Designed by Sydney architects Potter & Wilson for clients who had lived on the site from the early 90s, the Balmoral House was a case of reinvention of an existing house that hunkered into the site rather than embracing it.
“The original house was unconventional for the area that was primarily Federation-style houses. Ours was a modern box from the early 1990s, architectural and of its time, but it no longer suited how we wanted to live,” the client says. Working with Robert Plumb Build, Potter & Wilson reimagined the house. “We looked at how it could be transformed into a spacious and luxurious house, with great internal volumes that maximised the amazing aspect and location,” Imogene Potter says.
This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 47: Creative State of Mind (pp. 186-201).
The house is navigated via a sculptural steel and timber staircase linking all levels from the parking area at the top via the guest bedrooms and library mezzanine on the middle level to the double-height living space with kitchen and dining areas on the ground floor adjacent to the pool.
Continue down the site and there is a lower-level guest house that faces onto the tennis court. These distinctly contained ‘zones’ give a large house a very human scale and introduce a measure of flexibility as to how the house is used.
“Our clients liked a monochromatic palette. Hence our material selection was simple; blackened steel and timber for the stairs and the large wall of shelving to the living room and black stained oak for the joinery elements throughout, including the kitchen,” Simon Wilson says.
This was married with an impressive island bench in ‘Black Forest’ granite in a leathered finish. “We added texture to the dark timber and stone elements to give them ‘life’ and movement when lit,” Imogene Potter says.
The architects drew on the combined talents of Karen McCartney and Sarah Johnson Studio for the interior furnishings, rugs, art and objects. “Developing the interior was an iterative process, starting with developing the aesthetic of the core living, dining and main suite. Then, as we evolved into the other spaces, such as the mezzanine, we were working from a strong decorative stance, and the decisions and choices grew in confidence as the relationship with the client flourished,” Sarah says.
One of the key architectural statements was the six-metre-high steel shelving system in the living space that also houses a fireplace and hidden TV. “While challenging, the shelving provided an opportunity for expression and personality. The clients are very art-focused, and we worked together to find glass, ceramics and sculpture from local artists, from Etsy, 1st Dibs and auction sites. Plants, in custom-made Robert Plumb, bronzed metal pots, were added in at the end and give life and a strong hit of greenery,” Karen says.
While primarily a monochromatic palette, the client understood the value of pulling in muted blues and greens to reflect the context of the house by the water, and among the trees. Early purchases such as an extraordinary Martyn Thompson Studio jacquard fabric in shimmering grey/blues covers panels behind the bed and vintage 1930s Jindrich Halabala chairs from Nicolas & Alistair set the tone for other choices.
“We wanted to add a certain femininity to temper the concrete structure with generous curves of Patricia Urquiola’s Tufty Too sofa, matched by the smokey grey glass of Sebastian Herkner’s Bell table for Classicon. Even the shape of the Minotti coffee table is organic and unconventional,” Sarah says.
With landscaping by Spirit Level gradually softening the edges of the building, the house is a private oasis set into planting within the broader context of established Angophoras framing the water view. “The house feels welcoming, calm and contained, creating its own little world,” the client adds.