Flo­ral trib­ute

Known af­fec­tion­ately as the Mag­no­lia House dur­ing its re­fur­bish­ment, this home on Syd­ney’s north shore has been trans­formed, both in­side and out.

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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

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