“We never stop appreciating the power of design in bringing people and families together.” There are times when the most apt phrase is a cliché, and for Elizabeth Flekser and Melanie Parker, there is no philosophy more important in interior design than trusting your heart. After all, that is what led them to form Ivy & Piper. Now an interior design company, it emerged from simple beginnings as a small fabric and furnishings collection brainstormed over coffee.

Elizabeth and Melanie, who met in design college, saw a need in the market for designers who did not just acquiesce to a client’s wants, but created something beautiful based on a client’s needs. “We’re passionate about creating a bespoke experience for clients, weaving their personal story into a seemingly disparate mix of elements that results in an elegant interior, but one which is comfortably familiar,” said Melanie. “As with many aspects of life, following your heart — or, in this case, the client’s — will always lead you in the right direction.”

It was this spirit that helps them thrive while tackling a panoply of different assignments, customising designs to clients’ lifestyles, desires, functionality and budget. “Our design sensibility and the varied influences we each bring to the partnership means we’re incredibly versatile and adept at working across a diverse range of style directions,” said Elizabeth.

Primarily designing interiors for individuals and families, the women recently had the opportunity to take on a project on a much larger scale: the refurbishment of Aore Island Resort, a retreat on Vanuatu. The owners, Australians Brad and Lisa Gray, wanted to retain Aore’s laid-back atmosphere while infusing it with a sense of luxury and tranquility. The project presented a challenge geographically, culturally and logistically, as the Ivy & Piper team worked with local tradespeople for installations, had to consider the harsh tropical setting, and worked around tight shipping deadlines.

But by staying true to the project’s spirit, the duo transformed Aore into a light-filled space brimming with local materials and artwork that captured the island’s history. Their secrets? The teachings of textile designer and writer William Morris, and one that anyone can follow: an item should be either useful or beautiful. “In your travels, the items you choose, whether big or small, should always fit into either of these phrases. When you find a treasure that steals your heart, trust it,” said Elizabeth.

Stage two of the Aore project — refurbishment of the resort’s 18 villas — will commence next year. Elizabeth and Melanie also continue to work on residential projects in Brisbane and Toowoomba, relishing the unique challenges and joys that each assignment presents. Yet the design is only one component of the process — the best part for the duo is what happens after they are done. “Seeing a family in their home once it’s complete. Interiors really do come to life when they are filled with people and to share that with a client is very special,” said Melanie. “We never stop appreciating the power of design in bringing people and families together.”