Project Sheet: A Modern Masterpiece

The designs of Greg Natale unfold in ways not unlike the meticulous handling of a great many puzzle pieces, each one fitting with the next to create wondrous harmony, and an intricate result. Rose of Sharon Leake writes.

Referencing Milan’s Villa Necchi Campiglio, a museum designed by architect Piero Portaluppi, Villa Nuova in the Sydney suburb of Mosman is a rich blend of vintage furniture, contemporary art and European sensibility. Designed by Greg Natale, the four-storey, five-bedroom harbourside house called for a light, white interior with blonde timber floors. 

“The clients wanted a grand design, in keeping with the home’s contemporary bones but without being minimalist,” Natale tells me. “They wanted warmth and originality, with one favouring Art Deco design and the other having a penchant for late-1970s pieces. The palette of richly coloured marble, warm American oak panelling and vintage brass details harmonises these influences.”

Most strikingly is the expert use of marble throughout the home. “Outside the [oversized bronze entry] doors, large slabs of marble in shades of burgundy, pink, and ivory are laid in a classical Palladiana mosaic style,” says Natale. “Inside, the combination of marble tiles shifts to a geometric pattern of burgundy, pink, green, and ivory. Those four colours set the scene for the palette.” With marble as the material compass for the design of the home, Natale followed his clients’ desire for unique and interesting vintage pieces, sourcing many of the fittings and furniture from antique markets in Paris.

The expert blend of these one-off vintage pieces with contemporary art is what makes this home sing with character. “I worked closely with the owners to build their art collection,” says Natale, “guiding them towards some of the major purchases, such as the Dale Frank in the living room — he’s an artist I’ve long admired, and I’ve used his work in quite a few special projects over the years. The idea was to have more established artists on the middle level while downstairs features work by some younger emerging artists.” 

Acquiring the pieces in Villa Nuova from commercial Sydney galleries such as Roslyn Oxley9, Olsen Gallery and Nanda\Hobbs, Natale says the mix of striking art pieces with antiques sourced from Europe lends to a blurred line between art and design in the home. 

“I love the series of four original sculptures we commissioned from Stephen Ormandy,” Natale says. “We gave him the four travertine plinths and briefed him on the space and then he came up with all the amazing shapes.” Many of the artworks within this home were commissioned specifically for the spaces. “This meant we could really consider how the artworks sit within the space as a whole, relating tonally to other material elements such as wallpaper and upholstery to create this really layered and expressive effect.” 

The double-height sculptural mural in the central courtyard was designed by Natale himself, with his senior architect. “It sits at the intersection of art and design,” he says, “an artistic gesture embedded in the architecture and DNA of the project.”

While Natale was given mostly free reign on the selection of art and furniture pieces by his clients, his years of experience in the industry have taught him a thing or two about selecting art for the home. “I think when you’re selecting art for a residential project, you really need to think about the space. People can become overwhelmed when selecting art because they have this idea that it has to be all about them and what they love. Of course, they do have to love it, but it also has to work in the room — and that’s a major consideration when curating spaces for living in. Yes, the client needs to love the art, but they also need to love the sofa, the rug — and in this way we consider all the elements in a space essential.” 

The creation of Villa Nuova was gradual, Natale and his clients immersing themselves in the process of collecting, curating and loving each vintage doorknob, antique sideboard or commissioned artwork. The result can only be described as a masterpiece.

Above: The formal living room, with thresholds, portals and bulkheads clad in Granito Louco stone from Gitani Stone. Bronze sculptures by Stephen Ormandy, custom stone plinths and rug by Greg Natale, and vintage armchairs all sit within the space overlooking the bay. Photos: Anson Smart. Styling: Claire Delmar. Interior Design: Greg Natale. Courtesy: Greg Natale, Sydney.

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