Planting a fig tree in the centre of their cottage felt the most natural way for South African-born couple Natalie and Keiron Devlin to bring softness to the space’s industrial style. The home, in the Sydney suburb of Annandale, would look quite severe, with its exposed brick walls and concrete floors, were it not for the branches of the tree that reach up through the central stairwell towards a retractable glass roof.
‘From community gatherings to school lessons, somehow everything happens under a tree in South Africa, and we wanted our home to nod to that in a subtle way,’ explains Natalie of the statement greenery that sets the tone for this very contemporary take on urban chic.
The original property, which the couple bought in 2010, came with several add-ons, but still felt too cramped for family life with their two children – Indigo, now 13, and Guinness, ten. Working with architects Welsh + Major, and later Arent & Pyke interior design studio, they knocked down the outer buildings and started from scratch, constructing a new section that now houses the galley kitchen and living area, as well as a third bedroom.
‘The brief to our architect was to create rough and mutable spaces that can perform a number of functions,’ recalls Natalie. ‘When it was built, our home was beautiful but very stark. It needed warming up in a way that didn’t detract from its rawness.’
To loosen up the house’s structure, Arent & Pyke used globally inspired artisan textiles. ‘Nothing too flouncy or frou-frou, though,’ says the interior design firm’s co-founder Juliette Arent. ‘We layered slubby, raw linens that offer softness while still being in keeping with the architecture.’ To this she added ambient lighting, handmade ceramics and artworks chosen organically over time.
Colour has been used to inject personality, but the tones are muted – ‘olive, khaki and chartreuse, all hues that work beautifully with grey concrete,’ adds Juliette. The result is a grown-up refresh of the bohemian look. ‘There was something about the space that demanded texture,’ continues Natalie. ‘For me, our cottage manages to be interesting in a calm, relaxed way.’ welshmajor.com; arentpyke.com
For the full house tour see Elle Decoration August 2019
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