There are a number of charming Edwardian townhouses in the peaceful suburb of Croydon in the Inner West of Sydney that appeal to buyers seeking properties with personality and a historical atmosphere.
One such buyer was a Lebanese couple with two children; they were looking for a space with interesting foundations that could be built upon to create their dream home. Once they found their ideal three-bedroom, split-level Croydon property, they reached out to renowned Australian interior designer Greg Natale for a full makeover.
The couple requested that the exterior of the 3,000sqft house be rebuilt, and the interiors restored and renovated. What they had in mind was the abundant use of a black-and-white colour scheme to enhance the property’s original features. To this end, the facade of the residence was completely stripped back and repainted, with new brickwork. A new roof, a two-storey extension at the rear of the house and a backyard swimming pool were introduced to bring the historical property into the 21st century.
One of the house’s original features was a single spectacular arch in the vestibule, which opened into the family room. Natale and his team restored the arch, then repeated its form and design by creating a series of differently sized arches around the vestibule, opening it onto other rooms and making it the core of the house. The result is a light, airy and open-concept interior, where period elements create a more modern flow of space. Other interior features such as the ceilings, woodwork, panelling and floors were restored to highlight the house’s Edwardian style.
Natale, who has been featured in numerous design magazines and was recently named the 2016 Luxury International Designer of the Year at High Point Market in North Carolina, linked the house’s exteriors and interiors with the use of a matching colour palette. Powder-blue interior walls mimic the colour of the exterior gables and add an air of old-world elegance to the spaces. Meanwhile, warm terracotta hues in the rugs and some of the paintings reflect the colour of the roof tiles. "These subtle colour choices provide a cohesive connection between the inside and out, and balance the monochromes that feature strongly in the design," says Natale, whose style is often characterised by layering of textures, editing for visual balance and the use of vibrant colours.
With the owners’ request for a predominantly monochromatic scheme, Natale had to find a way to inject his signature vibrancy into the concept without an extensive colour palette. "I’m a big fan of monochromes and would argue that they can provide the most vibrant combination of all," he says. "Within the black-and-white palette, you can see how graphic details and geometric patterns bring balance and contrast."
This balance and contrast can be seen in the vestibule, which features softer mid-tones in the swirling patterns of the wallpaper; in the formal living room, with its wall of Fornasetti plates and a rug by Academy Award-winning designer Catherine Martin; in a bedroom with striking chevron-patterned wallpaper.
"Editing is about establishing that balance – of colour, of shape, of old and new – and ensuring there is a dynamic juxtaposition between pieces and finishes," says Natale. "At every stage of the design process, I step back to check that every element is working together, creating interest but also enhancing liveability."
The introduction of Fornasetti designs was a considered response to the space inspired by the vestibule’s arches – a form that the Milanese painter, sculpture and interior decorator Piero Fornasetti was known to favour. In the kitchen, a repetition of Fornasetti arched tiles creates an intricate splashback, which is echoed in the exaggerated arch panels in the kitchen cabinetry and cupboards. The plates in the living room and the wallpaper in the library, also by Fornasetti, enhance the visual and stylistic links, bringing modern eclecticism to a classic setting.
Every considered detail, which includes carefully curated Jonathan Adler and vintage pieces, items by Kindel Furniture, lighting by Visual Comfort and artwork by Sydney painter Scott Petrie, brings together the classic and the modern. The effect is a sophisticated, multilayered and welcoming home where a cohesive visual language connects people with their environment.
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