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The colourful revamp of an Art Deco apartment in Bellevue Hill


Clever floor-plan adjustments and confident colour choices have turned this 1930s Sydney apartment into a big hit.


Who lives here: Mary Nguyen, managing director of Wallpaper Trader; with her husband Andrew Dempster; and their one-year-old daughter, Daisy.

Style of home: An original three-bedroom 1930s apartment that's been updated to maintain its Art Deco integrity, with a new bathroom and a laundry added.

Timeline
: The building work took three months from the time they bought the property in November 2016.

Budget
: All up (including the apartment), the budget was $1.5—$2 million.

Sometimes size doesn't matter – it's the home you create within your particular set of walls that makes all the difference.

That's the approach Mary Nguyen and her husband Andrew Dempster took when they were the lucky bidders on an original Art Deco apartment in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Size was a lot less important than other factors.

Dining room Owner Mary has an eye for stunning wallpaper and chose the Aurora Ray design by Calico Wallpaper for the wall next to her incredible harbour view. Vintage Saarinen 'Tulip' table. Chairs, JMH Furniture. Console table, Gumtree. Glass vase, Iittala. Resin bowl, Dinosaur Designs. Ceramic vase, Gretel Corrie.

After living in London for several years, the couple wanted the ultimate Sydney experience of living in a beautiful coastal home. Being outbid numerous times when the property market was at its hottest, the deflated couple looked at just one more place in Bellevue Hill, with no expectations of it being theirs.

Once they walked through the front door and turned left, a view of Rose Bay captivated them. With Mary's creative flair, they could see the place's potential. Fortunately, luck was on their side this time, and they were the successful bidders.

Living room A motif in the artwork by Antonia Mrljak makes it a great match for the Art Deco cornice. Ceramics, Milly Dent.

The previous owner had lived there for 30 years and, apart from the oversized window installed on all the apartments in the building, the home had remained untouched. It also had a few areas that seemed like wasted space, so Mary and Andrew asked architect David Phillips (now retired) to craft some creative amendments without changing the footprint.


Living room Mary found the sofa on Gumtree. India Mahdavi x Pierre Frey fabric cushions, made by Bev's Remnant House. Fred coffee table, Jardan. Sarah Ellison 'Huggy' chair, Life Interiors. Blue ottoman, Coco Republic. Twisted table lamp, Sophie Davies. Rug, AURugs. White ceramic sculpture, Gretel Corrie. Ceramics, Milly Dent. Resin pieces, Dinosaur Designs. Artwork by Maria Kostareva.  
"Our biggest challenge was to add a bathroom and laundry without compromising the size of the bedrooms," says Mary. "This led us to close off an unused hallway and remove the bathtub to gain an ensuite bathroom off the main bedroom. The final stroke of genius in all this was [creating] access to the ensuite through the main wardrobe doors.


Casual dining This is the view from the breakfast table.
Having decided on a slow and steady approach to the cosmetic changes, the couple lived in the home for at least a year before they started decorating. As managing director of wallpaper distributor Wallpaper Trader, Mary has a great knowledge of interiors and led the charge on most of the decisions.

Kitchen The kitchen cupboards are Dulux Lexicon white in a gloss finish, which serve as a contrast to the colour elsewhere. Alpine Mist benchtops, Caesarstone. Appliances, Bosch. Resin pieces, Dinosaur Designs. Volute stemmed platter, Maison Balzac. Leaning vase, Milly Dent. Artwork by Lily Cummins.
"I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at interiors," she says. "I like to start by envisioning the mood for the whole space and then, within the mood, there can be variations on that." As Mary and Andrew's home is in a very sophisticated enclave overlooking a bay, the couple settled on 'coastal glam' for their decorating style.
Formal dining A striking lightning bolt from Bride And Wolfe points to the centre of the table. Ceramic urn by Katarina Wells, available though Curatorial+Co. Small white vase, Iittala.

They sought advice from leading interior architect Phoebe Nicol, who's also a co-owner of vintage furniture destination The Vault. "Phoebe came in to show us how to plan rooms and choose fabrics for curtains and soft furnishings, which neither of us had done before. We took Phoebe's guidance, and then slowly did one room at a time – until one day it was all done!"


Casual dining Over by the wall is a White Onyx Teserra side table from Euro Marble. 
By hiring an interior designer for help with planning and selecting finishes, they avoided costly mistakes and the decision fatigue they'd experienced earlier on. They both considered this a worthwhile investment, financially and emotionally. Decorating the apartment is where Mary had the most fun, and, of course, using wallpaper was a must. There was one wallpaper that was just perfect for the informal dining area, she explains.

Formal dining The statement dining table is paired with plush pink chairs. Pink dining chairs, West Elm. Vintage dining table, Gumtree. Pendant light, The Vault. Wool rug, Cadrys.
"The space around the living-room window seemed undone and, in my sourcing of wallpapers, I came across Aurora Ray by Calico Wallpaper. There are a few times in my life when I've had my breath taken away and this was one of them. The colours of Ray were the same palette we see out the window every day, morning and evening. The wallpaper added warmth, and it's magical sitting by the window and seeing sunrise and sunset inside and out." 


Formal dining Mary found the vintage Chiswell sideboard on Gumtree, then had it professionally spray-painted and detailed with rattan applied by Cane & Wood Emporium. Ceramic Tipsy vessel by Katarina Wells and Above It All artwork by Antonia Mrljak, both from Curatorial+Co. Ceramics, Gretel Corrie.
Daisy's nursery is another space where breathtaking wallpaper plays a large part in the design.

"The nursery took me ages to decide on," says Mary. "Then I found Petals Pressed by New Zealand designer Emma Hayes. Its large, soft metallic petals are so romantic, and I was able to draw out different colours from the pattern in other pieces around the room."
Main bedroom "We already had our tall, navy, velvet bedhead [by Heatherley Design] and I chose the Palm Jungle wallpaper by Cole & Son to go with it," says Mary. "The design has a graphic pattern and printed texture, so you can see the layers of paint on the metallic base paper. It made the room feel instantly luxurious." Side table, James Said. Vintage bedside lamps, Mid Century Swag. Bed linen, In The Sac.
Complementing the wallpaper and bold colours throughout the home are lots of secondhand treasures, many of which Mary found on Gumtree. This includes the travertine dining table in the formal dining room, and the vintage sideboard Mary bought and had sprayed a bold pink before adding new rattan details. She refers to this form of upcycling as 'luxe-cycling' because she uses luxe finishes and colours to make things her own.

Nursery "This room is special and took me the longest to decide on," says Mary. Emma Hayes 'Petals Pressed' wallpaper, Wallpaper Trader. SNOO cot, Happiest Baby. Chair, Pottery Barn. Side table, Euro Marble.
As Mary has demonstrated, you can live large on a small footprint and have a wonderful, welcoming home. "We feel relaxed as soon as we walk in the front door," says Mary. "We wanted to make the apartment both special and functional, because when the space you're in makes you breathe easier, then that's a place you'll rush home to be in."
 
Main bathroom In this wet area, white and a little grey won out. Ceramic vase, Marmoset Found. Blue bowl, Iittala.
Lessons Learnt
"With so many decisions to be made when renovating, decision fatigue can set in," says Mary. "At one point, we were so tired of making decisions that we defaulted to the safest options. In retrospect, we would have loved to have taken on some bolder choices. For example, in the kitchen, we just went for white cabinetry but, on reflection, we would have loved to take a chance with some coloured cabinetry instead."

Phoebe Nicol is at Phoebe Nicol and @phoebenicol.interiors. Hair & Make-up by Michelle Cox using Charlotte Tilbury and Kevin Murphy products.

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