Sydney’s Star Decorators Who Are Adapting To A New World
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Sydney’s Star Decorators Who Are Adapting To A New World

Here are a few emerging talents to watch.

By Kirsten Craze
Mon, Jul 25, 2022 10:44amGrey Clock 6 min

Interior designers shape how we exist within internal spaces, blending form and function to create inner sanctums that embrace us physically and emotionally. In a post-pandemic world, where home has become our sanctuary, interior designers are stepping up the plate to produce palettes that both comfort and inspire.

In Sydney,  interior designers have never been busier as the city experiences a buying and building boom. From private harbour-front mansions to more humble residences, talented stylists and decorators are in high demand.

Here are a few emerging Sydney talents to watch.

Shakila Shaflender

Shakila Shaflender. Photo: Bureau SRH

Growing up in Iran, Shakila Shaflender, 37, dreamt of a career in design but it took two decades and a relocation to the other side of the globe to see her vision come to life.

“In Iran it wasn’t easy because being creative was sort of looked down on. I grew up in a family where my mom and dad were professionals and their feeling was ‘Yes, you can do that in your free time, but you really have to have a proper job’. Design and creativity was appreciated but seen as a weekend thing in an environment where unemployment was high,” Ms Shaflender said.

“I studied politics and African studies back in Iran and then, sadly, I had to leave the country. I lived for a while in Malaysia before migrating to Australia but I couldn’t continue working in politics when I came here as an immigrant in 2010. I knew absolutely no-one and English wasn’t my first language. It was extremely difficult, so I just had to begin again. But I always had the attitude that I do want to learn and I will do whatever it takes.”

After Arriving in Sydney 12 years ago, Ms. Shaflender worked as a restaurant manager for several years before returning to study her first love—design. She graduated with a Diploma of Interior Design in 2021, and landed coveted internships with leading Sydney interior designers Claire Delmar and Megan Morton, before scoring a full-time job with award-winning architecture and interior design firm Bureau SRH.

The diversity and inclusiveness of Sydney’s design scene is Ms. Shaflender’s ongoing inspiration.

“It’s wonderful because there’s space for everyone and a place for everyone’s own style. I grew up in the Middle East and it’s a very different type of architecture and interiors. When I moved to Malaysia I saw the amazing temples and buildings and thought they were beautiful. Then when I came to Australia it was all really different again. So as I develop as a designer I think I can bring bits and pieces from all these different quarters that I love.”

Since entering the industry, Ms. Shaflender has worked on the redesign of several high-end Sydney homes including a Queens Park apartment, a waterfront residence at Bondi Beach, and is currently working on a semi-detached house in Dover Heights Semi and a house in Bondi.

Photo: Bureau SRH

Focusing on residential design, Ms. Shaflender said she aimed to create spaces that not only looked appealing, but also promoted a sense of wellbeing.

“I am all about how it affects our health and mental health. I’ve worked a lot with building biologists to make sure the spaces we create are healthy, so we don’t create something that grows mould or has high electromagnetic impact on people who live there. That’s quite important for me to make sure spaces are created in healthy ways, both physically and emotionally.”

Kyara Coakes

A love of travel and design played a tug-o-war at Kyara Coakes’s heartstrings straight out of college. Although she’d studied interior design, a 21-year-old Ms. Coakes (now 34) followed the well-trodden path of many 20-something Australians and took off to discover the world.

“I lived in London for two years, but it was in the middle of the [global financial crisis] and I couldn’t find a job in design so I ended up falling into real estate,” she said.

When back in Sydney, Ms. Coakes’ real estate career flourished, but so did her love of design and property styling.

“My interior design background was always in the back of my head. As a compromise I started styling my own properties for sale. From 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. I was styling properties and during the day I was selling them. Then one night it just came to me while sitting on the floor putting together flat pack furniture. I thought ‘I love this so much more than the selling side, I need to change.’”

The career pivot from agent to founder of The Property Stylist in 2019, in a city where real estate agents have become the nouveau riche thanks to skyrocketing property prices, was more about emotion than money.

“It was the perfect marriage for me; merging my love of property and design together. I can’t help using my years in real estate to impact what I do. I know how buyers flow through a space, I know what agents are going to say and do so that’s how I put the furniture and layout together.”

“Styling for sale” has become a common selling tool in Sydney, with research from one agency group, LJ Hooker, suggesting a styled property will sell for between 7.5% and 12.5% more than an empty or poorly presented home.

Styling for sale might have been the jumping off point for The Property Stylist, which is now a team of 12, but a hunger for high-end interior design and project management quickly saw the business expand.

“It happened organically with agents saying to us, ‘We can’t get carpet, we can’t get a painter, or a handyman.’ So I adopted a project management side of the business where an agent literally hands me the keys and two weeks later I hand the keys back to a new look home. We then started creating such great relationships with the homeowners that we began doing the interior design of their new homes.”

Previous projects for Ms. Coakes include a luxury penthouse fit out in Sydney’s harborfront suburb of Milsons Point, a French-inspired chateau in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales and the office space of financial firm Pac Capital in the CBD’s iconic Macquarie House building.

Ike Sonder 

Ike Sonder 

After graduating with a Diploma of Interior Design in 2021 from TAFE NSW, Ike Sonder recently celebrated one year at residential design firm Lawless & Meyerson, but he is already filling up his metaphorical trophy cabinet. The 41-year-old creative recently won TAFE NSW’s Excellence awards as the Creative and Design Ideation student of the year, plus the Graduate Of The Year Award for interior decoration awarded by Design Institute Australia.

They’re proud achievements for a later-in-life newcomer to the business who, as a kid, would spend hours sketching at home in The Netherlands, where he grew up. Not only did a young Mr. Sonder never imagine his ideas could one day come to life, he didn’t expect to be creating beautiful spaces for Sydneysiders, thousands of miles from his homeland.

“I used to watch movies in the days of VHS tapes and pause and rewind them to sketch out the houses I saw, or study home and garden shows back in Holland just because I liked copying what they did,” he said. “Back then I also went to IKEA almost every week for inspiration and I remember having a little briefcase I carried around with all my drawings in it.”

After studying event management, he worked in hospitality and then retail before a redundancy in his late 30s sent him back to his beloved sketch pad.

“I had been working in designer homewares, selling furniture to designers and architects but when that company restructured it was actually the welcome push I needed to go back to study.”

The work selling high-end design pieces was an ideal apprenticeship according to Mr. Sonder who arrived in Sydney 13 years ago. Another string to his bow is his heritage, which he said directly plays into his creative work, and its uniqueness appeals to Australians seeking a fresh approach.

“Because my background is European I do feel like my aesthetic is a little different than the average Australian. I’m 100% minimalistic and I’m in love with the color black. I like geometry and working with shapes or playing with proportions and the simplicity that comes from that. Whereas, I feel like Australian design is traditionally a lot softer.”

“I quite like the fact that I’ve discovered my own style through study later in life. It forces you to do a bit more research into what you really like, what you can create and how you create it.”

The award-winning recent graduate has already designed an office space for a real estate agency in Sydney’s edgy city fringe neighbourhood of Darlinghurst and is currently working on other confidential projects.

Reprinted by permission of Mansion Global. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 24, 2022.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Home values across Australia rose by a median 8 percent in FY24, delivering the equivalent of $59,000 in new capital growth to the two-thirds of the population that owns a home, according to CoreLogic data. Investors received total returns of 12.2 percent over the year, including capital gains and gross rental income.

Very tight supply and demand in most capital cities except Melbourne and Hobart was a significant driver of the capital growth, with the smaller and more affordable capital cities of Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide experiencing the most price appreciation over the year. A lack of properties for sale trumped the usual dampening effect of higher interest rates.

As usual, some areas outperformed their city’s median growth benchmark. Here are the top SA3 areas for capital growth in each capital city of Australia in FY24. SA3 areas are large suburbs, or districts incorporating clusters of suburbs, with more than 20,000 residents.



Home values across Sydney rose by a median 6.3 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Mount Druitt. Its median value rose by 13.96 percent to $859,939. Mount Druitt is located 33km west of the CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Mount Druitt, Ropes Crossing, Whalan and Minchinbury. The Mount Druitt community is very multicultural with almost one in two residents born overseas. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the NSW median of 39.



Home values across Melbourne rose by a median 1.3 percent in FY24. The top area for capital growth was Moreland-North with 4.71 percent growth. This took the district’s median home value to $746,488. Moreland-North includes the suburbs of Hadfield, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy. It’s a multicultural community with a particularly large contingent of residents with Italian ancestry. One or both parents of 66 percent of residents were born overseas, according to the 2021 Census.



Home values across Brisbane rose by a median 15.8 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Springwood-Kingston in Logan City. Its median value swelled by 25.55 percent to $710,569. Springwood-Kingston is approximately 22km south of Brisbane CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Springwood, Kingston, Rochedale South and Slacks Creek. It is a multicultural community with one or both parents of 55 percent of the residents born overseas, according to the 2021 Census. More than 15 percent of residents have Irish or Scottish ancestry.



Home values across Adelaide rose by a median 15.4 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Playford in Playford City. Its median value soared by 19.94 percent to $530,991. Playford is approximately 40km north of Adelaide. It incorporates the suburbs of Elizabeth Downs, Elizabeth Grove, Angle Vale and Virginia. It is home to many young people under the age of 40. The median age of residents is 33 compared to the state median of 41.



Home values across Perth rose by a median 23.6 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Kwinana in Kwinana City. Its median value skyrocketed by 33.19 percent to $618,925. Kwinana is approximately 37km south of Perth CBD. It includes the suburbs of Leda, Medina, Casuarina and Mandogalup. Henderson Naval Base is located here and there is a significant community of servicemen and ex-servicemen living in the area. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the state median of 38.



Home values across the nation’s capital rose by a median 2.2 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Weston Creek. Its median value rose by 5.24 percent to $937,740. Weston Creek is approximately 13km south-west of the CBD. It includes the suburbs of Weston Creek, Holder, Duffy, Fisher and Chapman. Approximately 43 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is on par with the ACT median but much higher than the national median of 26 percent. Household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median. Almost one in five residents work in government administration jobs.



Home values across Hobart fell 0.1 percent in FY24. The top performing area for capital gains was Sorell-Dodges Ferry with 2.78 percent growth. This took the area’s median home value to $615,973. Sorell-Dodges Ferry is approximately 25km north-west of Hobart. It incorporates the suburbs of Richmond, Sorell, Dodges Ferry, Carlton and Primrose Sands. The area has a large community of baby boomers and retirees, with the median age of residents being 43 compared to the Australian median of 38.



Home values across Darwin rose by a median 2.4 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Litchfield. Its median value moved 3.21 higher to $672,003. Litchfield is about 37km south-east of Darwin and includes the suburbs of Humpty Doo, Acacia Hills and Southport.  It has a high proportion of middle-aged residents, with the median age being 39 compared to the territory median of 33. About 12 percent of residents are Indigenous Australians. The biggest industries are government administration and defence. Median household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median.



This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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