House Tour

IN PICTURES | This Art Deco home has the soul of an art gallery

Black and white paint has been cleverly used to restore harmony between a 1938 home and its 1981 addition, while also creating the perfect foil for the owners' enviable art collection

31 May 2020 - 00:55 By Bauer Syndication/Magazinefeatures.co.za
Graphic art combined with this mid-century piece creates the perfect vignette.
Graphic art combined with this mid-century piece creates the perfect vignette.
Image: Bauer Syndication/ Magazinefeatures.co.za

Being the owner of a business that showcases accessible contemporary art, Sophie Vander takes great pride in filling her Art Deco-style home on Sydney's Upper North Shore with a curated selection of paintings, prints and sculptures.

Some pieces have been commissioned while others are gifts from friends or the artists themselves. And Sophie, who connects artists and collectors through her online gallery Curatorial Co, is also constantly bringing new works home.

"The Antonia Meljak painting we had in our bedroom has since been sold," she says, acknowledging that the joy of nurturing artists makes up for letting go of beautiful works.

Sophie and her family's decision to take on a major renovation was underpinned by the desire to create a soulful home with expansive white walls that could be adorned with artistic discoveries.

The project began in 2016 when Sophie, her husband, David, and their four daughters were planning for their return to Sydney after a decade of living in Singapore and Seattle. They had their hearts set on this property.

"We bought the house the first day we arrived back," says Sophie. "When we walked in, it was a no-brainer; we were home."

Not that the house, which is set on a steep block, looked anything like it does now.

Stripes, geometric patterns and warm wood add to the ambience of the home.
Stripes, geometric patterns and warm wood add to the ambience of the home.
Image: Bauer Syndication/ Magazinefeatures.co.za
French doors in the living room create symmetry, which turns the spotlight on the hand-carved fireplace.
French doors in the living room create symmetry, which turns the spotlight on the hand-carved fireplace.
Image: Bauer Syndication/ Magazinefeatures.co.za

"At the back was the original 1938 double-brick house with a small dark kitchen. Then in 1981, an extension was added to the front of the house. "It was like two separate houses," says Sophie.

To unite both parts, black and white paints were introduced throughout. With this foundation laid, the family could live in the home during the almost year-long renovation, which was completed in 2018.

"We're gluttons for punishment," says Sophie. "For nine months we lived in one room, which later became the den."

Two types of Brasilia tiles were used to create this eye-catching pattern in the bathroom. Storage is hidden behind a mirror.
Two types of Brasilia tiles were used to create this eye-catching pattern in the bathroom. Storage is hidden behind a mirror.
Image: Bauer Syndication/ Magazinefeatures.co.za
White walls provide an excellent canvas for art.
White walls provide an excellent canvas for art.
Image: Bauer Syndication/ Magazinefeatures.co.za

Next came an architect and a team of designers and craftspeople to create a centralised kitchen and add a balcony at the front of the house, which allowed both spaces to talk to each other. "People can't believe the balcony hasn't always been there," says Sophie.

Having survived the renovation, she is delighted with the results. "I love this house; it works so well."

While the dark walls of the den act as a casual counterpoint to the rest of the house, Sophie's best decorating advice will work in any home, and with any style. "When in doubt, paint the walls white and hang the biggest original artwork your space will allow."

Dark walls and good lighting emphasise artworks.
Dark walls and good lighting emphasise artworks.
Image: Bauer Syndication/ Magazinefeatures.co.za
The den is the family's favourite space.
The den is the family's favourite space.
Image: Bauer Syndication/ Magazinefeatures.co.za

HOW TO MAKE DARK WALLS WORK

  1. Dark paint colours will highlight imperfections and streaks more than lighter colours, so spend some time preparing wall surfaces for a flawless finish.
  2. To stop the room from visually closing in, paint the ceiling a light colour - crisp white is fail-proof. This will help open the space by drawing the eye up and out.
  3. Play up the cosy factor with rich, textured furniture and accessories. In the Vander's Den, a dark tan leather sofa and plush-pile rug add to the warmth.
  4. Hang artworks in timber or white frames so they pop off the walls, and be sure to include plenty of lighting options for those darker days.