True ro­mance

it was sup­posed to be an in­vest­ment prop­erty, But once de­sign dynamos ARENT & PYKE be­gan to weave their spell, the own­ers of this Span­ish mis­sion-style apart­ment soon found them­selves deeply be­sot­ted

VOGUE Living Australia - - HOMES - Arent­ @ar­ent­pykestu­dio

There is more than a sin­gle story of me­ta­mor­pho­sis to be told here. One is that of the home. The other is that of the home’s un­sus­pect­ing mis­tress, who had not en­tered into this agree­ment ex­pect­ing to find a new love. Over the years, plenty have ex­pe­ri­enced real es­tate ro­mance; they fall in love at first sight, are swept off their feet, just have to have the home in ques­tion. Not so Kim McKay. She was a stranger to the no­tion of ‘home’ and what it meant when she first viewed the top-floor apart­ment named in a Span­ish mis­sion-style build­ing in Syd­ney’s Belle­vue Hill, and so shrugged con­tent­edly at it as a po­ten­tial in­vest­ment.

It wasn’t un­til the en­gage­ment of in­te­rior de­sign­ers Juli­ette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke, their ex­cite­ment at the ro­mance of the ar­chi­tec­ture, and their en­thu­si­as­tic shar­ing of po­ten­tial aes­thetic direc­tions that McKay’s soul be­gan to lift. “I was happy to keep liv­ing in my ter­ri­bly tiny two-bed­room apart­ment in Bondi,” she says. “I didn’t know this feel­ing I have now be­cause I’d never ex­pe­ri­enced it. If I had I’d have done this thing sooner.” McKay, a PR and mar­ket­ing en­tre­pre­neur, and her hus­band of 14 years, film ex­ec­u­tive Karl Wissler, have known a mar­ried life of high-fly­ing travel. Among her clients are the Santa Mon­ica and Hawaii tourism boards and lots of up­mar­ket ho­tels. He fre­quents the film fes­ti­vals of Toronto, Berlin, Cannes and Los An­ge­les. She’s over­seas for up to four months of the year, he for three. Ho­tels make them happy. “Room ser­vice is the most won­der­ful thing in the world — I can’t even!” she says.

The mo­ti­va­tion to ease off a lit­tle on the travel came from Wissler. The search for an in­vest­ment prop­erty was on and off but when he sent her a link to the apart­ment’s list­ing while in Aus­tralia, she just hap­pened to be sit­ting with a friend of the prop­erty’s real es­tate agent, in South Africa. Fate? She wasn’t about to get car­ried away. “We didn’t go in [to the view­ing] to­gether as we couldn’t find a park. It wasn’t ro­man­tic,” she says. “The Span­ish mis­sion ››

‹‹ style was some­thing we’d al­ways loved from our early days stay­ing at the Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel, but the of­fer wasn’t emo­tional, it was log­i­cal. It be­came ro­man­tic as we started to make it a home.” Syd­ney-based de­sign stu­dio Arent & Pyke came highly rec­om­mended. McKay looked at the com­pany’s web­site “and didn’t hate it. I had no idea about the jour­ney I was about to take,” she says. “Last time I bought fur­ni­ture shabby chic was a thing”. Con­fi­dent in their fine-tuned ap­proach, a decade on from their in­cep­tion, the de­sign duo was ex­actly what McKay needed. “She was so open from the start,” says Arent, “and she freely ad­mit­ted she didn’t have a vi­sion for it. They’d never re­ally made a home or built a col­lec­tion be­fore.”

The circa-1928 build­ing has an apart­ment on each of its four floors. McKay and Wissler found theirs, at the top, rel­a­tively un­touched but for a ’90s kitchen, still with lots of lit­tle quirks in­clud­ing a French-style gar­land frieze and fluted arch­ways. “It was a very spe­cial prop­erty that de­served soft in­ter­ven­tion,” says Pyke. “Keep­ing all the grace and beauty of it would re­quire a del­i­cate touch. We’ve ac­tu­ally in­ter­vened quite a lot, and yet it feels mod­est.” Those in­ter­ven­tions in­clude a new fire­place, re­moval of a wall and the ad­di­tion of a large arched open­ing be­tween the kitchen and sit­ting room, in keep­ing with the oth­ers but for its glass cav­ity slid­ing doors. Other­wise the floor plan, it was agreed, worked well al­ready, and Arent & Pyke’s de­sign aids the pro­gres­sion of vol­umes from the clas­sic vestibule to the cen­tral liv­ing space with its vaulted ceil­ing (which con­ceals all the room’s light­ing) through to the din­ing room — a sun­room that’s like a box seat to the the­atre that is Syd­ney’s pic­turesque har­bour. Wings ei­ther side take this home be­yond typ­i­cal apart­ment liv­ing. One side is a grand master of walk-in wardrobe, large en­suite, yoga stu­dio and bed­room re­plete with a “princess and the pea bed” re­quested by McKay, and the other is for guests and gath­er­ing.

Both Arent and Pyke have an affin­ity with this style of home af­ter liv­ing in 1930s apart­ments in Dar­ling Point, Edge­cliff and Dou­ble

Bay for years. Their re­ac­tion to this one cen­tred around the charm and Parisian style of its her­itage de­tails and el­e­vated ap­point­ment. “We’ve al­ways used an eclec­tic mix of styles,” ex­plains Pyke, “but the French dec­o­ra­tive style has also al­ways been about mix­ing eras and an­tiques and chi­nois­erie. The mix also means clients can keep adding to it and not have to worry, ‘Does this match… ?’”

It was dur­ing the cu­ra­tion of this “mix” that McKay’s me­ta­mor­pho­sis be­gan. Ini­tial briefs had re­flected mostly on her ho­tel ob­ses­sion: she needed “an abun­dance of the lit­tle things — to never run out of fluffy tow­els, and a hair dryer in a cabi­net that’s al­ways plugged in”. Now she was ob­sess­ing over tiles and tex­tiles, for the first time in her life.

“How much her eyes have been opened,” Arent mar­vels. “Some peo­ple don’t know the trans­for­ma­tive power of an in­te­rior. Un­til you’re in it: that’s when you have the heart mo­ment.”

She ag­o­nised over every choice they brought to the ta­ble. “Every day in my work I make a mil­lion de­ci­sions and make them quickly... but to fig­ure out what I liked and didn’t like took a long time.” Af­ter years of hardly notic­ing art she was “open to learn­ing” and go­ing to all the gal­leries. Says Arent: “We’ve re­ceived so many emails say­ing, ‘You’ve trans­formed the way I feel about it all.’” McKay says she’s fallen in love with art and beau­ti­ful things, and she’s fallen in love with the whole no­tion of ‘home’. “I was in Syd­ney from May to Septem­ber,” she says, just mo­ments af­ter ar­riv­ing back from LA (while mak­ing her manda­tory home­com­ing cup of tea).

“That’s a bit of a record.”

Wissler is around more, too. “Our work had taken us away from each other but this home has brought us back to­gether. There’s nowhere else we’d rather be.” VL

THIS PAGE from the vestibule into the cen­tral liv­ing space, PP225 Flag Hal­yard arm­chair by Hans J Weg­ner for PP Møbler, from Cult; black brushed oak B&B Italia cabi­net; Manin Over­alls art­work (2006) by McLean Ed­wards; Ab­stract Forms sculp­ture(circa ’50s) from Alm. OP­PO­SITE PAGE en­trance to the stuc­coed Span­ish mis­sion-style build­ing in Syd­ney’s Belle­vue Hill. De­tails, last pages.

THIS PAGE in the bed­room, bed­head by CK Uphol­ster­ers; So­ci­ety bed linen, from On­dene; Car­a­vane bed linen, from Mont­martre Store. Gubi Bestlite BL6 lamp; Du­lux Hildegard paint. OP­PO­SITE PAGE in the en­suite, Melange Pill Form sconce by Kelly Wearstler; Turk­ish Bathing Women art­work by David Hamil­ton. De­tails, last pages.

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