Home Tours

From an empty block to a spacious Scandinavian-style dream home

A happy find led to a dramatic change of direction for a couple of home hunters – with brilliant results.
A Scandinavian style living room with fluted timber walls, a fireplace and curved chairs.Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch

An empty site in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs with sweeping ocean views was too hard to resist for colour consultant Kate Ward and her husband Rob who live here with their three children. They knew it could provide the foundations for a forever family home.

A modern two-storey home with timber slatted window covers.
When Kate and her husband bought this empty block they saw it as a great opportunity to start from scratch. Set in a leafy area in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, the home that’s been created makes a statement and melds with its surroundings. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The property had previously been occupied by a ho-hum rambling home, which had been demolished and the lot split into two, with each large enough for a family dwelling. In 2018, with two newly renovated houses in their home-hunting sights, the couple switched to this even more enticing option. “With park and ocean views, it would be the perfect blank canvas for our family home,” says Kate. “We welcomed the challenge of designing from scratch.” To achieve the result, Kate collaborated with architecture and interior design practice Smyth & Smyth along with interior design firm Studio Nino.

A two-storey home with slatted timber window shades.
The exterior of the home has been in New Guinea rosewood by Brendon Weatherby from Burleigh Doors. “We love how the house can completely open up, front to back, connecting indoors and out and allowing the breeze to flow through, the abundant natural light and the sense of space,” says Kate. The other elements that connect them are the repetition of timber screen slats inside and out, and its natural materials. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

“We wanted a forever home that was comfortable, practical and perfect for entertaining, with lots of light and space, and a seamless connection with the garden, while maintaining the view,” she says. And, while open plan, also with me-time spaces for their children.

Who lives here?

Kate Ward, colour consultant and owner of colour consultancy Colour Sherpa, her husband, Rob, and their three children, aged 17, 16 and 12, plus their Kelpie.
What did you splurge on? Kate: “We spent more on things that were used more often, such as the brushed nickel handles and tapware.”
What’s your top tip? “Narrow your ultimate goal down to a few key words, such as ‘harmonious’, ‘understated’ or ‘timeless’. These anchoring words will help remind you of what you want to achieve.”
Most used spaces? “A lot of time is spent around the kitchen island and in the adjoining barbecue area. We wanted to see everything and everyone from the kitchen.”

A white and timber stairwell.
Kate describes their stairwell as “an anchor at the centre of the home.” (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

David Smyth and his colleagues, Lisa Smyth and Nicola Lumsden, of Smyth & Smyth placed the living areas on the upper of the three levels, allowing the family to soak up those expansive views of the ocean and the valley below. The more formal spaces occupy the front, while family living spaces at the rear are connected to the backyard and the pool further up the site, with the kitchen opening onto an outdoor deck to the side, sheltered from ocean breezes. All five bedrooms occupy the middle level, with the parents’ retreat at one end. Meanwhile, a media/games room for the children and storage areas occupy the basement level.

Owner Kate sitting on the outdoor deck.
Kate enjoys a quiet moment on the balcony adjoining the dining area. Her wine glass rests on a Robert Plumb ‘Southie’ side table (now discontinued). (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The striking exterior, in concrete cladding and slatted timber screens makes a statement in the neighbourhood, but also, paradoxically perhaps, blends seamlessly into its setting.


The natural theme continues inside. “We wanted calm, light and uncluttered interiors with understated elegance, a practical and robust home that could withstand a busy family, but still feel fresh after years of use,” says Kate. With a strong Scandinavian skew, the furnishings combined existing pieces with new, with interior designer Lani McKinnon of Studio Nino helping Kate in her selections and sharing ideas. “We wanted our decor to be uncomplicated,” says Kate. “The materials, joinery and other design features eliminated the need for excessive decorating and furnishing.”

Owner Kate standing in the kitchen.
A vase by Katarina Wells from Curatorial + Co filled with burgundy magnolias from Grandiflora makes a statement on the island. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The solid Porta Contours Tasmanian Oak cladding on the kitchen island and battening on the living room joinery echo the battens used for the external screens. “We love the natural materials used internally and externally,” shares Kate. “They have a lovely connection with the landscape. We love the feeling of the natural materials underfoot – from wool to concrete to timber. And they all bring warmth to a space, indoors or out.” The family like to gather around the island on the Ton ‘Rioja’ stools from Huset.

The kitchen with a fluted timber island and black vase.
The kitchen combines natural materials to create a synchronised look. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The kitchen cabinetry by Forever Joinery has a simple beauty and complements the benchtops and splashback in Talostone Calacatta Luxe Matt. Slatted timber open shelving helps to add another layer.

The kitchen leading to the family living area.
Zip Hydrotap Celsius Arc from Winning Appliances. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Family living room

Behind the cook zone is the family living room, which features a cushioned bench. “The back bench seat is our favourite place to lie, especially on a Sunday afternoon in the sun, with the sliding door closed for warmth or opening it all up so you can feel like you’re lying in the garden,” says Kate.

A neutral style family living room with blue wall art and a bench.
In the living area beside the kitchen, artworks by Joanna Kitas make a statement against the walls painted in Resene Sea Fog. “I love how the light walls open up the space,” says Kate. The ‘Sequence’ tables from Cult complement the vases. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

“We opted for muted, landscape-style palettes to link interior and exterior, and complement natural materials inside and out.”

– Kate

Front living room

“The front living room is used for entertaining, quiet relaxation and is perfect for spreading out work materials for my colour consulting business, Colour Sherpa,” explains Kate, “The house offers light from every direction, which is wonderfully helpful for putting together colour schemes for clients and seeing how the colours will behave in different types of light.”

A Scandinavian style living room with fluted timber walls, a fireplace and curved chairs.
A streamlined Gubi ‘9602’ floor lamp from Luumo Design adds a luxe touch. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The warmth of the timber continues in the organic-shaped ‘Joy’ chairs in Bowie Rosewood, ‘Nook’ four-seater sofa and ‘Iko’ coffee table, all from Jardan, which sit atop a ‘Sierra’ weave rug, in Pumice, from Armadillo.

A living room with timber fluted wall details looking onto the garden.
The ‘Iko’ coffee table from Jardan. Artwork from Project Gallery 90. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The slatted timber cladding indoors echoes the shutters on the exterior that regulate light and air flow within. Concrete, too, flows inside and out, forging that connection and bringing visual and tactile interest to the different spaces, such as the front living room, which is flooded with light.

We love… connected areas
A timber dining room table and rounded white pendants above.
Muuto ‘Strand’ pendants from Luumo Design above the dining room table. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Main bedroom

“All the bedrooms are on the one level,” says Kate, adding this level is an area for rest and quiet time, separate from what goes on above and below. The custom bedsides in the main bedroom are from Softerstudio. “Their curved handles and soft appearance make them one of my favourite pieces,” says Kate. Meanwhile, a ‘Nook’ bed from Jardan brings a sense of warmth.

A neutral bedroom with a timber side table, white curtains and grey furnished bed.
Fritz Hansen ‘Caravaggio’ wall lights from Cult. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The earthy colour scheme reveals how effective a muted palette can be. “This reduced chroma palette achieves a sense of liveability and tranquillity,” says Kate. “And it is such an easy palette to build on.

A bed with a grey bedhead, timber table and white sconce.
The couple’s retreat is at one end of a floor away from the other bedrooms. Artwork from Project Gallery 90. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

“The main bedroom provides a relaxing atmosphere with its linen curtains that sweep around two walls to reveal a park view.”

– Kate


“We wanted quality finishes that were timeless and would still look great with age,” says Kate referring to Astra Walker tapware in Brushed Nickel from Candana. “Like the rest of the palette, they weren’t shiny or brash, just earthy in appearance and gentle on the eye.”

A modern ensuite with a freestanding bath and neutral walls with finger tiles.
Moda ‘Teresa’ bath from ACS Designer Bathrooms. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The floor tiles are ‘Rawtech’ white natural finish tiles from Di Lorenzo. “Repetition establishes a subtle sense of flow, for example, such as marble lookalike, light timbers, vertical rectangular tiles that slightly vary in colour.”

The ensuite with grey finger tile walls and a timber vanity.
The top of the vanity is in Talostone Calacatta Luxe 9030 matte with bar mosaics on the wall in ‘Dito’ white gloss from Skheme. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Powder room

The powder room features ‘Sticks’ basalt honed stone mosaics from Skheme and a benchtop in Fibonacci Stone terrazzo in Brackish from Di Lorenzo.

A powder room with dark finger tiles, stone vanity and fluted glass door.
The benchtop in Fibonacci Stone terrazzo in Brackish, Di Lorenzo. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)


“We love how you can walk through the home and, at any given time, look out a window to see greenery or a calming vista,” says Kate. In the backyard, True Form Landscape Architecture created a layered look in rendered masonry planter boxes. At the base is Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’ and, in the middle, succulents Agave Americana and blue chalksticks are the stars. Above this, Casuarina ‘Cousin It’ trails over the planter with sculptural prickly pear above.

The deck and garden with steps leading up to the planters.
At the top, tussock grass provides a contrast to the red-flowering New Zealand Christmas bush. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

“This house is like entering a little oasis – it instantly makes you feel calm and relaxed. The light, space and airflow allow you to breathe and the uncluttered environment helps you de-stress. We have achieved something that is greater than the sum of its parts.” And, in beginning from bare earth, something that is unique to them.

A laundry with white subway tiles, cabinets and a benchtop.
Miele appliances from Winning Appliances were selected for the laundry. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Architect: Smyth & Smyth, (02) 9662 2720, smythandsmyth.com.au.
Interior design: Studio Nino, @studionino.
Colour selections: Colour Sherpa, 0404 460 612, @coloursherpa.
Builder: Peter Phair, PJP Homes, (02) 8521 7151, pjphomes.com.au.
Landscape design: True Form Landscape Architecture, (02) 8034 1031, trueformlandscapes.com.au.


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