High up on a hill overlooking Palm Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches lives art director Anna Utzon and her husband Niels Herholdt, a builder, project manager and property developer. They share a '50s beach house with their energetic two-year-old son Oscar, who will be joined by a new sibling in late October.
Their home of three years pays homage to their favourite people, places and things. Unlike couples who are sometimes faced with the difficult task of combining conflicting styles when they move in together, Anna and Niels have never been at odds. Together, they've filled almost every room with iconic Danish design pieces by Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjaerholm andVerner Panton. On the bookshelves in the shared office are well-thumbed titles such as Palm Springs Modern, Richard Neutra and Case Study Houses, and they even named their Jack Russell dog after the late Australian architect Harry Seidler.
For Anna and Niels, good taste is not something that requires conscious effort -it's simply a natural part of their everyday lives. J0rn Utzon, the celebrated architect of the Sydney Opera House, is Anna's great-uncle, so she can even lay claim to having a feel for design in her blood.
After meeting and living together in the inner-city suburbs of Copenhagen, Denmark, the couple, in search of a new environment, decided to move to Australia. Their first home was a 1952 Harry Seidler building, which they soon outgrew. When they came across the '50s home above Palm Beach where they now live, the beautiful outlook and laid-back lifestyle were too hard to resist. "Denmark is basically flat," explains Anna, "so being able to live up high is quite special for us."
The house was a good fit and still in its original condition, but having been leased for over a decade it was in need of an owner's touch. Fortunately, Niels' company Area Group is also based in Palm Beach and specialises in home planning and construction services. Applying the same techniques to their own house, the couple approached the renovation with the aim of paring back rather than adding to the design.
The result is seamless. Niels exploited the open-plan area and kept the bedrooms, playroom and study at the back. Walls were moved, new rooms created and landscaping was undertaken, but sometimes it's the smallest changes that make the biggest difference.
"One of the first things we worked on was changing the windows and frames," remembers Anna. Simple wood surrounds replaced the unsightly aluminium trims, blending the home's interior and exterior without complication. For sun protection, the windows are finished with barely-there roller blinds that provide minimal disruption to the breathtaking views outside.
The new floor plan called for furniture with distinct shapes and proportions to fill the generous rooms. The couple's natural affinity for Danish design led them to a beautiful palisander sideboard by Hans J.Wegner and pieces byVerner Panton.
Top-of-the-lme Finnish designs also feature strongly, prime examples being Eero Saarinen's 'Tulip' dining ensemble and 'Womb' chair, bought by Niels for Anna to feed baby Oscar in. Early Alvar Aalto glassware can be seen sitting atop the kitchen shelving, serving to break up the white-on-white space, while the Eero Arnio '13all' chair in the bedroom is the couple's most recent purchase.
Every piece seems to fit the mood of the home. Carefully chosen items have real meaning behind them " for example, the map of Europe that hangs in Oscar's room (see page 99) was sourced from the primary school Niels attended. This is part of the reason why the house, while filled with so many covetable designs and artworks, also retains a comfortable and homely feel.
As for the art on the walls, the work of one particular artist seems to predominate. While most of the geometric abstract works by Hungarian-born VictorVasarely were actually purchased betore the couple moved into the house, they feel like the ideal appointments for the modernist decor.
With almost every corner of each room filled to a considered and restrained level, there doesn't seem to be anything else the house could need ... except, perhaps, a pool, says Anna. But with some of Sydney's most beautiful beaches only a stone's throw away, it's really not such a pressing priority.