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Light House by Smac Studio


Smac Studio Interior Design has transformed a fragmented, terracotta-toned 1980s property into an elegant open plan home. Located in Vaucluse, Sydney, original arched windows look onto Australia’s oldest lighthouse, providing the site with both a sense of history and touch of drama. Honouring the original architect’s vision, which was inspired by a trip to Tuscany in the 1980s, Shona McElroy, Principle of Smac Studio, embraced a traditional Italian aesthetic while also fulfilling the owners’ desire for large, open spaces for entertaining and more natural light.

The extensive renovation saw three small rooms reconfigured into one expansive kitchen, living and dining area. The rear wall was moved out to create more internal space and lavish slabs of Arrabescato marble now grace the kitchen island, splashback and fireplace.

The entrance foyer, which boasts an incredible view of the light house, also received a notable update. Previously the floor was dark green stone, the walls were limewash orange, and black steel balustrades carved the staircase at sharp angles. Smac Studio smoothed the hard edges into inviting Venetian plaster curves and created a checkerboard floor from Carrara and Verdi Alpi marble. “Verdi Alpi was the original stone slab on the floor, so this design decision is a tribute to that,” says McElroy. A curved staircase provides a welcoming architectural hug on arrival while drawing the eye upwards.

In deliberate contrast to the predominantly white and bright spaces, the home office and cigar rooms feature a moody wall colour. “I used Ristretto from Porter’s Paints, which is a very dark warm grey colour with a hint of green,” says McElroy. “In traditional homes you often see dark, heavy timber studies, libraries and sitting rooms and that’s what I wanted these rooms to evoke. It’s a modern take on that.”

Originally clad in dark wood, the symmetrical marble portals leading to the formal dining and cigar rooms have been elevated with Arrabescato marble to create a special sense of entrance to these more formal spaces. Detailed paneling and cornicing, Benit Sculpted Chandeliers in white plaster from Aerin, and traditional curtains and curtain rails further enhance the formal feel. The cigar room bar features bronze veneer and a marble splashback, which contrast well with the dark wall colour and add a sense of opulence.

The master suite features an exquisite double-island walk-in wardrobe with Arrabescato marble bench tops, and brass lighting designs from Kelly Wearstler, Aerin and Articolo. “I think lighting is like jewellery, says McElroy. "It’s like artwork. The pieces I’ve chosen for this house transcend from day to night. Each light is an art object on the wall during the day, and at night those same objects create a soft, ambient, romantic glow.”

The biggest challenge with the renovation was time. “We only had three months to design and nine months to build,” says McElroy. “There were problems with lead times for certain items, so things were changing on the fly, but I still got all the elements I wanted in the beginning.” Those elements were curvature, a journey from formal entrance to informal open plan living, a marble checkerboard floor and artful lighting. “Even though the build time was short we didn’t skimp on character,” she says. “I love all the different layers, materials and shifts of light as you move through this home. I like to think this house is like a little black dress with a pearl necklace — a timeless aesthetic.”


Interior Architecture & Design: Smac Studio
Styling: Claire Delmar
Photography: Dave Wheeler
Construction: Charas Construction

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