How one couple downsized without losing out on style
Like most downsizers, Judy and Michael McMahon did a serious cull before they moved, but happily found they didn’t need to buy furniture for their new space.
Michael’s penchant for modern classics looks right at home in their new threebedroom Potts Point development, designed by SJB Architects.
“It used to be known as the Oakford apartments and was used as short-term accommodation. (When it was redeveloped) we bought it off the plan in 2013 and moved in last year,” Judy says.
“We had a four-bedroom, two-storey home and it was only two of us and the dog living there. I didn’t want a garden, pool and empty rooms anymore.”
The couple, who have owned and run Sydney dining institution Catalina in Rose Bay for more than 20 years, say picking their favourite things from their former home was no easy task.
“We kept the things we wanted and the furniture all worked,” Judy says.
“The only thing that doesn’t really work is the couch in the study, it’s too big.
“Michael has always had modern tastes even though we were in an old house, so it suits the apartment.”
Not many spaces could take a seven-seater sofa without being overwhelmed but the Lshape divides the open-plan space just so.
“We had the chairs in a different space before. We had three living rooms in the old house, and this is probably too small a space, but we kept them,” Judy says.
“We also had the rug. It was in a dining room and shouldn’t be as long as it is for this space, but you get used to it once you live with it for a while. I think it would be best if we did cut it down so you can see more of the floor because the herringbone parquetry is one of the most attractive features of the house.”
The floor pattern is continued on the balcony with travertine tiles.
With views over the harbour, the balcony is a big feature of the apartment.
“We purposely left it free of greenery as to not take up too much space,” Judy says, although the house is dotted with flowering orchids. Bringing them back to life is one of Judy’s special skills.
The new apartment needed a few modifications, including extra storage and window coverings.
“We had to put shelving in the living room for the books and box shelving in the study. We also had to build storage in the garage and had to put all the blinds in,’’ Judy says.
“It’s north-facing so there are blockout blinds in the master bedroom which overlooks the water.”
Judy says, while large expanses of glass let in natural light, it doesn’t leave much wall space to work with.
“We’ve been collecting over-size artworks for so long. They just transform a space but this made us consider every pick that we had because it’s too much effort to switch it up.”
While the vibe is sleek and modern, Judy couldn’t leave the buffet behind.
“I love it, it’s as old as old can be,” she says.
“We had lot of dark wood in the old house and we got rid of most of it but kept this and I think it works really well because you can display stuff on top of it and underneath.”
The interiors are mostly Michael’s doing, a mix of a modern monochromatic palette with pops of green and red.
“I buy things I like but always have the positioning in my mind,” Michael says.
“I like black and white as a base with splashes of bright colours, hence the paintings, pottery and ornamental objects such as the jade elephants.
“The pottery is mainly objects by Mitsuo Shoji — he’s a friend and wonderful artist. The paintings are by three friends — Tim Storrier, John Olsen and Kate Briscoe — with a couple of Bruce Gould works and a few others.”
Feeling the squeeze
tastes run towards minimalism. “I don’t like clutter,” he says. “We built (the restaurant) Catalina 23 years ago with a minimalist palette of white and timber and it has changed very little in that time, except for new Capellini Tate Modern chairs and a wonderful painting on one wall by Tim Storrier.”
Although they’ve been in the apartment a year, there are a few more things Judy would like to tweak.
“I hate the bedroom headboard, it’s very masculine so we’ll change it,’’ she says.
“But because Michael’s passionate about the things that he loves and I’m more passionate about the things I hate, as long as I like it then I’m OK with it.
“The blank wall behind the dining table is another bone of contention.
“In an ideal world it would be all family photos, but he loves those bloody birds.” Going from 900sq m to 200sq m wasn’t without its challenges, but renting a store room helped and it was handy that Michael’s
The covered balcony is the ideal spot for alfresco dining.