The cool caress of a harbour breeze wafts through the front doors of this refined family home on Sydney’s North Shore, where owners Laura and Damian live with their three teenage sons and pet bordoodles. “The entrance was very gloomy, so we knocked through the wall to the lounge and installed French doors and highlight windows to bring in lots of light and air,” she says.
Who lives here? Laura, an artist and interior designer, and husband Damian, who works in finance. Sons Ralph, 20, Sam, 18, Eddie, 15, and bordoodles Bentley and Frankie.
Design philosophy? Laura: “An interior can evoke a feeling in the same way an artwork does. A space can make you feel calm, energised or uneasy. It’s all about the light, colours and composition.”
The devil in the design detail? “I love the pocket door leading out of the kitchen to the laundry, which gives me the option to shut out any noise.”
Project managing advice? “For me, the key to getting it right was having a visual reference and drawing pictures for our builder and carpenter.”
A palpable sense of harmony imbues the interiors of this beautiful Sydney home, and it comes as no surprise they were created with an artist’s eye. “Many of the skills I have as an artist are transferable to interiors,” says homeowner Laura, an interior designer who also project managed the renovation of the five-bedroom home she shares with husband Damian; sons Ralph, 20, Sam, 18, and Eddie, 15; and bordoodles Frankie and Bentley. “I get as much joy from renovating as I do from my art,” she says. “Colour and composition help determine how a painting makes you feel, and this is similar for interior design; get those elements right and your home can make you feel good.”
However, when the couple bought the home back in 2014 it was no oil painting, despite having “good bones”. “The floor plan didn’t function well,” recalls Laura, who admits one redeeming feature was its high ceilings. “There were too many small, narrow doors, so it was dark, dysfunctional and dying of boredom from a bland ’70s makeover.” Its location, on the other hand, was perfect for a fun family life – just a barefoot wander through a laneway to the harbourside reserve and a huddle of kayaks awaiting their next outing.
Laura had a clear vision: majestic glazed French doors and sash windows throughout, introducing light and cooling cross-breezes into every room. “I started with the kitchen, which was cramped and impractical,” she explains. “We took off the original roof and built a high-pitched structure that gave us a wonderful view of the garden. I also added a round feature window to ramp up the ‘wow’ factor’. One of the keys to transforming this grand but lacklustre home was the addition of exquisitely detailed wainscoting and V-groove panelling on every wall. “It was like the house was waiting to be dressed,” says Laura.
The home’s “blend of Hamptons and Georgian style” tends towards traditional rather than beachy – a leaning Laura puts down to her English heritage. To enhance the graceful finishes, she chose a “neutral and natural palette”, using Porter’s Paints Popcorn in half strength downstairs and a muted green Dulux Spanish Olive on the walls upstairs. Laura says, “I steered away from blue – often the Hamptons go-to – and chose an earthy look, with black and warm grey accents. I also opted for dark oak floors to ground the space and complement the traditional feel of the house.”
Floor-to-ceiling sash windows, French doors and a soaring pitched roof create a breathtaking backdrop for Laura’s timeless kitchen, crafted by The Kitchen Maker. “I wanted it to feel calm and welcoming with as much light as possible,” says Laura of the space, which originally had “one poky door leading outside”. A brass Boston wall light by Visual Comfort complements the island pendant, custom made from an old snooker table light. “I designed the glass cabinets with glazing bars to echo the French doors,” says Laura.
DESIGN TIP: Shallow shelves
Laura got a lot of storage bang for her buck in this bijou butler’s pantry by designing shallow custom shelving. “So many pantry shelves are too deep, and you can’t see or reach things easily,” she says. “I wanted to find everything immediately, which is also why I used glass jars.” You can DIY with narrow shelves from Bunnings and glass jars from Kitchen Warehouse.
Laura carefully planned for three growing children, creating living areas that could be left open or closed off, all the while letting in light through French doors. When the family come together, an outdoor lounge and dining area make for the perfect rendezvous. At the front of the home is a light-filled artist’s studio and pretty courtyard where Laura paints in peace “but is still connected to everyone in the house”.
Exuding the charm of a luxury hotel, the ensuite showcases a Decina ‘Regent’ freestanding bath from The Blue Space, sitting atop marble-finish ceramic tiles from Tiles by Kate. “We added more architraves and details at the top of the window to create a feeling of grandeur,” says Laura, who sought the punchiness of Porter’s Paints Squid Ink to throw everything into relief. Like an Old Master, this family home is truly classic and timeless. “I wanted a renovation that didn’t look new but gave the impression the house had always been like this,” says Laura, who, without a doubt, has used her creative talents to turn a blank canvas into a work of art.
Design Tip: Mudroom magic
Custom cabinetry – in Porter’s Paints Mineral, with antique brass hardware from Armac Martin – elevates the mudroom. “This leads to the verandah where the outdoor shower is, so people don’t troop through the house with wet towels and shoes,” says Laura.
In the outdoor lounge room a sandstone-clad fireplace takes centre stage in the multipurpose covered outdoor room. “It’s a great place to relax after a swim and it’s also where I sit in the morning with my tea and laptop, watching and listening to the birds,” Laura says of her year-round ritual, simply popping on the Jetmaster fireplace during colder months.
Builder/joiner: Mark Howard, Northern Beaches Specialist Carpentry, 0435 777 683; Fine Line Projects Australia, 0405 474 541.
Interiors: Laura Hollingsworth, hollingsworthdesign.com.au.
Kitchen: The Kitchen Maker, thekitchenmaker.com.au.