At Home with Kate Walsh
Journal / People

At Home with Kate Walsh

Vogue Living Article with words by Yeong Sassall

The capital of Western Australia may be worlds away from the French capital, where Emily in Paris is filmed, but that hasn’t stopped one of its stars from laying down roots there. Even if you’re not acquainted with the Netflix series, you’ll probably recognise Kate Walsh from one of her many acting gigs. From Grey’s Anatomy to Private Practice and 13 Reasons Why, the American-born actress has been a fixture on our screens for over two decades. Yet it would still surprise many Australians to know Walsh has an Antipodean fiancé, Andrew Nixon, and they live in Perth.

Relocating to WA during the pandemic, Walsh and Nixon’s Perth pad is designed to make the most of the coastal Australian lifestyle. With sweeping ocean views, Walsh says the beach is one of the highlights of living in Western Australia—so it naturally steered her the design direction of her Perth home. “I usually like to have things from lots of different places or time periods,” Walsh tells Vogue Living. “But for this specific house in Perth I really wanted to go for a more minimal look with neutrals and let the landscape be the jewel in the crown.”

Considering the design direction was such a personal departure for her, Walsh instilled the help of a Perth local—Elissa Coleman, CEO and creative director of home interiors mecca Empire Home. “I chose Elissa because I walked into Empire Home and loved everything that was happening there. I wanted to live there,” laughs Walsh.

“She has a real feel for creating a vibe and an energy, and a real sense of comfort and ease. Her store was very collected in the way great boutiques around the world are, like the way Colette was in Paris, and I loved that.”

The pair worked closely together to craft a calm, cosy, and welcoming space that was also deeply connected to the ocean. “Kate wanted a totally different feeling to her LA and New York homes,” explains Coleman. Focusing on “warm tones and texture” Coleman aimed to produce a “really polished but relaxed, functional space that fits with the Perth coastal lifestyle”. Calling Walsh a “dream client to work with”, Coleman says the whole process was a lot of fun and felt like it flowed effortlessly. “It felt like a wonderfully collaborative project, [based on] the connection Kate and I had. Our shared vision really came to life.”

As far as jobs go, it was one of Coleman’s easier ones, even despite some very minor restraints. “We were slightly limited with what we could do to the structural space, so it came down to working with the interior finishes we had control of,” says Coleman. They also had to keep Australia’s harsh coastal condition front of mind when selecting outdoor furniture. “Exterior pieces needed to be able to sustain the beautiful but strong sun, plus salt and wind,” adds Coleman. Thankfully, in matters like these, Walsh let her Australian collaborator take the lead. From the primitive teak bench at the entrance (“a very rare single slab of teak”) to the cream boucle sofas in the living room, Coleman helped Walsh choose pieces that were wholly reflective of the relaxed and unfussy Australian way of life.

“Oh my gosh, it’s so different,” Walsh says when asked to compare Perth to her American upbringing. “It's much slower, a little more island time, but it's also incredibly progressive and glamorous. I love that there's a great food culture. I love that there is a real relaxed energy, but just a level of ease and sophistication, particularly in the area of design. I think that Australian design, and what Elissa particularly has created, is world class.”

That said, the design is not completely stripped-back and wabi-sabi neutral. They were able to have fun in some spaces, such as the back room featuring cloud wallpaper commissioned by Perth photographer Jody D'Arcy, paired with an array of disco balls which hang from the ceiling. “Elissa has them all over Empire Home and I was like, ‘I have to have these in my home! Where can I find a space to put them? Do I put them all over the ceiling?’,” shares Walsh. “So we ended up doing a grouping of 11, 12 or 13, and then she came up with the cloud wallpaper idea.”

Walsh loves the dreamy, cushion-filled and unabashedly playful nature of the room, and uses it as a chill, creative space. “I do little ballet workouts in there, I write, there's a dry erase board to come up with ideas. Andrew plays drums in there, and we have a guitar in there.”

She also loved the cloud wallpaper so much, she created a version of it in her bedroom. “The one in my bedroom is more grey and moody.” The main suit is one of Walsh’s favourite areas of her home, a place of refuge and comfort. “I love that I can wake up and look at the ocean; and the bathroom where it has unobstructed views to the sea,” she says.

This connection to land and sea is probably the strongest theme running through Walsh and Nixon’s home. Which makes sense, considering it’s the thread that connects Walsh most strongly to Australia. “Nature is the great equivocator,” she says. “It's sort of what rules everything—what's the tide doing, what's the wind doing… so to be able to have the views that we have and see it from a lot of windows was really important.”

INTERIORS & STYLING — Elissa Coleman (Empire Home Creative Director)