IN PICS | Warming layers create inviting space in this mountain retreat
A weekend retreat in the Blue Mountains, just outside Sydney, Australia, marries earthy tones and comfort with quirky designs and finishes
The Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, just a few minutes drive west of Sydney, Australia, is a landscape of natural wonders. Here, it's possible to walk deep into ancient forest where time stands still, then stroll to a smart café for a steaming bowl of nourishment. Living here is a conversation with nature. It's about embracing the crisp, clear days and being wrapped in a warm coat.
The owners of this mountain retreat love it all. They bought the property in 2014 as a weekender, but spend increasing amounts of time here, drawn to the tranquillity and their love of cool climate gardening.
Built in 1990, their home is a single-level dwelling surrounded by magnificent gardens. From the outset, the owners loved the overall setting, but felt the interiors needed a refresh. In 2016, they engaged Dods and Zuccon Architects and designer Kerry Selby Brown to help them modernise the layout. They reconfigured the floor plan to improve the flow, enlarging several windows to maximise natural light and views. The result is a spacious home where every room is generous in scale and outlook. There are two bedrooms and two studies, with the main bedroom suite at one end and the guest room and studies at the other. In between are the living spaces, including separate formal living and dining rooms, the kitchen and casual living and dining zones.
When the renovations wrapped up, the owners felt their existing furnishings didn't quite look the part. They called on the expertise of designer Kate Nixon, director of Studio Kate, to add warmth, comfort and personality to their interiors.
“Our brief was to pull together the existing art and furniture and create a comfortable, cohesive, beautiful interior,” says Nixon. “We worked to soften the overall palette with sympathetic new pieces — soft furnishings, wallpaper, paint, lighting and accessories — throughout the house.”
The starting point was the flooring.
“We sanded, restrained and waxed the original spotted gum boards to a warm ebonised walnut and this formed our foundation,” says Nixon.
Area rugs and runners from Robyn Cosgrove followed, grounding each room with textured, soft palettes. Next came the key furniture pieces, all carefully chosen and placed, and then the all-important layering: custom bedheads, bed linen, cushions, throws, occasional furniture and feature lighting draw each space together to create a warm, considered and inviting interior. It's all woven together with a colour palette inspired by the spectacular landscape.
“We used earthy, natural tones with touches of dirty blues and greens to allow the outlook to be the hero,” says Nixon.
The result is testament to the transformative power of interior decorating”, says Nixon. “It's not necessary to replace every item. In some instances, we recovered existing pieces that were comfortable and had good scale. In others, we made treasured heirlooms the hero.”
In the formal dining room, for example, the existing dining table was retained and teamed with new low-profile club chairs, while the light fitting was replaced with a contemporary blown-glass pendant. In the casual dining zone, they opted to keep the Arthur G dining chairs but swapped the square table for a spectacular round one with a marble top.
There are bold interplays of pattern too. In the formal living room, a striking tartan wool rug anchors the room. The guest room boasts a striking striped Cole & Son wallpaper, while in the powder room a stunning fern-patterned wallpaper sings against the existing marble vanity.
As keen gardeners, the owners love the expanse of established gardens that encircle their home. Every room is orientated to maximise views of greenery and the dramatic escarpment beyond.
“Although it was planned that the home be a weekender, the owners definitely see themselves spending more time here. It has been a real haven during isolation,” says Nixon, whose job it was to infuse the home with “warmth and comfort”.
“The success of these interiors lies in the way existing pieces are gently drawn together within the overall scheme. Every room feels warm and inviting — just like the people who live here,” says Nixon.
• Studio Kate, www.studiokate.com.au