Inside Out (Australia)
Three rooms go from bland to brilliant
Designer Lara Ette changed the destiny of three small rooms in this Sydney house, making them more useful – and valuable – than before
DESIGN PROCESS A stone’s throw from one of Sydney’s eastern beaches, this coastal home is lived in by a young family. My team was brought in to reconfigure rooms within the existing footprint. There was dead space in the kitchen that wasn’t being used effectively, so we actually reduced the size to make room for a new [adjacent] ensuite. We had to really consider every drawer and cupboard and what sort of items would be placed within. We took advantage of the high ceilings on one side of the kitchen and took the cupboards right up to store things not frequently in use. Ensuring it’s comfortable to move within the space is really important, so making sure that there was enough space between joinery was essential.
SPACE CREATION Using a patterned floor tile is a great way of creating the impression of a single floor surface, which we believe blurs corners and creates depth. We wanted a Shaker style for the cabinetry, and used a thin frame detail to help make the cupboards and drawers appear tall and wide.
CLEVER TRICKS Even in a small space, it’s a good idea to use a combination of materials as this creates interest and keeps a person’s eye moving from point to point, taking it all in. We used a light timber veneer for the high cupboards to add a textural element to the scheme. Nice details are also a must. Find some lovely handles, make sure you have a bit of wall space allocated to hang up artwork, create open shelving for cookbooks and plants, and add curves whenever you can (we did so with the splashback).
BEST ADVICE It can be tempting to build storage at every opportunity in a small space, but there always needs to be a relief of some sort, and we made the conscious decision to keep the window wall free of any additional shelving.
DESIGN PROCESS Once again, we looked at the basic requirements of the bedroom – a bed and two bedsides – and reconfigured the width of the room by relocating the bedroom/ bathroom wall so that it fit these items comfortably. This meant that the bedroom wasn’t left with unused space, and the ensuite could be more generous. The other objective for the bedroom was to find space for new wardrobes. With some clever spatial planning, we were able to use some of the footprint from the kitchen and turn this into a walk-in robe. Opposite the bed, there was another opportunity for storage and we created a generously sized dresser there.
SPACE CREATION In the bedroom, restricting the colour palette was the technique we used to increase the space visually. We even used the same colour on the dresser and walls. Again, this has the effect of blurring corners and creating depth.
CLEVER TRICKS Always take care with your spatial planning, ensuring there’s a place for all the essential items and enough space for circulation around the room. Using lots of materials also gives your eye plenty to focus on, so that you don’t notice the small space so much. In this bedroom we have shutters, webbing, timber handles and beautiful wool carpet for that.
BEST ADVICE We had the opportunity for high storage where the dresser is located, but decided against it. The reason for this was to bring some relief into the space, to have an empty wall that provides surfaces to rest objects and art.
DESIGN PROCESS Bathrooms have minimum dimensions for each function so we always begin with those. In this renovation, the ensuite ceiling was sloped (similar to the kitchen) and placing the shower under the high point helps to make the user feel there is plenty of space. We also decided on an extra-long vanity with two basins and a generous mirrored cabinet above. SPACE CREATION Mirrors help to bounce light around and in this instance we were able to go wall to wall with mirror to help widen the room. We usually like to keep the vanity (and toilet if possible) off the floor in smaller spaces, to give more floor space to the client, even though they can’t exactly use it.
CLEVER TRICKS We simplified the tiles in the bathroom and only used terrazzo for the floor and walls, but there was a wall that wasn’t going to get wet so we opted for V-groove panels that tied in well with some of the home’s other materials. We also used timber drawers (similar to those in the kitchen) to add texture and bring a lightness to the palette. Wall-mounted taps were a great idea because they allowed a narrower vanity.
BEST ADVICE For obvious reasons, never try to squeeze a shower or a toilet into a space that’s too tight.
“As well as including lots of uniquely detailed storage, this fresh and functional design bridges the gap between traditional [in other parts of the house] and contemporary”
LARA ETTE, INTERIOR DESIGNER