Dress circle doesn't come better than this - a four-level home on Sydney's lower north shore with spectacular views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. But therein lay a challenge for its designer, Greg Natale: create a home that would not be upstaged by what was framed by its wall-to-wall windows.
Owners Vonnie and Bill Wavish purchased one half of this property in 2007 but, when the mirror-image house next door came on the market four years later, they seized the opportunity. It would not only offer generous room for them and their now-teenage daughter, Jordan, but would also be ideal for when their grandchildren came to stay. The two houses now fuse seamlessly, with structural pillars where the dividing wall used to be. In a project that lasted more than a year and saw more than 210 tonnes of concrete removed from the site, Natale proved two can go into one very neatly indeed.
The architectural brief, such as it was, evolved with the project. Apart from generous, flowing spaces, “we wanted floating stairs with a feature wall and a bar on the lower level,” says Bill. “And the house had to be a gallery for the art we had collected over the years.” Beyond that, it was quite fluid.
Right from the California-inspired front door which provides a grand California-style entrance in shimmering cut-out bronze designed by Greg Natale and made by Axolotl, you know you have arrived somewhere special.
“We spend lots of time in LA,” explains Vonnie. “They love their front doors and make them a major feature; we wanted that here.” And what a head-turning entrance it makes. That entry on the steep, harbour-hugging site is on the third level, which houses the large open-plan formal sitting, formal dining and casual sitting areas.
Every opportunity to capture light has been maximised in this four-storey Sydney Harbourside modern residence.
The white palette reflects and emphasises this, with different finishes adding detail – the panelling in kitchen cabinetry, the pattern of marble in a bathroom, a subtle geometric bedroom wallpaper, a patterned armchair. Against that, pops of indigo, plum and violet add intensity.
Angles and organics bring balance to the design, while narrow black lines appear throughout, in chair and table legs, mirror frames, a rug, lamp bases and light fittings, acting like elegant frames that highlight the house’s incredible view.
That entry on the steep, harbour-hugging site is on the third level, which houses the large open-plan formal sitting, formal dining and casual sitting areas, and a pure white 'cosmetic' kitchen with an all-bells-and-whistles commerical kitchen running parallel and tucked discreetly behind it.
Joining the levels is the floating staircase. Fringed by a soaring travertine feature wall and with suspended vertebrae-like treads, it forms the spine of the building.
Running parallel and tucked discreetly behind the white kitchen is an all-bells-and-whistles commercial kitchen with stainless steel everything. The ground level is also home to a massive luminescent white-onyx bar, which the couple modelled on the glamorous backlit bar in LA’s Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The challenge, Bill says, was lining up the lighting, and he claims his homegrown result is better than the original.
Joining the levels is the floating staircase, made from Classic Travertine from Worldstone and fringed by a soaring travertine feature wall and with suspended vertebrae-like treads. It forms the spine of the building. On the top level sit the two main ensuite bedrooms, a study and double garage. Beneath the open-plan area are three bedrooms and a gym; at the lowest level is an informal sitting and dining area. Vonnie drove the look of the interiors. “I wanted a white house with crisp, clean lines that suggested easy living,” she says. And circular sofas straight out of Austin Powers, she adds with a grin. It also had to have a knockabout resilience. “I have grandchildren and I am not precious. They tumble all over these sofas. The fact they can be whisked off for cleaning helps.”
While Natale concedes the home’s California modern aesthetic is a departure from his recent work, he is no stranger to it. “I was trained in this style: clean, minimal and modern,” he says. “I love this as much as the layered, decorative look I am better known for. The pattern, too, is subtler than what I normally do, but I wanted to keep things really simple because the view is what is important.