Television personality + designer Tara Dennis marries a hectic on-screen schedule with a private design practice and her own distinctive homewares collections. The secret is in the balance.
Tara Dennis is instantly recognisable. Her broad open smile has graced our TVs for over 15 years. Entrepreneur, interior designer and stylist, author and mother of two, this celeb of the small screen is one busy lady.
Tara began working behind the scenes as a researcher/decorator on the Nine Network in the late 90s. She had her presenting debut as a designer on Changing Rooms in 1998. Today this DIY dynamo and style savant is chalking up her seventh year at Channel 7’s Better Homes & Gardens. That’s impressive staying power.
But Tara loves her job. From decorating to style and craft ideas, she finds it fulfilling, which perhaps explains her effusive on-screen generosity. An appreciation for the handmade prompted a foray into her own homewares range. And this year she’s launching her second designer collection.
Tara hand paints and prints designs that are reproduced on plates, bowls, placemats, lanterns and other knick knacks for the home. She describes her style as part Hamptons, part French countryside, and part Scandinavian. The collection exudes a simple sophistication and an intrinsic charm – with fine details that contribute to its unique narrative.
Over time her style has changed. “I’ve always loved coastal,” Tara says, “that’s my thing, but my style has become more refined. I used to be more literal, while now I’m more subtle. I’m about the textures and the softer colour palette, rather than just adding a cushion with boats on it, just for the sake of it.”
Tara is a visual person, working with storyboards and scrapbooks to collate her ideas, whether that’s making home improvements or designing a new collection. It’s all in the planning – she and husband/business partner Martyn created a full-scale model when designing their riverside home pre-construction to iron out the kinks.
The serene three-bedroom cottage took four years to build but their detailed design delivered. Just an hour and a half from Sydney’s big smoke, set amongst the rugged natural beauty of the Australian bush, it has an old-world charm. Its façade is dark grey, whilst the interiors feature muted blues, neutrals and greys with organic textures spread throughout.
“I’m all about dark grey,” Tara says, “it’s the new white.”
These organic textures echo the environs. Surrounded by giant gums with river vistas from many rooms, the home has a tranquil elegance that the whole family love. Tara’s studio is out the back of the property. “I shut the door, turn on music, spread out and do my art and design work,” says Tara. The space is infused with inspirational finds, from fabrics to moodboards and interesting materials.
Tara puts her creative flair down to her parents – “They were constantly decorating and gardening.” But her natural exuberance and style has gravitas. Tara is pragmatic. The mother of teenager Avalon and toddler Harry has an almost inhuman ability to keep it real, especially considering or perhaps on account of her busy life. And her style fares the better for it.
“I’m not into ‘show home’ living,” she says. “I like it to be clean but don’t mind a bit of mess too… It’s how a house feels, not how it looks. If a place feels good, you love it. You could be living in a shack and it’s home.”
We agree. =)
*Quotes sourced from Tara’s interviews with Home Beautiful and Essential Baby.