Annie Portelli is the magnetic Art Director of The Design Files where she has had the distinct pleasure of exploring some of Australia’s most beautiful spaces.
We visited Annie at her apartment to talk sentimentality, building a wardrobe around simplicity, her most memorable Melbourne jaunts (& Paul Rudd...off the record).
Photography : Jessica Grilli
Styling & Wardrobe : Sunshine Symbol
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR ROLE AS ART DIRECTOR AT THE DESIGN FILES & WHAT YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT IT?
Like most creative roles, my job as Art Director of The Design Files can be quite varied. Some days I’m at my computer conceptualising a shoot, other days I’m on the road sourcing products and every other day, I’m on location with a photographer, capturing someone's beautiful home. These days are the ones I enjoy most!
I am fortunate enough to be welcomed into some of the most beautiful homes in Australia on almost a weekly basis, and then given the task of helping capturing these homes in a truthful way. I think that’s what makes The Design Files houses so special, the homes we shoot and feature are real! Actual homes with personal belongings which the homeowner has curated themselves or had handed down to them. Items that they’ve had since they were 17, or maybe a new rug they’ve loaned from a friend just for the occasion. I love hearing the background stories of ‘where they found that antique side table’ or ‘how they picked up that beautiful ceramic vase for $3 and a thrift shop’ which now holds pride of place in the centre of their dining table.
Another thing I love about going to our house shoots is that you (most often) enter the homes knowing nothing about the homeowner or the house itself, and you always leave with a deep rooted knowledge of their past, cherished memories, their future plans, and even the small details like where that door used to lead to before they covered it up to make room for a closet because they have an overwhelming sneaker collection/obsession. You can really find out a lot about a person based on their house. You can’t really find that kind of content in any other Australian editorial publication so it feels really special to be a part of producing it.
ANNIE WEARS THE ILSA TRENCH
DO YOU HAVE ANY RITUALS OR ROUTINES AROUND FEEDING YOUR INSPIRATION?
I am obsessed with moodboarding. It’s the first thing I do when preparing for a styled shoot - but I have also started moodboarding for my personal life too! It’s the only way I can collate and make sense of an idea. In this job we see such a variety of beautiful things coming at us every day, so moodboarding is the best way to make a shortlist of products that really sing together, and define the look and feel of a shoot or space.
YOU'VE EXPLORED SOME OF OUR CITY'S MOST BEAUTIFUL INTERIORS, WHICH MELBOURNE JAUNTS DO YOU OFT REVISIT?
Just recently we visited the ICONIC Featherston House, which was absolutely unbelievable. It completely took my breath away. I remember studying this very house when I was in university. I liken that experience to that of meeting a celebrity in real life. You know so much about them that you feel like you know them, but you’re still overwhelmed when you meet them.
Another house which I think of often was the home of architect Zana Wright in Byron Bay. I can’t really describe the feeling of this house, it was so beautiful, so calming, so textural. The moment we walked in there I felt so at ease. Whenever I think back to this place I can remember that warm, calm feeling it emanated.
ANNIE WEARS THE HUTTON DRESS
HOW HAS MELBOURNE CEMENTED ITSELF AS HOME TO YOU? WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS CITY THAT MAKES YOU TICK?
For me, home is where the family is, and my family is in Melbourne’s West and I can definitely feel myself gravitating back toward them these days. My dad once said to me ‘You can take the girl out of the west but you can’t take the west out of the girl’ and I totally hear that! My partner and I were fortunate enough to be able to buy an old, run down weatherboard house ‘on the other side of the bridge’ in Newport (westside). It is located smack bang in the middle of my two brothers houses with a 5 or so min walk either way. I really feel like I’ve come full circle. I am back ‘home’ or much closer to it anyway. I also like looking back at the twinkling city from afar, being separated by a bay of water has made me much calmer already. I guess that’s what being by the water does to you sometimes.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR APPROACH TO BEAUTY & STYLE?
Simple, and comfortable. My entire wardrobe can be mixed and matched quite easily, I tend to buy variations of the same thing because why change a winning formula? Every now and then I’ll buy a *statement* piece for a bit of fun though. All my shoes are flat, all my tops have stretch and none of my pants are tight fitting. I find it distracting when I am uncomfortable so the less aware I am of my clothes, the better. As for beauty, the same principle applies, simplicity is key! I am not really loyal to one beauty brand, in fact my skin responds better to products when I change them up. The key is to leave the house feeling comfortable, with a face that looks natural.
ANNIE WEARS THE KEATS BLAZER
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT HOME'S PERSONALITY?
We’re still living in my little 60’s apartment while we renovate. I would describe it as warm, light and sentimental. Warm not so much in the physical sense (brick walls tend to keep things pretty cool in there) but there is a lot of timber furnishings in the apartment, and all the objects and furniture are quite tonal. The combination of this gives the house a warmth and a glow. I describe the house as light because there are so many windows throughout the apartment. Every wall has a window which I realise is a rarity these days! They knew what the people wanted back in the 60’s. As for sentimentality, literally everything in my apartment has a story. I tend to attach some sort of sentimental value to literally everything I own.
HAVING STYLED YOUR HOME AROUND SENTIMENTALITY, WHAT ARE SOME FEATURES YOU COULD INTRODUCE US TO & THE MEMORIES THEY'RE CHARGED WITH?
I can’t mention my apartment without mentioning the beloved bench top. She’s the real hero of that place! Completely packed with sentimental value with fragments of my parents very kitchen in amongst the terrazzo! It’s so nice to have pieces of my childhood home in my own apartment today. It’s so special! My dining table is another favourite piece, it was made by a long time friend of mine, Thomas Lentini. It is so tactile, so beautiful, and sturdy. It will follow me into every house I ever live in.
ANNIE'S BELOVED BENCH TOP, THE REMNANTS OF WHICH WERE REALISED INTO A BIRD BATH
FAVOURITE SCENT & SOUND TO COME HOME TO?
Scent - Jasmine flower in full bloom signifying the start of spring! What a transformative scent.
Sound - My mums laugh, it’s contagious, loud and filled with happy tears!
YOU'RE IN THE THICK OF SETTING UP YOUR NEXT HOME, HOW HAS THAT PROCESS BEEN?
It has been quite a journey so far, and we’re not even halfway there yet! There have been highs and lows, and the lows are mainly based on the fact that we’re trying to relocate during the thick of a pandemic which comes with its own challenges . It has really thrown a spanner in the works so to speak. Aside from that, we have enjoyed the physical side of things, tearing down walls, and smashing up tiles - that part of the process has been quite therapeutic. We’ve managed to do most of the work up until today on our own/with the help of family and friends, however, now we're at the stage where we’ve really got to start putting things back into the house, so that’s where we’re at. This is the part of the process that takes time, costs money, and does my head in. I’m excited for the day that we have walls again and I get to think about wall colours and where the stuff will go. But we’re very far from that at the moment, so I’m just sticking to moodboards to keep me going.
IS THERE A PIECE OF WRITING OR PERHAPS SOME WORDS OF ADVICE THAT HAVE STRUCK YOU & STUCK WITH YOU ALONG YOUR PATH?
I must say, recently I have had so many people tell me ‘It will all work itself out’ in regards to the house, our two time cancelled wedding, the ‘c’ word which we all want to be done with, and even just everyday things that have thrown us off our tracks in this particular stage of life. When you reach your 30’s life seems to speed up and it feels hard to keep up sometimes. I never know if I’m jumping ahead too fast or falling behind but at the end of the day it really does always ‘work itself out’ and that’s a mantra I’ve been chanting over the last couple of years, and there’s something reassuring about that. So thank you to the multiple people who have reiterated this simple, but worthy statement to me!
3 SONGS YOU'RE CIRCULATING OF LATE?
These days I have had Sally Tabs & The Peppermint Darling’s mix ‘SO MUCH SO MUCH’ just playing through on repeat! Gosh it’s good! As for 3 specific songs, it changes every day, but today:
Lupepau'u (Naughty Dove) - Sikaoma 'o e Halamangaono
Harvest Moon - Jane Birkin
Ngaï Tembe Eleka - Franco Luambo
ANYTHING EXCITING COMING UP THAT YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO?
I’m really looking forward to finishing this renovation and moving in! Getting into the garden, going for morning swims, being closer to family. It’s an exciting new life that my partner and I are both hanging out for! That’s at the front of our minds at the moment. I think we all need a bit of a refresh at the moment!