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St. Agni founders Lara and Matt Fells’ home is a masterclass in minimalist design

Photography By Avan Podhajsky for RIISE
Published 06.07.22

If there’s one thing you’ll feel when you step inside the home of St. Agni founders Lara and Matt Fells it’s relaxed.

Appropriate considering the location: the Northern New South Wales coastal town of Byron Bay. But this sense of calm isn’t just the happy coincidence of living somewhere with a peaceful reputation – it was written into the renovation plans.

The Fells moved into the house almost five years ago, just before the birth of their first son Jude. Located in a suburban part of town, the residence was only 10 years old and wasn’t in need of fixing per se. It just needed to feel more like their own.

“The house had a really good open floor plan with high ceilings. The decor when we moved in wasn’t exactly what we would have chosen though, so after living here for four years, we decided to renovate to make it our perfect family home,” Lara says.

“We wanted to create a warm, calming space: pared-back and relaxed, whilst also feeling functional and beautiful in a simple way.”

They took cues from the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, a worldview centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Capitalising on the abundance of natural light, they lifted the door heights to the ceiling, opening the space up further, and worked with the founder and director of We Are Triibe, Jess D’Abadie, to fill the interior with neutral, warm tones. The resultant varieties of wood contrasted with soft, warm whites executed the home’s desired “Zen feel”.

This Japanese aesthetic is an extension of minimalist architecture, a design philosophy that evolved from the minimalism art movement after World War II. Modern minimalist design is clean, uncluttered and simple. Which is, in the best possible way, how the Fells’ interior could be described. It’s emboldened by simplicity, with each piece of furniture carefully curated to complement the openness of the space. Bringing things back to basics and being selectively restrained has been a catharsis for Lara and Matt. 

It fits neatly with their brand’s values too. Fashion label St. Agni is all about modern minimalism, quality materials and designing for functionality and longevity. Inside their home, there’s not a room where it feels like these principles aren’t on display. “I believe in investing in good quality pieces that are made from natural materials. This is a philosophy that is ingrained in our business and our personal lives,” Lara says.

When styling the house, it was also important to the Fells that they support local businesses. They sourced from artisans and furniture makers including Jordana Henry for paintings, Pampa for rugs, Jardan for the sofa, Worn Store for bedside tables, Byron Bay artist Lex Williams for the coffee table and Tigmi Trading for the vintage Olavi Hänninen dining chairs. It’s no accident that the chairs – one of the most striking pieces of furniture in the house – were the work of a designer renowned for his modernist and minimalistic style.

Hänninen was also an admirer of Japanese wooden architecture, which veers into another key feature of the Fells residence: the ofuro, AKA traditional Japanese wooden bath. Set against soft grey Japanese tiles and handmade tapware, the subtlety of this space reflects the style and taste that has become synonymous with the Fells name over the years.

For anyone interested in taking a similar approach with their interior, Lara’s advice is uncomplicated: “Think about what is necessary for living comfortably and keep your designs centred around this. Focus on good quality materials, lots of storage and lots of natural light.” In the same way St. Agni has, she also cautions against trends, encouraging people to focus instead on their core values so the resultant space feels more timeless.  

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