The owner’s former childhood home has been reinvented for her own family in an easy style that marries Spanish Mission and Hollywood Regency without missing a beat.
The home of cookbook author Stephanie Conley, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, has turned a fresh page. This was once her childhood home, but now, thanks to a smart renovation by architect Luigi Rosselli and Stephanie’s deft decorating, it has effected its own generational shift. When her father passed away about 11 years ago, Stephanie and her sister were unsure what to do with the Arts and Crafts-style house. It wasn’t until her first son was born that she considered its potential as a family home. But the five-bedroom house was hamstrung by its past, squandering its prime position over Sydney Harbour. Large windows, added in a 70s renovation, embraced the view but didn’t connect with the garden, and the main entry was via narrow steps down the side, “like the tradesman’s entrance, not dignified”, says Luigi.
“I wanted to keep the house intact, as it was the place I grew up in, yet make it new and contemporary, more suited to family living,” says Stephanie, who hired Luigi on a friend’s recommendation. “He came up with amazing plans to give the house a new face without destroying it.”
Keeping the Federation facade, Luigi demolished clumsy add-ons on the harbour side, reducing the home to its original shell. “It was an exercise in addition and subtraction,” he says. Along that facade, he installed steel balustrades and banks of steel-framed windows, a Luigi hallmark evoking his roots in industrial Milan. Many front onto a vast new terrace which he added along that side of the house.
“There was no need to imitate the style at the front,” says Luigi. “The contrast between the old and new is enriching, but the materials and colours are the same, creating a visual link.”
No drastic changes were made to the original layout, but the most significant was the shifting of the kitchen from the back to the harbour side, where it abuts the new terrace. The living areas on the lower floor have been converted into an open plan, with Luigi retaining the original internal arches.
To create a sense of arrival, he moved the entry to street level, so visitors enter through the top floor, which boasts four bedrooms, and descend a sculptural staircase to the open-plan main living area below. A previously unused basement level now boasts a study and gym while, at the top, Luigi has utilised the roof space to create a fourth level, a play area for Stephanie’s two children, Hugo and Frederick. Connecting the four is a soaring, sculptural staircase, another Luigi trademark. “Stairs are the playground of architects. Designers have chairs, while architects put their talents into stairs to create impact,” he says with a smile.
Luigi’s inspiring take forms the backbone of the new house, joining all four levels practically and visually. On the bedroom level, he has installed Moorish clay pipe screens, painted white, to offer privacy from, as well as a connection to, the light-soaked void.
For the interiors, Stephanie put Tinseltown glamour on her menu. She took some of her inspiration from the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, a city she visits frequently, and where she did much of her furniture shopping. “There’s a lot more on offer, traditional, contemporary or midcentury; you can achieve any look you want,” she says. “Here I went for Hollywood Regency.” The formal living with its tailored, layered furnishings and midcentury retro-classic air, has a Beverly Hills meets Palm Springs feel, with bursts of gold and plentiful pattern. The starting point was the rug. “I love its striking pattern and the colours. I like lots of different fabrics and colours,” she says.
In this home, which pays homage to its past while writing its own story, an elegant marble-floored room abutting the family room is a tribute to Stephanie’s happy childhood. “When I was growing up, it was always a piano room. It just had to be a piano room second time around,” she says. “It’s my nod to the original house.” #
For more go to luigirosselli.com. Stephanie Conley’s new book, With The Hostess, $60. thehostess.com.au.