Inside Out (Australia)
CLEVER FLOOR-PLAN ADJUSTMENTS AND CONFIDENT COLOUR CHOICES HAVE TURNED THIS 1930S SYDNEY APARTMENT INTO A BIG HIT
DINING ROOM (opposite) Owner Mary has an eye for stunning wallpaper and chose the Aurora Ray design by Calico Wallpaper for the wall next to her incredible harbour view. Vintage Saarinen ‘Tulip’ table. Chairs, JMH Furniture. Console table, Gumtree. Glass vase, Iittala. Resin bowl, Dinosaur Designs. Ceramic vase, Gretel Corrie. LIVING ROOM (above) A motif in the artwork by Antonia Mrljak makes it a great match for the Art Deco cornice. Ceramics, Milly Dent.
Sometimes size doesn’t matter – it’s the home you create within your particular set of walls that makes all the difference. That’s the approach Mary Nguyen and her husband Andrew Dempster took when they were the lucky bidders on an original Art Deco apartment in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Size was a lot less important than other factors. After living in London for several years, the couple wanted the ultimate Sydney experience of living in a beautiful coastal home. Being outbid numerous times when the property market was at its hottest, the deflated couple looked at just one more place in Bellevue Hill, with no expectations of it being theirs. Once they walked through the front door and turned left, a view of Rose Bay captivated them. With Mary’s creative flair, they could see the place’s potential. Fortunately, luck was on their side this time, and they were the successful bidders.
The previous owner had lived there for 30 years and, apart from the oversized window installed on all the apartments in the building, the home had remained untouched. It also had a few areas that seemed like wasted space, so Mary and Andrew asked architect David Phillips (now retired) to craft some creative amendments without changing the footprint. “Our biggest challenge was to add a bathroom and laundry without compromising the size of the bedrooms,” says Mary. “This led us to close off an unused hallway and remove the bathtub to gain an ensuite bathroom off the main bedroom. The final stroke of genius in all this was [creating] access to the ensuite through the main wardrobe doors.”
Having decided on a slow and steady approach to the cosmetic changes, the couple lived in the home for at least a year before they started decorating. As managing director of wallpaper distributor Wallpaper Trader, Mary has a great knowledge of interiors and led the charge on most of the decisions. “I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at interiors,” she says. “I like to start by envisioning the mood for the whole space and then, within the mood, there can be variations on that.” As Mary and Andrew’s home is in a very sophisticated enclave overlooking a bay, the couple settled on ‘coastal glam’ for their decorating style.
They sought advice from leading interior architect Phoebe Nicol, who’s also a co-owner of vintage furniture destination The Vault. “Phoebe came in to show us how to plan rooms and choose fabrics for curtains and soft furnishings, which neither of us had done before. We took Phoebe’s guidance, and then slowly did one room at a time – until one day it was all done!” By hiring an interior designer for help with planning and selecting finishes, they avoided costly mistakes and the decision fatigue they’d experienced earlier on. They both considered this a worthwhile investment, financially and emotionally.
Decorating the apartment is where Mary had the most fun, and, of course, using wallpaper was a must. There was one wallpaper that was just perfect for the informal dining area, she explains. “The space around the living-room window seemed
undone and, in my sourcing of wallpapers, I came across Aurora Ray by Calico Wallpaper. There are a few times in my life when I’ve had my breath taken away and this was one of them. The colours of Ray were the same palette we see out the window every day, morning and evening. The wallpaper added warmth, and it’s magical sitting by the window and seeing sunrise and sunset inside and out.”
Daisy’s nursery is another space where breathtaking wallpaper plays a large part in the design. “The nursery took me ages to decide on,” says Mary. “Then I found Petals Pressed by New Zealand designer Emma Hayes. Its large, soft metallic petals are so romantic, and I was able to draw out different colours from the pattern in other pieces around the room.”
Complementing the wallpaper and bold colours throughout the home are lots of secondhand treasures, many of which Mary found on Gumtree. This includes the travertine dining table in the formal dining room, and the vintage sideboard Mary bought and had sprayed a bold pink before adding new rattan details. She refers to this form of upcycling as ‘luxe-cycling’ because she uses luxe finishes and colours to make things her own.
As Mary has demonstrated, you can live large on a small footprint and have a wonderful, welcoming home. “We feel relaxed as soon as we walk in the front door,” says Mary.
“We wanted to make the apartment both special and functional, because when the space you’re in makes you breathe easier, then that’s a place you’ll rush home to be in.”
Check out Wallpaper Trader at wallpapertrader.com or @wallpapertrader. Phoebe Nicol is at phoebenicol.com and @phoebenicol.interiors
“I enjoy mixing things up with new and old. I especially love ‘luxe-cycling’, which is my take on upcycling but making it luxe. In the dining room, for example, we painted a mid-century sideboard we got off Gumtree in a deep magenta colour with a gloss paint and added rattan on the doors. Now it feels ultra-glam!” MARY NGUYEN, HOMEOWNER