Potts Point by Tamsin Johnson is a home that elevates the classical to the cultural through a curation of antipodean design influences.
Like its vibrant surrounds, Potts Point is a home that harbours a coalescence of rooms and creative leanings. With its crisp white facade, slate roof tiles and established palms, the 19th-century Victorian terrace alludes to the charm of Chateau Marmont mellowed by its distinctly urban pied-à-terre simplicity.
When designer Tamsin Johnson first went to see the site, the interventions required to bring this home once again into rhythm with contemporary living patterns quickly unfolded. “I wanted to reinstate the bones of what would have originally been there while not recreating the past,” she says of the “contemporary twist” that the home has embraced.
Stainless steel cabinetry finds an unlikely accord with honed Rosso Alpi marble splashback, shelving, and benchtops in the kitchen. Artwork by Esther Eckley and Colleen Ahern from Neon Parc.
While the original structure of Potts Point was largely intact when owners Maurice and Jess Violani purchased the home in 2019, rooms appeared to be caught, bound and walled off. The doors to the terrace and balcony spaces were small, doglegs and l-shapes throughout the interior held back natural light and hampered fluid navigation, and in the kitchen, a u-shaped bench cut right into the usable space. The resurrection of the home quickly defined itself as a negotiation between old and new, a simple analogy interpreted differently across the architectural, interior design and styling elements to shape a sense of cohesion that is both seamless and beguiling.
The collection of rooms that once provided for city living in the 1800s has been revisited with the creation of a new guest bedroom, powder room, media room and cellar. The latter was excavated from the depths of the small site, with the home embracing spatial generosity through the accumulation of its three floors.
The living room is defined by a border of Calacatta Viola marble beyond which a Polar Bear sofa by Jean Royere and artwork by Dale Frank from Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery take centre stage.
Determined to not compromise on finishes despite this being a family home, a Calacatta marble staircase reinstates the historic grandeur of the home while tilting it towards contemporary relevance.
Artwork by Tomislav Nikolic
Light has been drawn into the upstairs landing through an arched stainless steel feature window. 1950s cabinet by Guillerme et Chambron.
The study articulates the home’s melting pot of European influences with a 19th-century Spanish table, 1960s French stainless-steel and boucle-upholstered chair and Arts and Crafts stool. Artwork by Jean Arp.
Tamsin’s work is defined by its capacity to reinstate modernity as a reflection of the zeitgeist, using design as an equaliser between styles and eras. Her work draws together objects that pull from history’s many many pages. Using the Italian design metier as a touchstone, Potts Point perfectly articulates this philosophy with its stately air of gilded resilience, which now cushions the impact of a young family.
Cornices and architraves have been recreated, gesturing what would have once been while introducing linear precision and symmetry to insert a contemporary elegance. Traditional wall panelling plays with notions of grandeur and timelessness, with mirrored sections in the living room laying a jewel-like resonance. At the same time, the remainder feels restrained, by contrast, providing a backdrop to living through continuity and the crisp white carried from the facade right throughout the home. The home has become awash with natural light, offset by the midnight accent of black steel French doors leading out to the terrace and an arched expanse of glazed panes in the stairwell.
Integral to the design language at Potts Point is the use of stonework. Referencing that Italian narrative, stone has been leveraged for both graphic expressions and the softly sedate ambience it bestows. For example, framing the threshold between the kitchen and dining area is a border of Calacatta Viola marble. Carried through to the stairway and fireplace as well, the rich artistry of the stone is balanced by a surrounding aesthetic clarity. A similar curation of the traditional and innovative rest side by side with Rosso Alpi marble benchtops and stainless steel cabinetry atop Versailles parquetry flooring in the kitchen.
The bathroom is an aesthetic detour that finds cohesion with the rest of the home through a dedication to the Italian design metier and the continuation of stonework. A Verde marble vanity is reflected in a mirror from Fontana Arte and tempered by antique Italian floor tiles from Sicily, Italy.
Artwork by Erin Lawlor from Fox Jenson Gallery Paddington
Just as stonework is a thread that binds rooms, so too is lighting which Tamsin describes as a “tour of Italy through the periods.” Murano is a mainstay with its ornate petal-shaped glasswork, while a table lamp by Tobia Scarpi bridges the gap between the 1930s and 1950s, setting a trajectory that makes a 1970’s chrome design feel right at home in the study.
If modernism is indeed a metric on the current state of things, then Potts Point is a home that paints a beautiful picture. Rich in character yet quiet in disposition, the atmosphere has emerged by layering the home’s past story with a joyful, fresh spirit.