In downsizing from their previous family home, Nicole and Grant (with their daughters Emily, 20, and Olivia, 18) were looking for a lower-maintenance lifestyle and room to entertain in the effortlessly casual style they love. Both were achieved in their Sydney home, following a thorough renovation.
Today, sliding doors allow an easy flow from the open-plan living room, where guests mix and mingle within conversation distance of the kitchen, and the deck outside. Libby Robinson from ESR Interior Design helped fit out the space in a palette reminiscent of beachside holidays.
“We wanted to build something for us,” says Nicole. Grant adds: “It was a house built for the parents, not the kids – though, that said, the girls have done very well!”
The pair found the perfect property, owned by an older couple Nicole used to babysit for, and before they knew it, they were in possession of a Californian bungalow, essentially charming but virtually untouched for decades.
Nicole and Grant’s previous renovations had armed them with a solid stable of trusted tradies, plans were approved and the team got to work with Libby, preserving the graceful period features of the facade and the home’s front rooms and opening up the rear zones into a more modern (and easy-care) entertaining space.
Knocking through a couple of walls transformed the front sitting room into an open space that still feels cosy and intimate. “We use this room in winter – with the working fireplace, it’s divine – and as a formal sitting area,” says Nicole. Sofas from the couple’s previous home were re-covered and matched with a Coco Republic coffee table. A plush Bayliss rug and grey linen throw from Maison Et Jardin complete the cosy scheme to make this a lovely room to snuggle up in when the temperature drops.
“It’s quite open-plan, because that’s the way we live,” says Nicole, “but with lots of entertaining areas. We can have multiple gatherings at the same time – the girls can entertain themselves and we can shove off out of the way!”
The brief to Libby was to create a relaxed, contemporary look, but the catch was she had to include many of the couple’s existing sentimental pieces, ranging from English-style antiques to Aboriginal art, alongside many mementos of their travels. “I like things with a bit of a story,” explains Nicole. But what began as a design challenge turned out to be a design asset, with the end result comfortable, welcoming and with a settled feeling, as though the family has lived here for years. “My style is contemporary – but soft contemporary, not cutting-edge with harsh lines – and that ended up working well with the antique furniture,” explains designer Libby.
“We love the way it has come together and friends have also said that they feel very relaxed here. It’s a nice feeling.”Nicole
Brought over from their previous home and then refinished to match the darker floors, the dining table occupies its own little alcove, part of the open-plan living area yet separate enough to feel somewhat formal. The picture window was an inspired addition to the space, framing the zone and letting in leaf-filtered light to catch the stunning display of foliage.
A second-storey parents’ retreat was also added and Nicole got her longed-for walk-in wardrobe, designed collaboratively with interior designer Libby and joiner Brad Erskine from Silhouette Kitchens.
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