SIZE MAT­TERS

With a blend of clas­sic and mod­ern, an ethe­real colour pal­ette and some clever play on scale, in­te­rior de­sign­ers Han­dels­mann + Khaw work their magic on a fam­ily home in Sydney

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The en­try of this five-bed­room house in Sydney’s eastern sub­urbs fea­tures a trompe l’oeil, a vi­gnette of a Château de Ver­sailles gallery that makes the space ap­pear more than twice its ac­tual size. In­te­rior de­sign­ers Ta­nia Han­dels­mann and Gil­lian Khaw of Han­dels­mann + Khaw have used this and sim­i­lar sleights of hand to cre­ate the im­pres­sion of a grand house with­out com­pro­mis­ing its hu­man scale. Although this home to a young fam­ily couldn’t over­whelm, that didn’t mean the de­sign­ers had to show glam­our the door. “We have al­ways pre­ferred older style homes with char­ac­ter,” says the owner, who bought the postFed­er­a­tion bun­ga­low in late 2015. There’s cer­tainly no short­age of char­ac­ter here, with the res­i­dence’s high ceil­ings, wide hall­ways and loft-like up­stairs bed­rooms (the re­sult of a pre­vi­ous at­tic con­ver­sion). “Sit­ting in the bright, ca­sual fam­ily room, we could imag­ine our­selves spend­ing many years here with our large fam­ily,” she says. Down­stairs, the large main bed­room suite and study, which pro­vide the par­ents with a re­treat from the up­stairs bed­rooms, sealed the deal. Though the fam­ily room is part of a light-filled ex­ten­sion at the rear of the home, less ap­peal­ing were the older, cen­tral parts of the house, which re­mained dark and bur­row­like. “We wanted to lighten the place and open parts of it up while re­tain­ing the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter and pe­riod fea­tures,” the owner says. Drawn to the de­sign­ers’ aes­thetic, which com­bines the clas­si­cal with an up­dated feel, she hired them to work their magic on these spa­ces, which would bring a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of Euro­pean je ne sais quoi. “The house, although cosy and charm­ing, was not gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned, and the pub­lic spa­ces weren’t grand enough,” says Khaw. The pri­mary aim was to make the cen­tral part of the house, which en­com­passes the for­mal liv­ing and din­ing ar­eas sep­a­rated by a cor­ri­dor, more invit­ing and prac­ti­cal, as a place where the par­ents could en­joy me-time while also be­ing a hub for el­e­gant en­ter­tain­ing. This leaves the fam­ily room and up­stairs rooms for the younger fam­ily mem­bers. Khaw and Han­dels­mann punched out walls to unify the two spa­ces and in­stalled strate­gi­cally placed sky­lights to bathe the front sec­tion of the house with day­light. They re­placed plan­ta­tion shut­ters on the liv­ing room win­dows with full floor-to-ceil­ing cur­tains for a lighter, breezier am­bi­ence. And in the din­ing room, they in­stalled banks of bi­folds to the gar­den to foster an in­door-out­door con­nec­tion. Aes­thet­i­cally, the de­sign­ers aimed for “a re­laxed, Aus­tralian take on a Euro­pean aes­thetic”, says Khaw, “a pared-back, quiet sort of el­e­gance, mix­ing pieces so as not to fall into a con­ven­tional in­ter­pre­ta­tion of tra­di­tional. And we wanted the light to have a muted, af­ter­noon qual­ity to it, soft and dif­fused, like a Ver­meer”. Limed floor­boards, a faded Ori­en­tal rug, a white sofa and din­ing chairs rubbed back to mimic an­tique paint­work all con­trib­ute to a clas­sic “washed-out, dusty” pal­ette. The hues may be muted, but the duo has also de­liv­ered plenty of drama. In the din­ing room, they in­stalled Ja­cobean-style pan­elling to give the space grav­i­tas, fur­ther em­pha­sised by two over­size coach­style pen­dants sym­met­ri­cally poised over the din­ing ta­ble. Sim­i­larly, in the liv­ing room, a tepid fire­place was re­placed with a much larger one in ma­jes­tic Port­land stone, which lends the room vis­ual weight. Through­out, the de­sign­ers have adopted a less-is-more phi­los­o­phy, but the less packs a pow­er­ful punch. “While the trend is to fill spa­ces out,” says Khaw, “we un­der­fur­nished this house, so it has a feel­ing of be­ing spa­cious.” And, pulling another rab­bit out of the hat, they have played with scale. “The pieces needed to be over­size — they cre­ate a trick of the eye and make the house it­self seem larger.” The over­all ef­fect is fresh and re­laxed while re­main­ing true to the home’s pe­riod fea­tures. A 1960s Castiglioni Tac­cia lamp in the hall­way con­trasts with the pe­riod arch­way and ar­chi­traves, while Louis XVI-style chairs sur­round a Knoll-style din­ing ta­ble. In keep­ing with the own­ers’ love of all things French, Khaw and Han­dels­mann have in­cor­po­rated such el­e­ments into the de­sign as a del­i­cate plas­ter light in the liv­ing room in­spired by a piece from the Parisian Musée Pi­casso. The de Gour­nay silk pan­els in the main bed­room il­lus­trate the deft jux­ta­po­si­tion of muted el­e­ments and bolder, dra­matic el­e­ments through­out. In pink and green hand-painted silk, it’s del­i­cate and ro­man­tic, yet, cov­er­ing nearly a whole wall, it’s no shrink­ing vi­o­let. “I re­ally love the de Gour­nay and the four-poster bed. It’s a dra­matic ges­ture,” says Khaw. “We have made the home live up to its ul­ti­mate size, de­spite its bun­ga­low pro­por­tions.”

BY CHRIS PEARSON PHO­TOGRAPHED BY FELIX FOR­EST STYLING BY JOSEPH GARD­NER

above: in the DIN­ING ROOM, Louis XVI-style chair from Christophe Liv­ing; cus­tom Ja­cobean pan­elling; art­work by Kris­tel Smits.

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