In­te­rior de­signer Michelle Mac­arounas merged a Euro­pean aes­thetic with fresh Aus­tralian ease to breathe new life into a 1920s eastern sub­urbs home.

VOGUE Living Australia - - CONTENTS - By Ver­ity Mag­dalino Pho­tographed by Prue Rus­coe

In­te­rior de­signer Michelle Mac­arounas merged a Euro­pean aes­thetic with fresh Aus­tralian ease to breathe new life into a 1920s eastern sub­urbs home

hen in­te­rior de­signer and de­voted glo­be­trot­ter Michelle Mac­arounas first glimpsed her most re­cent pro­ject — an ex­pan­sive 1920s home with a Tus­can villa ex­te­rior in a hilly sec­tion of Syd­ney’s Eastern Sub­urbs — she ad­mit­ted to feel­ing a lit­tle over­whelmed. “It was a lit­tle bit gaudy, and I wasn’t sure whether to em­brace that clas­sic Tus­can aes­thetic.”

But with a ca­reer span­ning London, Syd­ney, Geneva and Paris — where she stud­ied in­te­rior ar­chi­tec­ture at École Na­tionale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts — the Aus­tralian-born Mac­arounas elo­quently fi­nessed a client brief that called for a unique mix of lux­ury Euro­pean aes­thetic with ca­sual Aus­tralian ease.

Here, the founder and di­rec­tor of In­fi­nite De­sign Stu­dio talks about her pas­sion for the pro­ject and her evolv­ing de­sign ethos.

WMore man­sion than house, the orig­i­nal home was built in the 1920s. There are eight bath­rooms — but we didn’t redo all of them — five bed­rooms, a large pri­vate writ­ing room, a cel­lar/tast­ing room, maid’s quar­ters, an in­door pool, an out­door pool, a sauna… It’s a fun prop­erty and has been an ex­tremely beau­ti­ful pro­ject to work on — and very dear to my heart.

What’s im­por­tant to us as a de­sign stu­dio — and it may sound like a cliché, but it’s true — is you have to have love in all your projects. And this home has love on so many lev­els. The owner, a close friend, has Hun­gar­ian her­itage but was born in Aus­tralia and is the mother of two chil­dren. She’s very stylish, so­phis­ti­cated and also down-to-earth, so it was about bring­ing all that to­gether and merg­ing a Euro­pean aes­thetic with an Aus­tralian out­look.

The orig­i­nal in­te­rior of the home was very dark and heavy. It was old in style — cool and shad­owy in­side, and out­side was very sep­a­rate, with for­mal gar­dens sur­round­ing a ten­nis court and a swim­ming pool. It was im­por­tant to link the grand land­scaped ar­eas to the in­side en­ter­tain­ing ar­eas of the home. We re­freshed one of the key kitchen din­ing spa­ces by adding more win­dows and re-land­scap­ing the im­me­di­ate sur­round­ing gar­den. The re­sult was like adding a whole new sec­tion to the house.

Up­dat­ing the more for­mal ar­eas of the home was a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for me; I’d never re­ally dealt with that tra­di­tional, over-the-top op­u­lence. The first big chal­lenge was to link a beau­ti­ful ca­sual lounge and din­ing area, where the fam­ily spent all their time, to th­ese for­mal ar­eas, where they en­ter­tain guests — and still main­tain a sense of grandeur and lux­ury but with­out the heavy aes­thetic.

We soft­ened the look by adding lay­ers. We took out the heavy vel­vet cur­tains and re­placed them with linen and silk for a fresher, more con­tem­po­rary feel. And we worked tonally. I have a joy for colour, but it’s el­e­gant to work in the same tone — mix­ing colours in one pro­ject can some­times look too elab­o­rate and messy.

One of my favourite pieces is the La Isla lounge for San­cal. Ev­ery woman is in love with this piece. It’s not sim­ply about the pink colour; it’s the curves and the so­cial el­e­ment to it, too. I can imag­ine two girl­friends sit­ting and hav­ing a martini. It works re­ally well. For me, the stand­out space is the home’s out­door area. It looks onto the pool and a land­scaped gar­den we re­freshed and it is just di­vine. It feels like you’re in Italy.

The Aus­tralian aes­thetic is much more re­laxed, and I think that’s why we’re get­ting in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion right now. In Europe, it’s harder to create that easy sense of in­door and out­door flow that’s so in­trin­sic to our in­te­ri­ors. We’re not pre­ten­tious. And we’re not as se­ri­ous as the Ital­ians. There’s some­thing fresh that’s re­flected in the way we de­sign.

I love Italy, and es­pe­cially Mi­lan. Mi­lan De­sign Week pro­vides me with in­spi­ra­tion for the year ahead. In­te­rior de­sign can be a lot of hard work, but the en­ergy and ex­cite­ment of Mi­lan gets me through every­thing else. It’s not just about de­sign and busi­ness; it’s the con­cepts, the in­spi­ra­tion and the emo­tion be­hind every­thing. Ital­ians are the only ones who can do it to this level.

My ap­proach to de­sign is chang­ing. I used to be pared-back and a lit­tle mas­cu­line in my aes­thetic, but I find I’m get­ting softer. As you ma­ture, you be­come more em­pa­thetic and ac­cept­ing; you un­der­stand peo­ple more and be­come softer as a per­son, which is re­flected in what you create. It’s a more fem­i­nine ap­proach, which you can see in many ar­eas of de­sign right now. Even with the Ital­ian brands in Mi­lan this year, many of the in­stal­la­tions were rounded and so­cial, and de­signed to have peo­ple fac­ing each other rather than look­ing at a wall. I think that’s an evo­lu­tion for ev­ery­one.

this page: on the BAL­CONY, de­signer Michelle Mac­arounas; stone ta­ble from Parterre; Ex­pormim Huma chairs from Ke-Zu; FDC crackle-glaze ce­ramic horse’s head from Becker Minty. op­po­site page: the EN­TRANCE to this Tus­can villa-like home. De­tails, last pages.

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