Principal Brendan Wong has twenty years industry experience working throughout Australia, London and Paris. With a Bachelor of Interior Design and a Masters of Interior Architecture, he was recently honoured to be the recipient of a Fellowship to the Design Institute of Australia in 2013. Brendan holds diverse knowledge in the field of interiors and has awards from the DIA, SIDA and the Kenzo Design Competition.
First impressions are often the most significant. When Sydney-based interior designer Brendan Wong first saw the grand Victorian house his clients had bought, it was the mix of strong proportions with a certain delicateness that resonated with him – and influenced his approach to the design of the interior.
Built around 1891 – on the cusp of high- and late-Victorian styles – the handsome exterior features were essentially intact: fine cast-iron lacework to verandahs, intricate eaves supports, central arched entrance, and a tower that would once have led to a widow’s walk. Like many grand houses of that period – and partly the reason they still exist – it had had a mixed history as a private hospital and later a 22-room boarding house with separate entrances and kitchenettes, before being restored. Fortunately the ornate plaster ceilings had only been sheeted over so were still intact.
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The owners’ brief to the designer was to maintain the grandeur of the house but to create something that suited their growing family of five. “They wanted modern elegance with warmth, but not too uptight,” says Brendan. “The intention was to create a strong first impression. Then, they wanted the finer details, new textures and finishes to be revealed gradually, rather than be completely obvious.” A statement-making emerald green lacquered and bronze sideboard in the wide entrance hallway does just that. Chosen by the designer and owners together, its sculptural, faceted shape defies convention, and the mirror-like reflective finish against the black Japan floorboards, original cedar staircase and traditional semi-circular archway is a bold surprise and sets the tone for the connecting rooms.
There is a wonderful dialogue between the old and new, traditional and contemporary throughout. The formal living room with its three-and-a-half-metre-high ceilings, cast plaster roses and cornices functions as a true multi-purpose salon. The piano is a much-loved family heirloom and is contrasted with a modern Lucite desk custom designed by Brendan. The bookshelves in macassar are set against ‘X’-leg stools upholstered in a youthful, patterned velvet, and a classic deep-buttoned sofa and a pair of Oly San Francisco armchairs complete the scene.
Silk rugs – by Hali in the sitting room and by Robyn Cosgrove in the dining room – are a classic element, while velvet upholstery and a shagreen coffee table provide a luxury touch. Custom-made contemporary mirrors over the original mantelpieces are intentionally edgy and, like a piece of art, they lift and lighten the mood.
Accent colours in this space, such as the chairs upholstered in a green Lelièvre ‘Sultan’ fabric, echo the Alexander
McKenzie artwork on the wall of the dining area, the position of the painting giving the impression of looking through a window. The dining table is a custom design by Brendan in macassar, walnut and ebonised oak. A pair of side cabinets in lacquer with brass highlights sit under the windows, while a vintage bar cart is the only other piece of furniture in the dining room. The home is not overly furnished. “You need to know when to stop,” says Brendan.
Light fixtures throughout the home are simple and restrained, such as the ‘Spillray’ by Axo Light glass and nickel
fixtures in the sitting and dining room, which neither dominate nor compete with the original architectural elements.
In the informal living room that doubles as a TV room, a masculine three-seater sofa is juxtaposed with a light and feminine settee upholstered in gold velvet from Schumacher and soft linen curtains. A Jonathan Adler coffee table with chrome legs is a modern punctuation point in an otherwise classic room, sitting on a midnight sky rug from Robyn Cosgrove and overlooked by a large Tamara Dean photographic work, By Feel.
Upstairs, a sizable master bedroom has a quiet relaxing outlook over trees. It is furnished for comfort with a classic sensibility. The graduated drapery is ‘Hockney’ from Elliott Clarke, complemented by wallpaper with micro dots that creates a stippled effect. The focus of the room is an overscaled headboard designed by Brendan as articulated panels wrapped in ochre-coloured leather. A chaise, also custom designed by Brendan, provides the perfect spot for the owners to sit and enjoy the wonderful light that floods the room.