Tucked into a pretty pocket of Sydney’s Lower North Shore, this joyful bonbon box of a home comforts its owner, Clare, and her eight-year-old daughter Betty. Clare purchased the circa-1905 abode in 2014, choosing the neighbourhood for its proximity to her family and the sparkling harbour.
As an admirer of cottages and tiny houses, she was keen to make the perfectly imperfect property her own. “It was feeling quite run-down and needed a lift,” explains Clare, a writer and ethicist. “I considered renovating and adjusting the floor plan, but in the end I decided to beautify it.”
Who lives here? Clare, a writer and ethicist; her daughter Betty, eight; tuxedo cat Coco and blenheim beaglier Leo.
What do you love most about it? Clare: “The colour, and how the walls, art, furnishings and books all come together to create a space that feels like home.”
What is your home design philosophy? “I only have pieces that I love. I removed pieces I wasn’t sure about and focused on quality, right down to the kitchen utensils.”
Do you have a favourite piece? “The still-life paintings by Philip Drummond. The large one in the dining area is from my family’s collection, and I bought the one in the living room at an exhibition without realising it was the same artist. They were painted decades apart.”
Faced with drab, dark walls and floors, but envisioning vibrant spaces bursting with personality, Clare enlisted the expertise of the Anna Spiro Design team. “Clare has always loved art and pattern, and she knew that she wanted to be wrapped in colour, but was not confident in pulling this together on her own,” says ASD interior designer Penny Sheehan. “She wanted to create a new, fresh space that felt sophisticated, feminine and uplifting, but still comfortable and practical.”
Sisal flooring now flows through each room, and the paint scheme of soft mint green, cornflower blue and marigold provides a youthful backdrop to the patterned highlights and heritage architecture. Custom joinery merges harmoniously with original fireplaces, stained-glass windows and decorative trims. The expansive shelving in the living area is a highlight addition for the bibliophile Clare, whose book collection spreads out among treasured keepsakes and family mementos.
At 83 square metres, The Cottage, as it is affectionately titled, is petite but perfectly suited to the mother and daughter. Clare’s husband Tim lives “two doors and a laneway up” with his three children. “We go between the houses, but mostly it’s Betty and me at The Cottage,” says Clare. She adds that if someone created a ‘heat map’ of where they move in the home, the whole map would light up. “In that sense, it feels like sustainable living,” she says. “We live small rather than large.”
Clare is open to reshaping the floor plan in the future, perhaps carving one bathroom into two as Betty enters her teenage years. You can be sure this snug haven will continue to chime with joy, whatever changes are made. “I don’t like stark and empty spaces with hard edges,” says Clare. “I like a space that feels inviting and comfortable and tells you something about the person or place. I feel like my home does that now.”
STYLE TIP: One colour
Splashing Porter’s Paints Water Nymph half-strength across the joinery, fireplace and brick wall unites the old and new elements in the room. “It also presents the artworks differently, and it has brought them to life again,” says Clare.
When Jessica isn’t styling shoots for magazines or foraging in op shops, she is tucked up in her 1970s home surrounded by a national park, writing about interiors, gardens and people for popular print and digital titles. Her book “Individual: Inspiration for creating a home that is uniquely your own” was released internationally in 2019.
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