Paul and Sandra, retired empty nesters, have an expansive collection of ceramics, sculptures and objects they have collected from around the world as well as pieces by local Australian artists. “They have always been interested in more tactile pieces of art,” says interior designer Natalie Lawrence. “Paul was in the timber industry for more than 40 years and has an affinity for natural objects and Sandra has always been creative and creating herself.”
When the couple downsized, they engaged Natalie to update their new home. Built in the 1980s, it was dark, compartmentalised and had limited access to fresh air. Paul and Sandra wanted to change this. They also wanted to display their collection, showcasing the ceramics and sculptures as the centrepiece of the home. Natalie drew inspiration from modern Japanese design. “They are experts in housing beautiful objects, especially ceramic pieces,” she describes.
The layout of the house has been reconfigured to create a more flexible and open design, bringing light into dark corners and creating calm and contemporary living spaces. Ceramics are displayed in custom timber boxes that become part of the architecture, and white surfaces and a warm, natural material palette (timber, ceramic, concrete, glass, porcelain and stone) enhance the beauty of the collection. Natalie allocated a place for every object and designed the joinery and wall space to accommodate it. “The art truly informs the architecture,” says Natalie.
The large display case in the dining room informed the overarching concept of the other feature boxes around the house. Natalie measured each object (which include some made by Natalie) and designed the arrangement to ensure the pieces would stand individually as well as part of the overall display. A long shelf inset in the entrance wall presents cups, bowls, spoons and vessels. Around the corner, a coral-inspired piece by ceramic artist Michal Anela has its own dedicated display.
The timber boxes are seamlessly integrated throughout the house, including in the bathroom where one houses a colourful collection of tiny hands. “Believe it or not, these are soaps,” Natalie says. “Sandra has a passion for quirky objects and found the Kewpie hands in a small boutique.” Two mottled gourds are pottery-like additions to the bathroom. Natalie found them in a florist in Prahran and asked the florist to disassemble the display.
Preferring tactile pieces to painted artworks, Paul and Sandra also have artefacts, such as traditional Balinese ceramic and timber cow bells they have collected on trips away, and sculptural wall pieces from local exhibitions. The three-dimensional wall pieces are white and hung against white walls and joinery. Layering white on white adds visual interest through form, shadow and contrast without detracting from the ceramic and object display.
Designing a house not only for Paul and Sandra, but also for their unique collection of ceramics, required a collaborative and carefully considered approach. The result is a light and open modern home, a curated gallery and a calm and peaceful space.