Interior designer, Sarah Davison, has built a devoted following among Sydney’s most discerning property owners.
I recently sat down with Sarah at her extraordinary Design Studio to discuss her design inspiration and discover how she created this uniquely beautiful space, which is currently on the market.
Sarah you’ve built an impressively loyal following as an interior designer. How did you get into design and what are your major influences?
I have always been inspired by beautiful architecture and interiors and the way they influence our lives. Since 1998, when I started my own practice, my focus has always been on creating harmonious, life-enhancing interiors.
The beauty of the natural world, architecture, fashion and art are my main inspirations.
Travel, and sourcing one-off furniture and objects from other cultures has always been a passion too. Frequent trips to America, Asia and Europe keep my design perspective broad and my projects fresh.
This fabulous ground floor space at 11 Kellett Street has been your Design Studio for several years. How did you come to buy this property, and what did the renovations entail?
I’ve always loved Potts Point, its energy and creative mix of the high and the low. It’s an exciting, central location for our Design Studio. Kellett Street is a particularly pretty street. It’s one way and lined with historic terraces, beautiful trees, and thriving bars and restaurants.
We chose this building for its lovely façade and four metre high ceilings. I also liked the idea of being on the ground floor, with double rear lane parking, and large French doors opening onto a sheltered courtyard at the front.
The interiors were close to derelict when we began. On the first viewing, my trusted builder looked worried, and said he thought I was brave! It wasn’t an encouraging start, but I love the challenge of bringing out the best in old buildings.
To me, the soul that old buildings have, combined with thoughtful integration of modern services and well designed kitchens and bathrooms, creates the most wonderful interiors.
The project entailed combining two separate strata lots into one cohesive, functional space. We opened up the heritage listed front rooms, and maximised the view to the street and new courtyard. The back half of the building was completely redesigned and rebuilt.
Demolishing a hefty structural wall in the studio gave it beautiful light, scale and spaciousness. Oversized French doors open fully in front of the granite Japanese fountain in the courtyard, bringing its serenity into the studio.
All services were renewed to the highest specification, and a new floor slab poured.
The reverse cycle air conditioning we installed is rarely used because we get good cross breezes with such open planning. Hydronic radiators and underfloor heating were also added and have made the rooms wonderfully cosy even on the coldest days.
A fully equipped kitchen with stunning ‘Emperador Verde’ marble and glossy lacquer cabinetry bridges the old and new spaces. A Gaggenau oven, integrated Liebherr fridge, and extra tall Miele dishwasher make entertaining easy.
What are some of your favourite design elements in the space?
Strong, highly functional planning is always the starting point of any project. Here, well laid out, generous spaces and natural light are crucial to the overall quality of the interiors. A strong foundation allows rooms to function smoothly and look beautiful.
I’m passionate about landscaping. The small, but lush courtyard garden with its under-planted Bangalow Palms, vines and a copper and granite water feature gives a wonderful calmness to the whole studio. It’s definitely one of my favourite elements.
Spanish limestone flooring flows inside to outside and the over-scaled French doors open right back, creating a feeling of space and openness. So does the steel framed glass roof, and pivot door which make the kitchen a light filled conservatory.
The dramatic ‘leathered’ emerald marble was also love at first sight for me, and I planned the kitchen and bathroom schemes around its impact and saturated colour.
The rich atmosphere of the heritage front rooms, and their jewel coloured finishes are a great contrast to the simplicity of the white studio space.
I love combining elements from different times and cultures to create an inspiring ambience. A 1920’s Persian rug, large Noguchi pendant, chartreuse silk curtains, 1960’s Knoll table, and Chinoiserie elements are a surprisingly harmonious mix.
I use indirect and task lighting wherever possible. Here we carefully selected feature lighting like the 1970’s Stilnovo wall lights in the studio and palm leaf sconce from Palm Springs for their sculptural impact.
Built in joinery is tricky to design for heritage interiors! Our solution was to wall-hang a scarlet lacquer and silver leaf cabinet which houses all of our samples.
There’s a lot of talk about multipurpose spaces, but what I like about this property is that its spaces are truly multipurpose. The rooms could be used for many different functions.
Thank you! It’s been designed to be a truly flexible space. Currently, we use it as an office and meeting space for my residential Interior Design company and it would make a great corporate HQ for a myriad of other businesses.
Having such a gracious, residential feel, it could also be used as a home or a combined work & living space. Many of our clients comment that they’d like to live here when they visit!
We have concept floor plans drawn up showing how the space could easily be changed into a two-bedroom or one-bedroom plus office residence. Right now, those potential bedroom spaces are the large open-plan workspace at the rear of the building.
It currently has a full bathroom, and we have installed extra plumbing during construction that would easily allow an ensuite configuration, laundry and second bathroom/powder room if desired.
In terms of the floorplan, I’ve eliminated corridors and hallways to maximise space, and where they do exist, as in the kitchen, they are multipurpose spaces. I’ve also optimised the natural light, which comes from two directions, and makes the whole place light and bright.
While there’s already a full kitchen, it would be simple to expand. I’ve cooked roasts and hosted family gatherings here because the space is so welcoming, and central for everyone.
We’ve also had fabulous cocktail functions for clients spilling out into the courtyards.
What have you enjoyed about working here, Sarah?
I think in many ways, post-Covid, it’s a very modern way to work. Workplaces should be comfortable and beautiful and, if possible linked in some way to nature and fresh air. That’s hard to achieve in the heart of the city, but this space is connected to gardens, natural light and feels so spacious. It’s good for people’s mental health and wellbeing.
I’d rather be here today than at home – none of my staff ever want to work from home, which is a real compliment. The feeling is the main thing. This space is really humanistic.
There are two off-street parking spaces attached to the property, which is almost unheard of in this area. They’ve proved invaluable and have been a big hit with staff and clients.
It’s surprisingly quiet and peaceful here, although Kellett Street is a stone’s throw from the city, trains and Rushcutters Bay.
The location is fun, with wonderful coffee shops, bars and restaurants. We can walk to the city, and it’s easy to do the shopping or go out in the area after work. Our Interior Design clients really enjoy coming here – they love the atmosphere.
Well, that sums up this amazing space at 11 Kellett Street. It’s truly beautiful and unique.
Thank you. I’ll miss it. It has such a great feeling. I hope whoever buys this property is happy here. I really hope it gives them joy.
Find out more about Sarah Davison Interiors at her website.