Known affectionately as the Magnolia House during its refurbishment, this home on Sydney’s north shore has been transformed, both inside and out.
In the 18th century, south-east Asian plant hunters discovered huge, glossy-leafed owering trees in the region. Now known as magnolias, their deciduous foliage is not only beautiful, blooming with perfume in winter and showing off with shiny green leaves in spring, but therapeutic, used in alternative medicine as a remedy to soothe and calm. In the thousands of years since their discovery, hundreds of new hybrids have been cultivated. A pair of these stand pink and proud in the garden of this fourbedroom residence on Sydney’s lower north shore that has been revived by Arent&pyke, the Surry Hills-based interior design studio founded by principals Juliette Arent and Sarah-jane Pyke. Bar a sole frangipani tree, it was the only ora left standing in the re-landscaping of the property by Secret Gardens. Throughout the duration of the refurbishment, it was known among of ce staff simply as the Magnolia House.
Originally engaged to help recon gure the kitchen and bathrooms, the project scope took a turn when Arent&pyke did a surprise sketch of a new staircase. It was the start of an unexpected conversation that evolved over two years as the entire property underwent a renovation. A family-friendly house with light- lled living spaces and a Hamptons-style look, indecision had initially prompted the owners to make safe adjustments. “They told us that they had made it white for neutrality, but it ended up being too neutral and they desired more texture and warmth.” Yet light touches never eventuated, recalls Juliette Arent of demolition day. “When we started working on site, I think the clients were initially shocked at how little of the house was left. The volume remained the same but we stripped everything back and started again.”
One of the home’s biggest shortcomings was the foyer, with its overbearing timber balustrade and long, dark internal alley. Limestone