A similar floor-to-ceiling print of an etching has been used in the entry to create a bold and dramatic first impression as you step through the front door.
In the entry, a modern padded-leather wall is juxtaposed with a bold print of an etching.
In the main bedroom, Ms Hess found the perfect place to hang some baroque-patterned wallpaper she picked up in Milan some years ago. It now frames the entrance to her walk-in wardrobe, and “gives the room a lovely French-salon feel”, she said.
The focal point of the room is the white timber bed with decorative flourishes that took a year to have shipped from France.
“I found it online and like that it resembles a carriage — I am simply obsessed with carriages — but the company didn’t deliver to Australia. It took some convincing, but we got there in the end.”
Baroque-style wallpaper and a white timber carriage-like bed bring a French salon feel to the main bedroom.
The luxury hotel feel of the open ensuite is enhanced by a striking combination of high-end finishes, including marble floor tiles, ornate picture-frame mirrored cabinets, and a white claw-foot bath offset by a feature wall of Italian baroque-patterned black tiles — all softly lit by a chandelier.
Even the taps exude beauty, shaped like swans with water cascading from their mouths.
The tapware adds an extra touch of beauty.
A white claw-foot bath is offset by black tiles.
Having written and illustrated multiple fashion books, Ms Hess had her first children’s book, Claris: The Chicest Mouse in Paris, published earlier this year, introducing the world to the enchanting personality of her newest illustrated character.
She is currently working on a second children’s book, and Iconic, a book about the masters of Italian fashion, was published last month.
Ms Hess’ work is also being celebrated in a solo exhibition showcasing more than 400 of her illustrations, which will travel around parts of Asia from next June.
Given the hectic pace of her work life and the jetsetting nature of her job, home is where Ms Hess likes to kick off her heels for some precious downtime.
And in summer, she loves nothing more than spending time on the balcony terrace with her family.
“We throw open the doors and enjoy the sea breeze and just live out there,” she said.
“It’s quite private but you still get to enjoy the sounds of summer, which is why I like living near the beach but still in a populated area — you can hear the kids laughing and people chatting along the street, and the birds. It all says home to me.”
Natural light streams through large glass panels on to the balcony terrace.
Megan Hess’ tips for hanging art
When choosing art for your home, Ms Hess recommends surrounding yourself with pieces you love, that mean something to you, and that you will enjoy looking at.
Then pick a place in the home you feel really deserves it.
Start with one dominant piece and build around it, choosing imagery that blends harmoniously or perhaps take a more eclectic approach. This also goes for framing styles.
“I think nothing looks greater than a really modern piece of art beside a very vintage print of some sort, but to have success with this you do need to have confidence in what you’re doing, otherwise it can end up looking a bit of a mess,” Ms Hess said.
Varying scale was also important, she added.
“Don’t be afraid to go for something really big that is dynamic. All too often, people buy art that is too small for the space. And look to include artwork in otherwise forgotten areas of the home, such as bathrooms, the powder room and kitchen.”
Ms Hess has combined some of her illustrations with other prints, including classic-styled etchings and vintage photography, to dress the walls of the family’s apartment.
She said the rule of thumb was to find something that visually tied all the pieces together to create a decorating story that had real connection.
“The common thread in our home is the art is all black and white, but they are from different eras and use different mediums.”
Black-and-white art is a common thread through the home.