Dappled leadlighting, shingled roofing and a chic, elegant exterior were enough to make MJ fall in love with this Federation home on Sydney’s lower north shore, even before she took a single step inside.
“I was sitting in my car waiting for the open inspection and, without going inside, I knew that it could be perfect for us,” she recalls. “My husband Andrew and I grew up in Adelaide, and the home was so evocative of the city’s beautiful bluestones that I knew he would love it as much as I did.” MJ and Andrew bought the property in 2014, and moved in with their children Alexandra, now 13, Kate, 12, and Jack, 10.
Accompanying MJ on that first visit to the home was her friend, interior designer Viv Hannigan. The two immediately began planning how the interiors could be transformed; while the exterior was gorgeous, the layout and lack of indoor-outdoor connection were not ideal. As a first step, MJ started working on updating the 1980s palette of pine floors and turmeric-hued walls, always with a long-term plan to renovate.
MJ and Andrew began meeting with architects and were impressed by Imogene Potter from Potter & Wilson, who had a love of period houses and a collaborative approach. “I wanted an architect who would let me be involved in the process,” explains MJ. “I had definite ideas, but needed someone to enhance them and bring them to reality. When I met Imogene it just felt right.”
So began the three-way collaboration between MJ, Imogene and Viv. Weekly meetings, myriad phone calls, studio visits and Pinterest boards ensued, all with the central vision of creating a home offering a greater indoor-outdoor connection and making each room both usable and family-friendly.
Imogene’s creative design “untangled” the convoluted flow across the ground floor, removing walls, expanding the kitchen and reorienting the staircase to create a broad central hallway and spacious entrance. Upstairs, the bedroom count increased from two to three, with each child given an ensuite.
The greatest structural transformation, however, occurred at the rear of the home, where new batwing doors were designed, opening through to a vast external courtyard encompassing an outdoor lounge, barbecue and fireplace. Extensive landscaping was also undertaken.
Imogene and Viv both credit MJ as the driver of the aesthetic. The homeowner, who calls her style”classic modern”, wanted her interiors to feel contemporary but respectful of the home’s history, with the restored archway at the end of the entrance hallway becoming a key component: the curve is repeated subtly through the home, from the kitchen bench and stairway detail to the dining table and desk joinery, creating a continuous design language.
Meanwhile, the interior palette of white walls and dark timber herringbone floors is a harmonious backdrop for rich walnut and brass and muted accent colour. Furnishing the home was also a combined effort, with the careful curation of modern classics that bring together old and new to create an overall sense of timelessness – and the beautiful outcome is a true testament to the value of teamwork.
“Taking a collaborative approach has brought everything together so well,” says MJ. “Our home has a wonderful family feel and we are thrilled with the result.”