Tamsin Johnson’s latest project is an evocative study of the LIGHTNESS AND EASE intrinsic to her aesthetic. Here, she shares how it reflects the evolution of her ethos.
Tamsin Johnson’s latest project is an evocative study of the lightness and ease intrinsic to her aesthetic. Here, she shares how it reflects the evolution of her ethos
Standing in the calm, sophisticated living space of a Victorian-era home in the leafy enclave of Sydney’s Woollahra, Tamsin Johnson declares her design ethos as natural and without pretension. It’s a description you could equally attribute to the woman herself. “I would rather a signature feel than a signature look,” says the Melbourne-raised, Sydney-based designer who’s currently balancing an impressive 15 projects both at home and internationally, as well as two children younger than three years old. “I like creating spaces that don’t look overly designed — spaces that are comfortable and look as though they could have always been there.”
Johnson’s approach has led to a successful portfolio spanning residential, retail and hospitality spaces. Among her most renowned works are a refresh of Rae’s on Wategos, Byron Bay’s retreat for globetrotting bons vivants, and Playa, accessory designer Lucy Folk’s first Sydney concept store — an all-pink, Instagram-gold moment in Bondi. She’s also responsible for the look and laid-back feel of husband Patrick Johnson’s eponymous tailoring business, designing the interiors of his boutiques in Sydney, Melbourne, New York and London.
Her most recent undertaking — this two-level, four-bedroom home, deftly renovated by Sydney architect James Garvan — is an expressive case in point, with its lofty ceilings, pops of pastel-hued furnishings, one-off antique finds and elegantly arched doorways. So, what does she love about this particular project — and her work in general? I come from a family of antiques dealers. Hunting down original, unique pieces for my clients has been ingrained in me. I try not to use the same pieces twice and source from a network of dealers around the world. I rarely buy locally. I also design a lot of custom pieces myself, such as upholstered bedheads and lighting. Nothing makes me happier than a client and family who truly love their home. I love spaces that feel new and have a refreshingly modest setting but are layered in history — spaces where aesthetics and beauty are secondary to function. This home belongs to a young family with three children under the age of five. They are avid art collectors, have impeccable taste and love entertaining. They’re as understated as they are sophisticated and didn’t want the house to feel too ‘grown-up’. They essentially wanted a home that was unique to them — full of beautiful things and at the same time liveable and comfortable. ››
‹‹ entered The colour the space scheme and is very took tonal, into subtle consideration and warm. the When client’s I first art collection common spaces and the are a light lovely in moody different white, rooms, and the it bedrooms made sense. are The soft colours Nearly with every contrasting detail in ceilings the house and timberwork. is custom-made, from the stonework to the hardware and even the Perrin & Rowe tap fittings, which are in a raw nickel so they’ll age nicely. The kitchen benchtops are in a pale travertine teamed with whitewashed oak cabinetry that has custom cut-out finger pulls. I also designed all the rugs. I think they give a subtle Art Deco contrast and introduce the right amount of colour into each room. The biggest setback was when the Murano glass chandelier that was installed in the entry fell and smashed into a million pieces. The travertine floor still has scratches on it. It was a real tragedy. I bought the chandelier from Nicholas & Alistair in Melbourne. I think they thought I was joking when I told them. They couldn’t believe it! The chairs by Fritz Neth are my favourite pieces in this home. I discovered them in New York. They’re aesthetic perfection — a little pocket of comfort and near impossible to find. I am inspired by nature and the past — be it art or furniture, movies and film sets. And I get inspiration from day-to-day life. My clients also inspire me: the way they live, and the way they go about their day. Then there are the artisans, contractors and builders with whom I work. There is never a shortage of inspiration. It’s how to filter and curate it that matters. My design heroes include the French Mid-century Modernist Georges Geffroy, who I like for his layering, and British garden designer Russell Page. I also adore what [Belgian designer] Axel Vervoordt and [French interior designer] Jacques Grange do, Gio Ponti and Le Corbusier, and many more. And, of course, [Sydney interior designer] Don McQualter, with whom I had the pleasure of working for many years, still inspires me. The biggest change in design over the past few years is the speed at which images are shot and shared. This means designs can date as fast as they appear, which makes it even more important to practise restraint and avoid trends. Going and watching forward, my personally, angels grow I’m up. looking Professionally, forward I’m to enjoying more seeing travel antiques come back into fashion. Good things are always good.
“I am inspired by nature and the past — be it art or furniture, movies and film sets… There is never a shortage of inspiration. It’s how to filterand curate it that matters” tamsin johnson
THIS PAGE in the living room, 1930s French ebonised sideboard; copper wall lights from Nicholas & Alistair; Laughing at Yourself Because YouCan’t Let Go (2017) artwork by Tomislav Nikolic. OPPOSITE PAGE in another view of the living room, custom sofa, marble coffee table with stainless-steel mirror base, ceramic vases and custom rug, all by Tamsin Johnson; Fritz Neth chair; Taccia lamp by Flos; Anna Charlesworth pendant light; Italian mid-century wall lights; custom Tamsin Johnson mirror; Cut Painting (Yellow)(2018) and Cut Painting (Pink) (2018) artworks by Huseyin Sami from Sarah Cottier gallery. Flowers by Christelle Scifo, Fleurette. Details, last pages.