A Family’s Art Deco Sydney Apartment With A House-Like Feel

Melanie Watkins and Polo Guilbert-Wright live in a home that stands out.

A 1920s duplex with art deco curves, there isn’t much else like it in the inner-western Sydney suburb of Russell Lea. And it was those curves that first caught Melanie’s eye, when she originally stumbled across the home.

The apartment had enough space for the couple and their two children Teddy (11) and Otto (6) thanks to its spacious proportions spanning the entirety of the building’s ground floor. There was also direct access to a private garden and a garage — both hard to come by features in an inner-Sydney apartment.

‘It needed some work, but it wasn’t overwhelming,’ says Melanie. ‘The fact that it was a duplex also meant it was going to be in our price range, and we’d have money left for a reno and the chance to put our stamp on it.’

Another bonus was the neighbourhood, located not too far from the family’s previous home in Rozelle, plus swimming spots in the Parramatta River, and among a thriving Italian community. ‘Our Italian neighbour upstairs grows his own veggies and passes them over the fence to us,’ says Melanie.

The apartment still had some original features, but the kitchen had been given a simplistic all-white makeover with poor functionality. Melanie and Polo overhauled this space to add more bench space, and a sophisticated material palette of warm timber, Laminex in Dulux Bay Leaf cabinetry, glossy ceramic tiles, and terrazzo floors.

The bathroom was also completely transformed in the renovation. Bright pink tiles and fluted glass were selected to reference the playful detailing of the original architecture and imbue the home with more personality.

New carpet was installed in the bedrooms, and all the walls were freshly painted in Dulux Natural White (half strength). ‘We went for white to let our art, design objects and soft furnishings pop and sing,’ says Melanie.

The removal of joinery in the living room and a cupboard door in the main bedroom also created more space to showcase art. Numerous sculptures are displayed around the apartment by artists Melanie has met through her job as the studio and operations manager at Tom Bass Sculpture Studio School.

Altogether, Melanie and Polo have created a delightful family home that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Their apartment is equal parts contemporary and original, and provides the perfect base for the chaos and joy of family life!

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