A creative partnership between owner and architect results in a sophisticated family home full of considered details.
Who lives here: Ariana La Tessa, her husband Esteban, a photographer; their daughter Florencia, 19 months, and Luca the cocker spaniel.
Style of home: A Federation-era semi-detached cottage, which was stripped back to its bones and rebuilt into a family home with four bedrooms – one of which is a study at present – and 2.5 bathrooms.
Timeline: The renovation was eight months in the planning, and the build took nine months.
Seamless. That’s the word both Ariana La Tessa and architect Jeremy Bull use to describe the renovation process for Ariana and her husband Esteban’s house in Sydney’s Queens Park. It’s also a perfect description of the house itself. With its cool neutral tones, integrated joinery and clever configuration, it’s clear that every last detail of the design was considered and resolved.
The key to the success of the project – and the one that’s the hardest to replicate – is the creative partnership between client, architect and builder. “At the beginning, I was so fixated on researching materials and palettes, but in hindsight, I realise that the most important part of the process is doing your homework to find the right architect and builder,” says Ariana. “Despite not having worked together before,” she says of architect Jeremy Bull (of Alexander&Co) and builder Scott Fairweather of Fairweather Constructions, “they each had strong communication skills and a similar work ethic, which made the project run seamlessly”.
After six months of searching for their first home together, Ariana and Esteban found a semi-detached cottage and moved in, applying a coat of white paint to their new home to cover the previous owner’s penchant for primary colours. Just over a year later, Ariana sold the business she had founded nine years earlier and the couple discovered they were expecting a baby. “That gave me a deadline,” says Ariana. “I wanted to at least have made a start on the build before our daughter was born.”
The brief to Alexander&Co was for a fairly minimal interior, with a soft palette of washed timbers, greys and whites. A desire for a more open layout meant reworking the original floorplan. On the ground floor, only the facade and front bedroom (now a study) stayed, with the rest of the space configured into a bathroom and laundry, a newly positioned staircase and an open-plan kitchen and living area at the back.
In the kitchen, the long and deep marble-clad bench sits along the wall, with appliances hidden behind custom joinery. Steel-framed windows frame a view to a vibrant vertical garden, which makes the narrow space feel more expansive. Thoughtful details throughout the house also contribute to the perception of space. The over-scaled front door pivots to sit flush against a wall, with other internal doors sliding into wall pockets to ‘disappear’.
Upstairs are the master suite, Florencia’s bedroom, another bathroom and a third bedroom, with an 11-metre wall of ceiling-height cupboards running along the hallway to the master bedroom. “When designing for a family in a relatively small space, I try to include as much storage as possible, and make it as invisible as possible,” says Jeremy.
The build started in February 2015, just a few weeks before Florencia arrived. “Jeremy knew I wouldn’t be in the headspace for making decisions with a newborn, so we specified every detail ahead of time, right down to the measurement of grout between tiles in the laundry,” says Ariana.
The family moved in nine months later and began the process of layering in furniture and art. “We try to create interest through texture rather than through colour,” says Ariana. The neutrals in the space are elevated by metallic details, including brass stair railing brackets, which Ariana had made to her own design, and copper-toned taps in the bathrooms.
For the family, the re-design has made a world of difference. “The old house wasn’t compatible with how we live, and we never felt comfortable in it,” says Ariana. “Jeremy’s ability to maximise every inch of space has completely changed how we feel about being in our home.” Jeremy, on the other hand, gives the credit to his client. “Ariana has a beautiful, artistic eye and sophisticated taste,” says Jeremy. “The space is elegant and delicate, and reflects the way we worked with her.”
Take a video tour of the home here: