Thanks to some inspiration from exotic tropical isles, this home on Sydney’s southern beaches is now a chic retreat, writes Judy Barouch.
The colours, textures and style of tropical colonial houses have been channelled into the formerly undistinguished bungalow on Sydney’s southern beaches of Saskia Hay and Mark Driscoll. The genesis for the home’s makeover lies in Saskia’s background: the well-known food stylist spent her early years in South-East Asia, where her father worked.
"My family lived in Singapore in a beautiful house with dark timber floors, deep verandahs and a tropical garden," she says. Exotic Sri Lanka also wove its magic into the mix. Saskia holidayed there several times with friends and then again with Mark before returning to the palm-fringed island in 2004 for a three-month work stint, training chefs at five-star boutique hotels.
"Sri Lanka is in some ways not dissimilar to the old Singapore," says Saskia. The couple was pleasantly surprised to see how many heritage houses have survived there, and mentally filed their distinctive architectural and design touches for future reference.
Saskia and Mark, who’ve also spent time living in Bangkok, knew that the elegant yet laidback style they loved would suit the Sydney home they’d bought in 2007. They engaged designers Sarah Marriott and Meryl Hare of Hare+Klein to reconfigure the layout and help them evoke an interior scheme with a relaxed, uncontrived flavour.
Low ceilings were ripped out along with walls; the new, lofty peaked ceilings are clad in white lining boards for a tropical effect. Upstairs, tiny rooms were converted into an airy main bedroom. A second bedroom has been furnished as a nursery for three-month-old twins Emma and Amelia.
The rear terrace previously had no access to the garden and, being west-facing and unprotected, would become uncomfortably hot. It has been transformed into a covered verandah and kitted out with a vintage overhead fan. Saskia and Mark entertain here in all seasons, and the day bed at one end is a favourite spot for reading. Barney, the couple’s Australian bulldog, usually snuggles up alongside.
With the coastal location in mind, the designers have chosen robust materials such as blackbutt flooring and polished concrete for all benchtops. "The concrete is particularly practical in the kitchen, where I sometimes prepare food for magazine shoots," says Saskia.
Furnishings are a blend of Saskia and Mark’s collectables, pieces specially sourced by the designers and custom-made items such as the zinc coffee tables. Against white walls, the interiors convey a casualness that evokes the tropical estates of the owners’ dreams.
Hare+Klein, Woolloomooloo, NSW; (02) 9368 1234 or www.hareklein.com.au
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