Art Deco apartment makeover to create New York Paris vibe

Joanne O’Callaghan recently spent $20,000 giving her Art Deco apartment in East Melbourne a refresh.

The 1940s abode is full of light and charm. Having completely renovated it eight years ago, last year, Joanne felt it needed a freshen up, especially as it is being used as an Airbnb rental.

“When I am not working in the corporate world I write children’s books, and spend too much time in art galleries and secondhand shops,” says Joanne. “I love renovating and this is my fourth project. I moved to Melbourne 10 years ago from Hong Kong where I lived for 12 years.”

She playfully calls the living and dining space the ‘French Green Room’ after the feature colour used throughout. It features Art Deco cornices, a custom made tiered mirror above the original fireplace and a large framed window. 

“The distinctive style has been created with a mix of contemporary and mid-century designed pieces. This apartment sits on the first floor of a three-story Art Deco building in one of Melbourne’s earliest suburbs, East Melbourne. In the surrounding streets are some of Melbourne’s oldest and finest Victorian homes and terrace houses, parks and gardens.”

Her motivation for the 2022 glow up was to make better use of the space with distinct dining and sitting spaces, and to give the apartment more personality.  

“With assistance from a stylist, the wonderful Belle Hemming from Belle Bright Projects, I was able to give the apartment a much needed makeover. I was aiming to give the apartment something of a New York-meets-Paris-meets-Melbourne vibe.”  

The interior has been created with a mix of contemporary and mid-century style pieces. A selection of paintings, illustrations and soft furnishings give it a warm, inviting feel. 

What was done:

  • Re-sanded the original timber floorboards and stained them to achieve a warm walnut tone.
  • Remodelled the bedroom, removing some joinery to create more space. Added a roller blind. 
  • Introduced colour – the living and dining room the walls are painted up to the picture rails in ‘French Green’ by Porters Paints.
  • Gave the kitchen a new personality, added wallpaper to give the space depth and interest, installed two floating shelves, new light fixtures, and cupboard handles.
  • Installed reverse cycle air-conditioning.
  • Fully furnished the apartment.

Joanne says the biggest bargains were an Early Settler queen size bed for under $350, and a floor lamp from the Provincial Home Living outlet store ($80) teamed with a Le Klint shade she purchased in 2012 in Copenhagen and had never used! Meanwhile, the biggest indulgence was an Armadillo & Co rug in the living room. 

“I am thrilled with the green walls in the living room. I was really ready for something other than white on the walls. This shade is brilliant as it works well with so many other colours. There are many more combinations in soft furnishings I would like to try with it. It really makes the space feel warm and inviting.”

She adds: “I am very happy with the custom made mirror in the recessed panel above the fireplace. The masonry is in sections. I had a mirror cut to size for each panel and I love the effect.

“The total cost was approximately $20,000 including all trades, furnishings and items needed to move in, right down to beautiful towels, tea cups and tea towels!”

Book to stay here on Airbnb

Joanne’s latest kids’ book, Found in Sydney, is available now, published by Allen & Unwin.

Shop the look


  • Rug: Palus wool rug by Armadillo & Co
  • Floor lamp: Provincial Home Living and Le Klint shade
  • Cushions: Linen and Moore, Citta Design and various others
  • Sofa: Provincial Home Living
  • Coffee table:  Black timber ‘Villa’ coffee from Trit House
  • Pendant: Cloud Linen Oval pendant from Imprint House


  • Table: Round marble top dining table from Lounge Lovers
  • Chairs: By Thonet. No. 18 Thonet Bentwood chair and No.31 Fureau chair, both in black.
  • Art: ‘Buildings of Melbourne’ architectural illustrations by Lewis Brownlie


  • Wallpaper: Richmond Park design Zoffany Kensington Walk
  • Pendants: Black timber pendants from Beacon Lighting
  • Floating shelves: IKEA
  • Selected glassware, ceramics, crockery sourced from antique stores and markets. 


  • Bedlinen: West Elm and Country Road. 
  • Bedside tables: Provincial Home Living
  • Pendant: Cloud Linen Oval pendant from Imprint House
  • Bed: Early Settler
  • Art Deco round mirror: Ainger Auction House
  • Books: Mostly sourced from secondhand stores and school fetes.

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