Louise Olsen: The Art Of Style

  1. Work Of Art: Louise Olsen in front of a painting by her husband Stephan Ormandy. Dress by Peter Pilotto from Net-A-Porter.com; Burberry sandals and Dinosaur Designs jewellery. Photo by Romy Frydman courtesy of Porter magazine.

I WAS SO HONOURED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY RECENTLY TO PROFILE LOUISE OLSEN FOR PORTER MAGAZINE. LOUISE IS ALWAYS SO INSPIRING, SHE HAS A WONDERFUL VIEWPOINT, AND HER STYLE IS SUPREMELY ELEGANT – ALL WHILE MIXING UNEXPECTED COLOURS AND ARTFUL SHAPES. TO TOP IT OFF, WE SHOT AT HER BRILLIANT HOME BY THE SEA

Photographs by Romy Frydman  |  Words Natasha Inchley 

“Nothing stays still in this place,” says Louise Olsen who is standing in the living room in front of an enormous canvas painted with colourful organic shapes that seem to bounce off each other. “I’m not scripted with our interior; we love to keep moving the artworks around in order to see them again.” 

Show case: above left, a collection of objets including a Gemma Smith sculpture and a glass ghost by Nell; above right, Louise wears a dress by Zimmermann, from Net-A-Porter.com.

Her romantic eye is to be expected: Olsen grew up beside the sea, in Sydney’s Watsons Bay, a quiet, bohemian suburb lapped by the city’s harbour. It was here she absorbed her father’s famous art – John Olsen, the charismatic Australian master, kept his easel in the family room, while her mother, Valerie, had a studio upstairs. “I was surrounded by my parents’ creativity, and also the coming and going of artists, gallerists and writers. My dad was a great cook, he would create elaborate feasts on a Friday evening and you never really knew who was going to drop by to share the wine and olives.”

This giddy eclecticism inspired Olsen’s own ventures in art and decorating, not just with the creation of Dinosaur Designs, a vibrant homewares and jewellery brand she founded with her husband Stephen Ormandy 30 years ago, but also with the family home the couple share with their daughter, Camille, 17. “Stephen is a surfer, so we set out to find a place where we could look out on the blue ocean as a balance to our hectic lives. I think when you live near the sea it really transports you, like a tonic. It inspires creativity and allows you to drift for a moment.”

When asked how she helps to make her home feel warm and inviting, Olsen points to its calming influences: “I have always hated the idea of walking into a room where a TV dominates. This home, for us, is such a great place to rest and move and be creative; it's an incredible thinking space – I love the library in particular, I think the more art and books you bring into your life, the more enriched your world becomes.”

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She describes her aesthetic as being very considered: “I love the relationship between nature and objects. There’s a lovely complexity there and that always fascinates me as a designer.” Throughout, her home Olsen has arranged collected sculptures, shells, photography books and treasured objets into wonderful vignettes and coloured groupings. “My mum spent a great deal of time laying out pieces of coral or keys and so forth, she had this incredible talent for placing things, I was always fascinated by it.”

Olsen’s modernist all-white kitchen features windows that run the length of the room, while the open-plan living space allows light to enter through architectural columns that vary in size. “We entertain here and have big parties; people end up staying the night and sleeping on cushions. Our friends really feel like they can come and lounge here,” she explains. “We didn’t want it to be rigid, the house had to have a beautiful rhythm and flow to it. It had to feel a little surprising.”

Olsen’s compelling aesthetic crosses over from her home to her wardrobe. “I see them all as interacting art forms: my clothes are like a kind of art collection to me; I really treasure them and play with them. The closet is a work in progress, just as the house is.” On the subject of fashion she says, “I don't know why some people treat fashion like it's a shallow interest; I think all the decisions that go into a garment are so closely related to all the decisions that come with applying paint to a canvas. I see fashion as being a very high art form.” She cites the labels Isabel Marant, Dries Van Noten, Chloé, Céline and Miu Miu as cases in point. "You’ve got to play with fashion and push it around and be a bit fearless with it,” she says. “Ultimately, I think those that do make for the most exciting dressers.”

To read the full interview, buy the latest issue of Porter on stands now. Porter is also available as a digital edition here