Leaf through any home decor magazine, scroll through home real estate sites, or perhaps an Instagram account of an interior designer and it’s likely you’ll see immaculate spaces, free of clutter, where every piece is well thought out and in its place. Walk into any family home in real life and it’s quite often the opposite. Can you have a home that is both stylish and comfortable? Or do you have to sacrifice one for the other?
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Richard Misso, from interior design company The Stylesmiths, knows how to balance style, comfort and functionality.

“Understanding how a family lives helps us respond with well thought out design solutions that satisfy our clients’ comfort needs,” he says.

“We try to find out if they like to lay across the sofa or sit upright, do they like to elevate their feet? Do they require back support? Do the kids like to sit on the floor? Do they require an adult zone that reflects calm and peace?”

The Stylesmiths recently helped transform an original 1940s dark and disjointed home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs into a family home for four with plenty of space and style.

“There was a strict budget in place with a brief to be very functional yet look good,” says Misso. “In keeping with a beachside feel, everything was kept light and bright in the interior with a bold exterior, navy contrasted crisply with white trims. The neutral palette of concrete floors and blonde timbers could then lend itself to pops of colour through artwork and furniture.

“Subtle features throughout included handmade ceramic tiles to the kitchen splashback and feature pendant lighting to the kitchen and master bedroom.”

The Stylesmiths captured the essence of laid back beachside chic that responded to the young family’s needs and style.

It’s about the details, both overt and covert. A balance between the two makes for a successful interior and cohesive home,” says Misso.

“Hidden or secondary details bring all the elements together connecting the furnishings, paint, surfaces, artwork and lighting; a good example of hidden details is good lighting versus harsh lighting.”

Of course, it’s not just the look at the interior design stage. A home’s functionality, style and comfort have to be considered in the very early stages of planning, and for the home-dweller it might not be immediately obvious what these designs are.

Japanese developers Sekisui House are designing homes with smart floor plans that cater to families.

“We consider how people move about the house,” says Takao Sawai, head of corporate marketing, Australia. “And position particular areas in close proximity to each other to provide comfort and convenience for residents.”

If you’ve just parked your car in the garage after shopping for groceries, for example, their homes provide direct access to the pantry to get everything inside with minimal fuss.

“It’s those sort of little ideas that make a big difference,” says Sawai.

Their way of looking at the housing affordability issue is that you don’t need to sacrifice comfort and design with a smaller floor plan; instead, it can be used to maximum efficiency.

An example is the inclusion of study zones within a central location in the home, instead of being tucked away in a back room.

“A feature of our study nooks is a lower wall height that encourages closeness with children, it provides more family time,” says Sawai.

The company’s development and research team continually measure feedback from their customers to ensure future designs continue to evolve.

“There’s a lot of nice architecture in the world but is it really useable?” he says.

“We are not a company that designs just for aesthetics or just for functionality. We combine lifestyle, safety, style and comfort; somewhere you might want to live for life.”