x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A period home gets contemporary touch

A graphic designer joins forces with her architect husband to bring their period property firmly into the 21st century.

A pair of blue vinyl & chrome 1950s chairs brighten the sitting area leading to the outdoors. Sue Stubbs / Red Cover
A pair of blue vinyl & chrome 1950s chairs brighten the sitting area leading to the outdoors. Sue Stubbs / Red Cover

Design collaborations are rarely straightforward, so when the graphic designer and interiors blogger Louise Bell joined forces with her husband, the architect Graeme Bell, to renovate their three-bedroom Sydney home, there was every chance that the project was destined for one of two outcomes - matrimonial mayhem or "the meeting of the minds". Fortunately for the Bells, it was overwhelmingly the latter.

"The original home has stayed much the same. We sanded the floorboards and had a contractor stain them with a finish called Black Japan. We also painted the walls in what I think is the ultimate white - Dulux China White, contrasting them with crisp Dulux Vivid White on all the windows, skirting boards and architraves; this forms the base palette for the decor," says Louise. "Graeme also renovated the original bathroom before building began on the new addition."

Linked by the same black floorboards, the kitchen/living room flows seamlessly from the old space. The kitchen would make even a take-away devotee weak at the knees. "It is a truly lovely place to be, which is lucky, because it's where I spend most of my time. Everything is pretty much within arm's reach, despite the fact that it's quite a big area. The integrated fridge, mirrored splashback and commercial-style tap are the three decisions we're most happy with," she says. "And the bookcase he designed is the icing on the cake. I love the homeliness it brings to a room that is so often difficult to integrate visually."

For Graeme, the kitchen is the functional heart of the house, not just a place for cooking. "The enormous island bench is not only a cooking surface, but houses books and magazine collections, as well as providing a surface for the kids to do their homework and craft." Graeme designed this space and new bathrooms to cleverly blend with the original house. "Because the home was in a period style, it was important that the new additions sympathised with the scale, proportions, alignment and configuration of the older elements but at the same time didn't mimic them. So I designed a contemporary open-plan addition with increased areas of glass for natural light and more ecologically sustainable features such as a larger roof overhang to control sun in summer, and larger, more flexible window and door openings for cross-ventilation."

With construction complete, Louise turned her attention to the interiors, creating an eclectic mix of vintage artefacts and bold bursts of colour - bringing the period property firmly into the 21st century. "I think you always have to have resale in mind when designing an interior. It's hard to believe you're ever going to sell your house, but when the time comes, it's better not to have to tone it down for prospective buyers. Graeme is the brains behind our renovation. Being an architect, he was keen to put a modern component into a federation house, so the entire addition is very clean, bright and relatively minimal - it's a really successful juxtaposition."

Colourful additions have mostly come from Table Tonic, Louise's online store (www.tabletonic.blogspot.com). "Bright Susani bedspreads, feathered Cameroon wedding hats and Ikat cushions are a perfect way of injecting a bit of life and colour into a room," she says.

With the renovation complete, Louise has only good things to say about the couple's team effort. "There's no doubt - a graphic designer-cum-frustrated interior designer and an architect are certainly a good match."

* Red Cover

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