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Tali Roth talks space-planning, and starting over

The Melbourne-based interior designer on returning to her native city & making it feel like home

Tali Roth work
July 14, 2022

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Having recently relocated to Melbourne from New York, interior designer Tali Roth is balancing running a business on two continents with settling back into her native city with her young family. She describes her studio as “personal, small, bespoke and authentic,” with an aesthetic that incorporates vintage and antique pieces alongside beautiful materials – think statement-making marble and beautiful joinery – and a light, playful touch. 

Her projects, both residential and commercial, feel streamlined and coherent in part because of her approach to materials. “I like to keep them simple so there aren’t too many,” she explains. “You can’t go wrong with stone and timber, and then you source that hero [piece], like a patterned tile or a special plaster effect.”

Roth’s design process differs depending on whether she is just working on the decor of a project, or a full build. For the former, there’s more of a balance from the beginning between “the budget, space-planning and the client’s top priorities, then ensuring you capture the essence of the home and the people within it.” On building projects, meanwhile, the process needs to be broken down more. “You start macro and then you zoom in all the way till you end at the details,” she says. Space-planning takes priority, followed by specifying materials, “and then you get super detailed and attack the joinery. It’s much more involved, and obviously takes longer than simple decor.”

The designer originally trained in psychology, so it’s no wonder that she’s so good at getting under the skin of her clients’ desires, even when they may not even know themselves what they want. She gave it up to run a fashion label in Melbourne – “high end party dresses and sporty luxe attire” – but stopped, disenchanted, after four years to retrain in interiors, moving to New York with her husband almost immediately after finishing her studies. Having already run her own business in a tough industry, it wasn’t such a leap to strike out on her own again. “I think I was too scared to work for someone, if I am being honest,” she says. “I was so used to running my own race and dealing with people, I just didn’t feel like working at a firm was playing to my strengths.” After four years as a freelancer under the wing of start-up Homepolish, she had the contacts and the confidence to properly go it alone. 

Roth came back home to Melbourne because “of the realisation that we couldn’t function not seeing our families for long periods of time”, a feeling exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic. Her new home in the suburb of Caulfield North was originally built by her grandmother in the 1990s; sadly, she died while Roth and her family were in quarantine upon their return to Australia. They rent the place, so she hardly lifted a finger when it came to changing the fabric of the property, instead decanting all her furniture from New York into the space – where, amazingly, it seems to fit like a glove. “We had a 40-foot container of our belongings,” says Roth. “I collect furniture like some people collect shoes and I buy things because I love them, not because they look good in my particular space. I guess when we unpacked, there was a home for everything, and it worked!”

Sculptural furniture stands out against a backdrop of pale walls and floors, including a marble and steel dining table that Roth designed herself, which is surrounded by chairs by mid-20th-century Dutch designer Rudolf Wolf; in the main living space, there are rope and ceramic vintage French lamps and a pair of Lina Bo Bardi’s distinctive leather chairs, with two brass balls atop the tubular steel frame that act as handles to haul yourself in and out of a seated position. These sorts of eye-catching conversation pieces abound, but they never complete or intrude too strongly, and the drama is dialled down in Roth’s bedroom, with its simple brown velvet headboard edged in white piping, and steel bedside tables by Sisan Lee topped with Flos’ balloon-like Gatto table lamps.

In addition to the formal living area there’s also a smaller TV room that Roth says is her favourite space. It has a much more relaxed and playful tone about it: Gufram’s Cactus coat stand – an icon of irreverent 1970s design – stands in the corner, watching over a vintage terrazzo coffee table, with art from Christopher Markos on the wall, and the cosy cluster of furniture all sitting on a sisal rug. “It’s so fun and relaxed,” says Roth about the room, “and let’s be honest, I love a good TV session.”

Roth says that managing her business in both New York and Melbourne – particularly at a time where travel is severely curtailed – is still “a work in progress. So far I am lucky to have a small team in New York and we essentially play tag every day! Monday is my day to get ahead on things as it is still Sunday in New York.” Director of operations and design Carrie Senft, who joined the company is 2017, now helps runs the show in the US, while Roth currently has one person to help her in Melbourne, a situation that will surely change when she gets her feet more firmly planted on home soil. “So far I haven’t started any gut renovations here, so I can manage the two continents,” she says. “It’s hard work and sometimes is almost too much, but I am so excited that it is working, and will just keep perfecting the process.”

Tali’s Favourite Pieces:

I love my stainless-steel side tables in my bedroom – from artist/furniture designer Sisan Lee.

The Cane Bench in my entry – from Gustavo Bittencourt who is a talent and a legend!

The Rope and Ceramic French Lamps in my living Room – vintage from 1st Dibs.

The art in my TV room – from my dear friend Christopher Markos.

The bar in my kitchen – vintage brutalist from the 60’s.

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