A few smart changes to the lay­out of Ni­cole Low­ings’ Syd­ney home trans­formed it into an in­cred­i­ble out­door en­ter­tainer.

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“TONY AND I DIS­COV­ERED THIS leafy cul de sac on the edge of a na­tional park 14 years ago when we were look­ing for a place closer to city trans­port and our chil­dren’s schools. The 1950s house on Syd­ney’s up­per north shore was of solid brick con­struc­tion with great retro-style high ceil­ings and plenty of ma­ture trees. A re­cent ren­o­va­tion had added a new kitchen, bath­rooms, floor­ing, front gar­den land­scap­ing and a sec­ond storey, so there were plenty of bed­rooms and bath­rooms for our fam­ily of six.

Up siz­ing

The house was in great con­di­tion when we moved in but after 13 years we were were ready to change parts of it to suit our life­style – and our grow­ing chil­dren. Al­though the tra­di­tional kitchen was lovely, it was just too small – our tall grown-up kids kept hit­ting their heads on the over­head cup­boards – and the oven and fridge were fall­ing apart.

By knock­ing down a wall be­tween the kitchen and the for­mal din­ing room we cre­ated an enor­mous space for an open-plan kitchen, which pro­vides for prac­ti­cal en­ter­tain­ing be­cause ev­ery­one wants to gather around the cook! The floor-to-ceil­ing cab­i­netry is so much bet­ter. And while I re­ally wanted a huge ca­pac­ity fridge for our large fam­ily, most were too deep for the cab­i­nets. So in­stead we got two Fisher & Paykel fridges and a special join­ery kit – they sit flush and look very slick (with­out the price tag). Along with two ro­bust dish­wash­ers and a dou­ble oven, our kitchen can now han­dle the vol­ume of clean­ing, cook­ing and food stor­age that a fam­ily with adult kids on their own sched­ules gen­er­ates!

Our other ma­jor con­struc­tion was the shaded out­door area, where we can cater for a crowd at any time of year [see box page 57]. This leads to a large deck and pool area over­look­ing the bush. Be­ing on a slop­ing block makes it feel like we are sit­ting in the tree canopy – but the lo­ca­tion did mean we had strict bush­fire reg­u­la­tions to con­sider for our ma­te­ri­als and de­sign. This in­cluded re­duc­ing the planned size of the al­fresco roof area, adding gut­ter guards, us­ing alu­minium for the bi­fold doors and clear­ing over­grown bush scrub on the fire­trail out the back.

Evolv­ing style

Our decor has to be kid-friendly and bullet-proof as it’s a busy house, al­ways full of peo­ple. I’m in­spired by home mag­a­zines, blogs, TV shows, Instagram, ho­tels and re­sorts, and

I do all the dec­o­rat­ing, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion our fam­ily’s art. Both Tony’s par­ents were pro­fes­sional artists in South Africa, so we have a col­lec­tion of large sculp­tures and paint­ings, of which we are very proud. They add a per­sonal and unique touch to our home so it doesn’t look too main­stream.

Like most fam­i­lies our decor has evolved over time, but we do grav­i­tate to­wards nat­u­ral tex­tures and neu­tral tones to show off the green­ery of the gar­den, with black and white ac­cents to cre­ate luxe state­ments.”

OUT­DOOR LIV­ING Room for a crowd With the bi­fold doors open, din­ing and re­lax­ing flows eas­ily from the kitchen to the al­fresco area.

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