The holiday house is filled with the interior stylist's textiles and furniture designs.
A Coastal Airbnb Decorated to Perfection by Stylist Tim Neve
The holiday house is filled with the interior stylist's textiles and furniture designs.
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans, and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour a chic Airbnb in Smiths Lake, New South Wales, that interior designer Tim Neve has styled to perfection.
Tim Neve has always had a knack for making a room interesting. As a child, he was constantly redecorating his bedroom and playing with the layout. He unsurprisingly landed in the world of styling for interior magazines over a decade ago. "It’s funny when you look back and realise there was probably going to be no other calling..." he shares with Bed Threads Journal. Tim also makes textile designs for homewares like cushions and throws. A couple of years ago he launched his ‘Muse’ collection which is now stocked at designer homewares stores around Australia.
More recently he has delved into the world of furniture creating sculptural, organic-shaped statement pieces that are executed in warm and tactile materials like rattan, teak, and travertine. Each piece is handcrafted by talented artisans using quality materials in limited quantities.
His list of accolades doesn't end there. In 2015 he published a book titled 'Sandcastles' an exploration of coastal-inspired styling and has taught interior decorating to students at institutions including Design School in Melbourne.
The 'Lake Haus' is the third Airbnb project that Tim has tackled. The property is located in Smiths Lake, on the Mid-Coast of New South Wales, an area that boasts a bush meets the sea landscape that's ideal for holiday goers. This home is everything you'd want from a vacation getaway; it's expansive, well-appointed, and exudes a laidback-luxe aesthetic. It's the type of accommodation you'd find hard leaving.
It's one thing to style a home, but to be creative enough to have designed many of the furniture pieces within is another feat altogether. In the living area, a curved buffet table, linen daybed, and leather armchair from his furniture collection sit around a stone coffee table. The Terracotta cushion covers have been thoughtfully chosen to match the armchair's tan leather seat.
The open-plan kitchen and dining area is an entertainer's dream. Here, a custom-made dining table in a nude-hued Venetian plaster features an organic shape and is large enough to seat all the guests of the home. The woven dining chairs that surround this monolithic beauty are another creation of Tim's as well as the bar stools that line the kitchen island.
The primary bedroom is perhaps best described as a wing of the home as it features a walk-in robe, double bathroom, and lounge room that runs the full width of the home. Tim's woven 'Wave' bedhead makes for a chic backdrop to the Cacao and Hazelnut bedding.
We spoke to Tim about his creative process, his top tips for a well-styled home, and his upcoming projects.
Hi Tim! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I’m an interior stylist and I make my own textile designs – hand painting patterns onto paper first. The designs are then perfected through a digital process and produced onto natural fibres like linen and hand-made in Australia into homewares like cushions and throws. Most recently I’ve moved into furniture design, with my first range titled Début.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I recently watched the movie ‘Where'd You Go, Bernadette’ and really connected to Cate Blanchett’s main character. My key takeaway was that you can’t stop a creative soul from creating – it’s what we need to do to survive. It’s how I’ve always been and I know it will be the same until I take my last breath. I’m always dreaming up the next big artistic output – so sometimes I look back at something from 10 years ago and think fondly ‘Oh, I remember that’ or at the same time think ‘Gosh, what will I be creating in another decade’s time…’ I’m sure it will be something completely different, it always is, which is the thrill of the ‘creative high’ chase I guess.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
It’s funny when you look back and realise there was probably going to be no other calling – as a kid, I would constantly be redecorating my bedroom, and playing with different styles and layouts. I landed in the world of styling for interior magazines over a decade ago and loved that same energy of getting to create a whole new visual world every day. Over the years I’ve slowly built up my brand to include textiles and now furniture designs – it’s amazing to have that creative output over almost every item you can place into a room.
One career avenue I didn’t think I would go down is teaching. But in recent years I’ve had the privilege of teaching interior decorating to students for some amazing institutions around Australia. I never thought I would teach, but turns out I love it – once you get me talking about interiors I can’t stop! At the moment I work with Design School in Melbourne, founded by Jenna Densten from The Block. We launched the NSW course in my hometown of Newcastle last year, and deliver it online to students all around the globe.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I’m keenly inspired by nature itself, especially the repetitive motifs. Combined with an earthy palette, sometimes the resulting organic forms can be so simple it’s almost prehistoric. My work has always included a lot of texture. I like to then combine that with global trend forecasting so I can create something that feels totally authentic but also timely. I always start with a pen to paper – doodling shapes or translating ideas out of my mind. But then it’s onto the computer to polish everything into a professional creation. It’s all about realness for me – I hate being behind the computer for too long – I’m more touch and feel, so it’s all about the textures and tactility of materials. I love being surrounded by real samples, and seeking out new materiality through this process, mixing and matching swatches to seek contrast and fresh combinations.
For #musebytimneve textiles I took inspiration from ancient architecture and mythology – I remember conceptualising the designs while on one of those double-decker tourist buses going sightseeing around Athens (yes, I never switch off!) The result is arch motifs mingling with feminine sculptural forms, mixing a stylish palette of warm and earthy clay tones. I find the ideas and designs can flow really quickly once I’m in the creative process, but for textiles especially it can take many rounds of sampling back and forth to get colours ‘just right’ – that perfect ‘clay pink’ I use as the basis in a lot of my designs is the magic combination of warm undertones, without being too sweet of a pink hue and sure didn’t happen by accident!
For the furniture, I found the process a bit more daunting as I don’t come from an industrial design background. I was dreaming up bold, sculptural forms – like I wanted to produce chairs that had never been seen before, more artforms than furniture supported by huge spherical chunks of timber – but at the same time, they had to still be ergonomic and functional to sit in. Luckily, the factory I collaborate with could advise on structural elements as needed then it was about getting the balance right with aesthetics at the same time to not lose that initial vision in the process.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
I have to say Instagram has been a game-changer. As a visual person, I fell in love with the platform immediately, as the perfect way to share my aesthetic. You really can be the curator of a window into your own visual world. What I didn’t realise at first was how strong that ‘social’ aspect would be – it really breaks down global barriers so it’s easy to say ‘Hey, we should collaborate’ which means there are so many more opportunities these days. The best strategy online is to remain true. I can truly say Instagram has become the best tool to share my work, and connect with like-minded individuals – by the time you meet someone in the real world you usually feel like you know them well, that’s the power of sharing honestly I guess!
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
Patience. That’s been a long lesson and I think I’m finally getting there. Early in my career, I wanted it all – and I wanted it now! But I’ve begun to realise as I get older that all those cliches are true – good things do take time. I’m also a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and at the right divine timing. So I’ve eventually learnt to let go as everything does work out in the end, and missed opportunities usually turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Becoming a Dad was a huge eye-opener too, as my five-year-old still has so many years of growing ahead – it put time at large back into perspective for me. Work-wise, deciding to produce the furniture range off-shore I had to have a little talk to myself – and prepare that the process was a lot longer. (My textiles can be custom produced in Australia in a matter of weeks). Even once the furniture pieces are produced it can take months for them to make their way across the ocean, so there’s a huge amount of time between the idea to seeing it in reality. But it turns out, it is totally worth the wait!
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
I wrote a book, published in 2015 titled Sandcastles. It was an exploration of coastal-inspired styling. Books are a massive undertaking, and this one saw me travel the coast of Australia for many months with a photographer styling unique homes and locations to fill the 272 pages. On top of that, thousands of accompanying words somehow flowed from this first-time author. It was picked up by publishers at Harper Design and released in the US, which resulted in an extract in the style-bible that is Architectural Digest. But the highlight was walking into Selfridges in London and seeing my published book on the shelves – I signed copies of it in store for people to buy, it felt like a total dream!
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Don’t be afraid to ask the question. So many of my best career opportunities have come from me making the approach. I’m actually not a confident person, but I’ve never sat back and waited for the offers to come to me. Always be prepared for a ‘No thanks’ and don’t take it personally (still working on that!). People usually appreciate the proactive approach, and you have to stay visible to remain on our industry’s radar. I guess that relates to my other passion: small business. I learnt quickly in life that if I wanted to keep creating for a living I had to learn the other side of things that don’t come naturally to me – the numbers for example – it’s something you have to understand and make work for yourself if you want to maintain artistic freedom.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
This is my third consecutive Airbnb project, the latest titled ‘Lake Haus’ is an impressive freestanding two-storey, five-bedroom architectural-style home. I purchased the property just over a year ago in the middle of 2021. After searching the east coast for my next holiday home project, I eventually landed on Smiths Lake. The area of Pacific Palms is familiar to me and holds special memories holidaying at nearby Boomerang Beach as a kid on family holidays. Smiths Lake appealed for that bush meets the sea, total escape-vibe.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
As you approach the corner block, the home is surrounded by the most inviting, lush tropical landscaping, so when I arrived at the property I instantly knew it was ‘the one.’ Once inside, the home is architecturally stunning, with soaring raked ceilings, square-set white walls and burnished concrete floors. It oozed quality in its finishes, and was the perfect blank canvas for me to do what I love best – styling and decorating.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
Because of the simple existing palette, the home lacked warmth, so I immediately started adding inviting texture through materials like wood grain in the kitchen cabinetry, plus the stunning antique terracotta tile splashback that I installed myself. I also added impressive floor-to-ceiling sheer curtains across the huge alfresco stacking doorway, which has softened the space immensely.
I invested in a select few visually high-impact, large-proportion statement pieces in the home, like an impressive organic stone feature wall in the alfresco area plus a massive 2m custom-made barn door as entry to the parent’s retreat.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
My previous Airbnb “Bay Haus’ located at Nelson Bay was an instant hit – both online and with guests who stayed – so I tried to build on the design elements that resonated from there: the warm but neutral colour schemes, an abundance of natural light, earthy textures, and organic shapes.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
The largest furniture piece is a stunning dining table – custom made by Object X in Gold Coast, QLD in a nude-hued Venetian plaster, the organic shape with light texture has a stylish yet prehistoric feel to it. Large enough to seat all the guests to the home, it’s both an impressive visual and tactile object – I don’t think I’ve seen anyone be able to walk past it without running their hands along the surface!
Most recently I remixed the spaces with the arrival of my #debutbytimneve furniture collection. The arch-shaped dining chairs, warm nude leather seating and chiselled travertine tabletops were designed with the home in mind, so look perfect in the spaces.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
With so many bedrooms in the home, the point of difference is the introduction of some gorgeous Australian art as a focal point in each room – stunning limited edition prints from artists like Jai Vasiceck, Bonnie Gray, Lauren Featherstone, and Xander Holliday. I love that I’ve got an excuse to curate a collection of gorgeous artworks, and support local artists – I’m keen to move the pieces around the home and swap them out with any new finds.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
The master bedroom is massive – a real parents’ retreat with a walk-in robe, double bathroom, and lounge room that runs the full width of the home. It’s also bathed in gorgeous warm natural light no matter what hour, so it’s a feel-good functional space to spend the whole day in.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
I love mixing bed linens to create my own schemes – opting for tactile organic textures. A lot of the time if I fall in love with a new linen colourway I’ll just buy a set of pillowcases first to try the colour in the interior. I hate ‘matchy matchy’ so this is a great way to break the predictable formula. Always use good-quality, plush feather inserts – they can easily be fluffed up, there’s nothing worse than a sad-looking lumpy cushion! Then it’s all about layers, I always add texture in a throw, quilt or blanket on top of the main linen, which also adds a practical layer of warmth if needed too. Of course, my own textile range features throughout the Lake Haus. Muse by Tim Neve hand-painted linen fibres as feature cushions appear in most rooms.
Beyond the bed, if you’re planning a room from inception, I love pendants hung on each side as it frees up space on bedside tables without the need for lamps. The bedside tables themselves can be made from anything – a stool, a pile of books – as long as they are at the right height for arms reach.
I guess these are all the same rules I apply to style interiors in general – to look beyond the predictable and expected and seek out your unique combinations.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I’m about to start exporting my designs globally! I’ve had so much interest from beyond Australia over the years. This year has been all about growth for the Tim Neve brand, so I’m thrilled that we are starting to export the Australian-made textiles overseas, available in key markets like Los Angeles – as I think that laid-back LA style is so similar to our Australian design ethos. We are on the hunt to partner with retailers, showrooms and designers offshore who have a style synergy.