As the adage goes, sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you’ve found it. On the hunt for a new home in 2014, Catherine and her husband had a short and simple wishlist: smaller and quieter. Together with their three teenage children, Jack, Charlotte and Laura, the couple were living in a large property on a traffic-clogged thoroughfare, and craved a peaceful, more petite place to call their own. “We looked at at least a hundred homes,” recalls Catherine. “Then we came here and it just felt right.”
Built in 1905 by acclaimed Australian painter Benjamin Minns, the pretty white Federation-fronted property sat on an elevated patch of land on Sydney’s upper north shore. An original limestone entry and front living room – “We’re drawn to homes with history, they have more character,” says Catherine – flowed into a slick open-plan extension with floor-to-ceiling windows capturing glorious green vistas. Upstairs were four well-sized bedrooms plus a dreamy main suite set beautifully amongst the treetops.
The recently renovated home required no structural work but the family were keen to inject some personality and warmth. Enter interior designer Lisa Burdus, who, armed with magazines and swatches, helped self-described newbie decorator Catherine define her style. “Originally I thought I wanted the Hamptons look, but it turned out there was an underlying theme in all the clippings I chose,” says the homeowner. “Colour!”
Now a kaleidoscope of look-at-me hues and prints, the home grew into its new incarnation gradually and organically. Catherine and Lisa worked room by room, picking one hero piece for each space and letting the scheme expand outwards. A leaf-green Schumacher fabric set the scene for a sunroom reminiscent of the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, complete with 1940s-style cane furniture; a Moroccan-tiled wallpaper in Charlotte’s bedroom led the way to eye-popping blue-on-blue decor; and Laura Jones’s ‘Wildflowers and Hydrangeas’ artwork inspired the living room’s lush colour palette.
The interior designer/homeowner duo created a synergy between indoors and out, with wild florals cascading on cushions and indoor plants popping up in every corner. “Since moving here I always have flowers and foliage,” says Catherine. “It doesn’t have to be a big elaborate bunch – I go down to our garden and chop a few hydrangeas or some greenery and pop it in a vase. It adds life.”
After 18 months of sourcing, styling and sprucing up every room, Catherine declared the home complete. “We were in no rush as we plan to stay here forever,” she says. “We took our time and now there’s really nothing we would change.” She has, however, developed a new-found interest in interiors magazines, gesturing to a pile on the wicker coffee table. “I used to look at them and think, ‘Oh, I wish I lived there!’, but now I look around here and think, ‘There’s nowhere I’d rather call home’.”
In a corner of the living room, the dining zone is a relic of the original 1905 build and has been decorated with a nod to the past. It features a beautifully timeworn timber table (scour antiques stores for similar), custom-upholstered chairs by Lisa Burdus Interior Design and a vintage display cabinet. The elegant pendant light is from Magins Lighting.
Dulux Senate provides the backdrop in 20-year-old Jack’s room for a landscape by John Sealy, hung amongst a collection of art and objets. Interior designer Lisa found the lamp at Shades Of Pale, while the upholstered bed – her own design – owes its comfort factor to bedlinen from Sheridan, an L&M Home velvet cushion and a throw from No Chintz.
One end of the sunroom serves as a serene study, and a visual extension of the rambling garden. Natural tones and textures reign, from the blackbutt floors to the antique mahogany desk, hide rug (try Art Hide) and potted plants. “Some people might be afraid of decorating with colour, but green can be really calming,” says Catherine. A whitewashed display cabinet from French Country Collections and an Emac & Lawton ‘Calais’ floor lamp reflect the homeowners’ preference for older pieces.
"Colour makes our home feel comfortable, warm and welcoming - it lifts your spirits"Catherine, Homeowner
Relaxation was the order of the day in the main bedroom, achieved with a palette of teal, grey and peach. “The room was originally quite modern and stark, so we tried to layer it up with warmth,” says Catherine. The linen bedhead (try Heatherly Design) is joined by cushions – a Designers Guild floral and a Jali ikat – both from No Chintz, plus a cosy hand-loomed throw by L&M Home. But the real star of the show is the sun-shaped Art Deco mirror, casting its golden glow above the bed; for similar visit French Country Collections.
A Moroccan theme – chosen by Charlotte – paved the way for this rhapsody in blue. Schumacher ‘Nasrid Palace Mosaic’ wallpaper mimics ceramic wall tiles, its colours picked up in the ‘Provincial’ rattan headboard by Lincoln Brooks, cushions from L&M Home and a Morgan & Finch throw from Bed Bath N’ Table. Says interior designer Lisa of playing with pattern: “Trust your instinct: if you lay fabric and wallpaper samples on top of each other and they somehow work without matching, go for it.”
“We’re very spoilt,” says Catherine of her resort-worthy bathroom. The space came freshly renovated with plenty of style cred (try Domayne for a timber-look, wall-hung vanity), but a fiddle-leaf fig and tropical-print ‘Cooya’ towel from Country Road add the homeowner’s signature stamp. Although the sumptuous freestanding tub (visit Cass Brothers for similar sculptural styles) and bushland views may compete for attention, they work in perfect harmony come bath time.
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