Braelin, located adjacent to Sydney’s celebrated Centennial Park, is home to Dr Gene Sherman AM and her husband Brian Sherman AM. It has gravitas and architectural pedigree – designed and built in 1918 for Sir Allen Taylor, by architect Donald Thomas Esplin, a skilled and enthusiastic Arts and Crafts practitioner.
A century later, the resulting renovations are a collaboration between Gene Sherman and multi-disciplinary creative Don Cameron. It has become an exemplar of how to weave past and present, retain what is significant and inject contemporary liveability and a charge of art and curated furniture pieces as befits Braelin’s owners.
Produced in partnership with Boffi. Read more about the Boffi XILA kitchen in our interview with Boffi Studio Sydney and Melbourne director Edwina Withers.
Gene was, in many ways, the perfect client for Don. She is a philanthropist, academic and an expert on art, fashion and architecture, driving cultural programmes to promote these interests through the Sherman Centre for Culture and Ideas (SCCI). Like all good curators, Gene balanced shaping the brief with trust and curiosity, and clear positions of alignment were articulated from the outset. “Gene and I confessed early on that form would always triumph over function when selecting furnishings for Braelin,” Don says. “Working with someone who had spent a lifetime observing and appreciating the innate beauty of an object before giving it a function… created a soulmate in Gene.”
One directive was that her passion for art and books was to take precedence and that, as she prized ‘warmth, sincerity and comfort,’ furnishings were to veer towards the textural and raw. There was also a sense of developing a collection of importance, and an inventory of pieces with their attendant research and provenance was recorded in a dossier. Gene understands that to be a collector of significance, there needs to be an element of risk-taking and Don is driven by the chase, sourcing pieces that matter individually but also work collectively within the domestic sphere. Hence a contemporary DC1605 dining table in recycled fibreglass and silver-plated brass by Milanese designer Vincenzo de Cotiis is paired with rare George Korody dining chairs (a Hungarian émigré to Australia and founder of Artes Studios), and, in the lounge room, French 1970’s Roger Capron tiled-topped coffee tables meet the ‘swathed bundles of fabric’ in the Mario Bellini Camaleonda sectional sofa.
The context for the furniture and lighting plays an equally important role. A library of books gathered over a lifetime fills a series of De Padova’s 606 Universal shelving units and art, carefully selected from Gene and Brian’s Sherman collection, brings the heart and soul to the interior. The expressive is supported by the quiet and refined with extensive joinery, notable in the master bedroom, designed by Don and made by long-term collaborator Boris Tosic at Elan. The ensuite confirms the subtle palette and effective singular use of materials with the Salvatori Onsen bath in Gris du Marais stone complemented by Boffi’s ‘Garden’ tap set in PVD bronze finish.
The kitchen and dining space is a place for large gatherings with its link to the exterior space – the pool and walled garden – and is dominated by large-scale photographic prints such as Zhang Huan’s Family Tree (2000) alongside the angular sculptural presence of the de Cotiis table. Hence, the kitchen island bench was required to present a simple monumentality in the name of balance.
The Boffi XILA, with its doors covered in De Castelli’s Delabré Iron finish, has the mute strength and utility the space requires while reflecting the home’s cultivated identity. Known for their kitchen and bathroom systems, Boffi continues to explore technology and craftsmanship through the lens of some of Italy’s most renowned architects and designers. First designed in the early 1970s by Italian architect and designer Luigi Massoni, the Boffi XILA kitchen was one of the first kitchens available with cabinetry that didn’t feature a handle.
Braelin has become a container for all that existed and has been acquired – art, books, textiles, objects, lighting and furniture – and now that it has been cohesively orchestrated, it acts as a mirror to the passions and intellect of its owners.