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The humble, federation-style facade of this house in Sydney's inner west coyly guards what lies beyond. While planning regulations meant its grey-and-white frontage had to be modest, walk through the entry at the side and such limitations - and allusions to heritage style - instantly evaporate.
The house sheds its shell, opening up to the harbourside setting, while the flamboyant interiors, by Greg Natale of Greg Natale Design, are glamorous and anything but low key. Also, contrary to that first impression, the four-bedroom, three level home is a new build from the sandstone bedrock up.
The owners lived for some years in the duplex next door, eyeing off this prime site for its potential. Eventually they bought it, but the old federation house on the lot wasn't part of their plans.
Entry is on the middle level. Off a hallway to the left is an open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area, with expansive views of Sydney Harbour. To the right is a study and powder room. Up cantilevered travertine stairs are four bedrooms, the main with an ensuite overlooking the harbour, two guestrooms and, tucked under the gable, the bedroom of the owner's two-year-old son. Two-car parking is provided by a car stacker. Down a second fligght of cantilevered stairs is a media room, gym and laundry.
The architecture, by Greg Natale Design architect Victor Wong, is "minimal and clean and pared back", says Greg. While the staircase, with its precast cantilevered treads connecting the three levels is an architectural standout, the home's distinct personality is in the detail, such as the joinery and the bold decoration.
"We had an affinity with Greg's style," says the owner, "we wanted something fun and playful and also elegant. Not plain white, something different, greg knew what we were after."
Greg sums up the home's style as Palm Springs or Hollywood Regency, popular in California during the 1950s and 60s. "It's a layer of glamour and decoration over a minimalist base." The Besser block, a distinctive feature of the living and barbecue areas, is perhaps its essence: ornate, geometric pattern forged in a raw, earthy material.