Bondi Junction and bushland aren’t two settings you generally picture side by side, but this is exactly where a lifelong friend of interior designer Tania Handelsmann wanted to call home. Located down a leafy path just ten minutes from Sydney’s CBD, the Woollahra house carefully burrows into the bushland reserve, while mingling with a glamorous urban context.
If a home is aware of its heritage surrounds, we are quick to think of its neighbours. But taking up a sacred spot in Woollahra Council’s Heritage Conservation area wasn’t just about consideration for other homes on the street. The north-facing abode sits on an existing heritage stone podium, with an additional four metre high stone wall tying into the rock cliffs above. Set back from the street, Director Alex Porebski of Porebski Architects said “the house has purposefully used a minimal building palette of face concrete blocks, black stained timber and zinc to become part of the bush setting”. These same materials are kept consistent inside, “to bring a greater indoor-outdoor connection” just as the optimised ceiling height and clerestory windows welcome the lush into the living room.
For Tania Handelsmann of Handelsmann + Khaw, taking on the treehouse was an intimate interior design process, having met the client in kindergarten. Tania took an appreciation for her old friend’s bold personality, infusing the home “with a subtle dose of luxury”. The simple, leathered palette of materials was met by precise detailing and the perfect tension of oak flooring, plush wool carpets and sumptuous fabrics. “We eschewed the usual Australian bush vernacular in favour of a bold monochromatic eighties-inspired design statement to create a high-low aesthetic and utilitarian luxury,” Tania said. On a practical level, this was to enable entertaining — note the expansive bar — and low maintenance surfaces.
An eighties aesthetic may first have you recounting puffy sleeves and shoulder pads. Instead, it was the decade’s iconic designer Andree Putman and her decadence tempered by restraint and “cool geometry enriched by warm sensuality” that informed the objects of the home. Covetable pieces from Pierre Jeannette, Gerrit Rietveld, Josef Hoffman and Eileen Grey make up several decades of twentieth century design, complemented by custom contemporary pieces like the ‘Verde Chambery’ marble dining table.
Captured in a nutshell by Alex Porebski, the residence combines simple forms and high detail to embrue “a raw and refined sensibility” into a respectful urban retreat.