Here inside Sarah’s fabulously fancy home on Sydney’s north shore, the interior designer is “living the life”. The founder and head designer at Mi Designer does glitz gorgeously. Her style is exotic and luxurious, classic and unpredictable, with pattern, texture and lustrous finishes raising the atmosphere to fever pitch. More maximalist than minimalist, she is drawn to tailored ornamentation, with brass, velvet and wallpaper her weapons of choice.
To Sarah, the idea of resale does not factor into her process. Instead, she is steadfast in the courage of her exuberant convictions. “I’ve always been a strong believer in not settling for ordinary when you can have extraordinary,” she says. “Why decorate for future owners? You wouldn’t buy shoes to sell on to someone else.”
Sarah and her husband Ben bought their 110-year-old house in 2004 for their family, which includes Baxter, 16, and Eliza, 13. The four-bedroom building was in a state, with peeling wallpaper and an overgrown garden. “But it had pressed metal ceilings, amber cut-glass doorknobs and there was an amazing 80-year-old wisteria bush out back,” recalls Sarah. According to the building inspection it was in excellent structural condition, so the couple were called to action.
The pair did some initial work before moving in – and a few upgrades as the years went on – but bided their time for a major renovation, which took place over 12 months. New plans were drawn up with the help of friends at Sissons Architects, who usually do big commercial projects, but made an exception for the designer.
Post-renovation, the house still has four bedrooms and sits on much the same footprint, but there’s now a luxurious suite for the couple. Other additions include two extra bathrooms, a study and a terrace. “All I ever wanted in life growing up was a covered outdoor space and an Insinkerator,” says Sarah. “It took me till my mid-40s, but I got there.”
Across the new threshold, the home’s bold, brave, tongue-in-cheek personality is established from the get-go, thanks to the Catherine Martin ‘La Palma’ wallpaper. “I wanted to set the tone of a [happy house] and a relaxed house – quirky but not too quirky,” she says. “There’s bananas at our front door so it’s hard to take anything too seriously.”
The wallpaper also serves as a guiding light, setting the scheme for the rest of the home. For Sarah, its tones are more liberating than limiting. “You can be as brave as you like with your design when you have a palette in place. Everything comes back to those colours.”