The sisters who designed a ‘stay forever’ home on Sydney’s north shore

While there are famous examples in history of an architect delivering a vision for both a building and its interior – think American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, or Alvar Aalto from Finland – these days, architecture and interior design are mostly the preserve of separate professions. So much so, that sometimes a lack of alignment between the architect’s concept and the vision of the interior designer can cause creative friction, leaving the client somewhere in the middle.

A bold rug adds a sense of joy to the predominantly natural tones of the interior.

A bold rug adds a sense of joy to the predominantly natural tones of the interior.Credit:Prue Ruscoe

loading

This is not the case with sisters Nadine and Romaine Alwill, architect and interior designer respectively, who work under the Alwill banner independently and, at times, together. One such latter project was Cove House on Sydney’s north shore. Built in off-form concrete on a rare site that borders bushland and embraces water views, it plays to the strength of its position by conjuring up the illusion of isolation in what is an essentially suburban area.

“I love the connection with the outdoors here,” says Nadine. “This house makes a strong architectural statement but not at the expense of its respect to the site and context.”

The architect and interior designer worked together on this off-form concrete “forever” home.

The architect and interior designer worked together on this off-form concrete “forever” home. Credit:Prue Ruscoe

The client brief was for a “stay forever” house, with the aim that their two children would grow up here, move out and eventually return with their friends and their own families. The request was for a light-filled and calm space that was generous and robust enough to be dialed up for parties and entertaining.

The interior design was interwoven into the concept from the very beginning, with Nadine and Romaine discussing materials and textures to ensure the furniture fitted the building with ease and that the visual flow extended from inside to out. The rigor of concrete is not for everyone, but it was balanced out inside through the warmth of timber and the use of a patinaed, blackened brass for the kitchen island.

“We were lucky enough to have very design-inspired clients who were happy to stretch themselves,” says Romaine, “and most of all … they trusted us.”

Bold gestures such as the rug in the lower living space added a sense of joy to the predominantly natural tones of the interior. “I just love the layering and depth that comes with Romaine’s input,” says Nadine. “The link we have means we intuitively understand what the other can ‘see’ in a project and can communicate that in our overall aesthetic.”

Leave a Comment