‘Moments’ rather than looks best encapsulate a home’s positive impact, and the ultimate moment experienced in Magnolia House is the slow and elegant descent down its new sculptural staircase, the metaphorical spine of both the home and the project.
The two-year renovation began as a basic brief to re-work the kitchen and bathrooms, but our impromptu sketch of an alternative staircase (a gut-felt response to the overbearing timber balustrade in the entrance foyer) sent the project up, as it were, to a whole new level.
“It expanded,” says the owner. “We’d always wanted to decorate and improve the flow a little bit in the entry, but they had this vision that just blew us away.”
The owners chose Arent & Pyke for the colour and texture we favour in our kitchens, but doors soon opened to the rest of the house and by demolition day, the brief had extended beyond recognition. While the volume of the house was retained, its internal distribution was scratched and re-designed for the movements of a young family. Herringbone oak replaced limestone floors and the lighting was resolved to ensure a warmer welcome.
The staircase turned out to be so technically challenging that the manufacturer vowed never to repeat it, but it was to define the entire project and continues to represent its heart.
“That’s made such a massive difference in the house. This and how they changed the structure and the lines – architectural things they pointed out were ‘very busy’ but that we didn’t notice – and now everything has a smooth flow. It makes everything… calm.”
Grown-up sophistication is found in a new ‘adult’ area created within ears’ reach of the children’s bedrooms. “The fact [Arent and Pyke] are both mums really attracted us because they have their own families and they understand the place we’re in and what’s important.”
Details soften the existing structure and provide new architectural interest; in the corridor, panels conceal a powder room and a study lined with peacock-hued House of Hackney paper that sets off the salmon pink cabinetry. What was “a bit of a nothing room” is now tantamount to a jewellery box, delighting passers by when the door’s left open (which it very often is).
The home’s various spaces needed to find clearer respective definitions but also to interact. To this end, a full-sized window looks out from the formal to the informal area on the lower level, which welcomes family time with it sumptuous oversized B&B Italia and De Padova lounges, a Shaker-style kitchen in eucalypt tones, and verdant views of the newly landscaped exterior by Secret Gardens.
With an idyllic environment for cosy family times, large barbecues and many a happy Christmas, this space – and the rest of the home – is destined for the soft-focus childhood memories to come.