We were thrilled when our clients Anita Bocquee and Terry Brouwers’ home Zen in West End, which features our iconic Oasis bath, took out the top honour in Channel Seven’s ratings-winning reality series Instant Hotel last year. Concrete Nation caught up with interior designer Anita to chat renovations, reality television and her design inspirations.

How did you find the Instant Hotel experience?

Our style at Zen in West End is quite subtle, and that really worked against us initially. We took the criticism really hard, because all our real guests have loved it and given it rave reviews, but they had also selected it themselves because it suited their tastes and their travelling group. 

We decided to be open to the feedback, despite the ‘reality TV experience’ and felt that we really did improve the holiday experience for guests by taking the feedback on board. We did the backyard in a short gap between bookings and the finals being filmed, which, unfortunately, coincided with a major rain event.  I had a clear vision for the space, and we don’t do shortcuts or Band Aid solutions, so executing to the level we set ourselves, in those conditions, was really stressful.  I was still styling the day they arrived!

 You received a perfect 10 for your Queenslander in Brisbane’s West End. What do you think gave you the edge?

 When we sat down to design the renovation, which was transforming a small single-level cottage into a large family home, we were quite strategic about the design; space-wise it was perfect for a group of five couples who all had their own privacy. We also had a house that was over 100 years old and full of character, with lots of stories to tell through the renovation so that gave it a level of interest that most other houses didn’t have. 

The negative feedback was that it was too much like a serviced apartment and didn’t have enough of ‘us’ in it.  At the time, I was really frustrated because we’d lived and breathed that renovation for over 12 months. With the styling, I’d deliberately kept it simple and calm with individual pieces from our own travels and other pieces from really interesting small businesses.

We took the feedback on board, but we did it our way – we didn’t try to add bling, edgy artwork or a party vibe – and stayed true to the Zen vibe, told the story of the house and its inspirations more openly and found some unique ways to give the guests a better appreciation for the house and it’s location.  The outdoor daybed in it’s own Zen rock garden was the piece de resistance though, along with the Concrete Nation Oasis bath, homemade brass showerhead and painted mural ceiling. We created a ‘luxe spa’ feel that made the house a destination in itself.

 It was exciting to see our Concrete Nation pieces on the small screen, particularly our Oasis bath outside. Why did you opt to use concrete pieces in your home?

The style of Zen is very organic, a bit rough and imperfect, as is the case with recycling and upcycling original pieces of the cottage. I didn’t want anything that was shiny, sleek and mass produced.  There was always a plan for an outdoor shower and bath because that’s one of things I look for when I travel.  Concrete vanities were the first things I looked for, though. We’d decided to upcycle the original floor joists to become beautiful timber vanity benchtops.  The basins needed to be a similarly timeless material, which in time would look like they could tell as many stories at the benchtops.  

We found a local supplier in Concrete Nation and knew they were perfect as soon as we saw them.  Being a tactile person, I also love that the first thing most guests feel compelled to do, is run their fingers over them. 

It was on a visit to pick up the vanities that we saw the bath and Terry and I jumped in together to make sure that it was big enough for two. We immediately knew it was coming back with us to take pride of place on the deck under the frangipanis.

 What do you love about your home?

 That it’s so close to the city and the eclectic vibe of West End, but when you’re in the open indoor/outdoor living area, you feel secluded and peaceful under the trees.  We kept the big old frangipani and the palms, because there just isn’t enough green shade on most inner city blocks.  Where else can you run a warm rose petal bath for two and sip wine whilst watching the clouds drift behind the trees, then get changed and walk 500 metres to some awesome bars and restaurants?

 Why did you decide to share your home with holidaymakers?

Terry and I love travel, amazing houses with a story, and stylish décor.  When we travel, we don’t want to sit in hotel rooms; we want a space that reflects our location and somewhere we can spend time with friends and family.  

We decided to combine our passion for renovating Queenslanders, our personal experience of what travellers are looking for, with our belief that Brisbane is becoming a great travel destination. West End is a great base to explore it from.

You run interior design business, Raspberry Doors, and renovate your own properties in Brisbane. What is your signature style?

 My style is to create spaces that are lively and fun but also have a calm and tranquil feel.  I love light and colour.  The new renovations are more my signature white base with pops of colour and interesting textures and patterns to add interest.  I don’t impose that style on every house, though.  Zen in West End is a huge house with high ceilings and quite a lot of glass to welcome in the light and outdoors.  The vibe we envisioned was calm and relaxing, so a white base would have created a stark overly reflective cavern.  

To create a warm nurturing feel, I went for beige tones. I still got my pops of colour in as when we stripped back the front verandah, we found traces of the original green/blue paint. I matched that and it became the feature colour for the front doors.  The blue/green palette subtly flows through the rest of the décor.

 What and/or who are some design inspirations?

So many!! Pretty much anyone using bold colours, patterns and textures in a confident and harmonious way.

Nature and travels inspire so many of my loves. I love landscape photography and when I see the palettes that nature produces, I want to reproduce them in interiors.  I love the pinks of sunrise, the gold hues of sunset and the aqua blue waters of a tropical island.  I love botanical wallpapers for the same reason and my dream is to design a luxe island resort!

I love Moorish architecture. I have a major handmade patterned tile crush, which is definitely indulged in the next two renovations.

I love the philosophy of The Kinfolk Home, and creating a home that encourages rest and fostering of relationships, and devotes the design to whatever brings joy and meaning.

Take a tour of Zen in West End below!