My Space | Interior Designer Tamsin Johnson

  • The eclectic home of Sydney designer Tamsin Johnson juxtaposes styles and eras, shining a light on her personal design narrative.

    When it came to designing her own home, designer Tamsin Johnson saw it as an opportunity to create something truly unique.The property itself is one of a kind; a heritage home with generous proportions built in the 1920s in a sought-after neighbourhood overlooking Sydney Harbour.

    This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 48: Kitchen Confidential.

    In Sydney, interiors can often play second fiddle to the view, but in this instance, the designer has woven a narrative of interesting pieces throughout the four-bedroom home. “It’s a great showcase for my furniture business, with ideal settings, scenarios and applications all perfectly laid out,” Tamsin says. “Of course, it’s great for my interior design practice too. People always ask what I would do for myself and my family and here it is.”

    The designer immediately recognised the property’s potential. “For me it was largely because it hadn’t suffered a prior destructive renovation.” Original features were painstakingly restored to their former glory using artisans, including the timber flooring and panelling. “The ceiling panelling is also original and the lead-light glass windows were a highly specialised act of restoration,” she says. Any new work has a similar artisanal quality, for example Tamsin commissioned a metal worker to make beautiful bespoke galvanised railings and security grills.

    The structural changes that were made over the nine-month renovation have been transformative. An unexpected move was enclosing the two balconies to create a sunroom on the ground level and a master ensuite above. The cellar downstairs was further excavated to allow for a sauna and rumpus room that doubles as a poolside dining area and lounge for the new pool. “The kitchen and bathroom were lightly renovated in the 70s so I changed these too,” Tamsin explains. The new kitchen is a showstopper with an arresting island bench in Bianco Gioia marble composed of layered slabs, while the lower ground powder room is equally unique boasting a reclaimed 19th-century French rosa marble pedestal basin.

    Rather than creating vast open spaces, the designer opted to retain a sequence of defined rooms each with their own mood and purpose. “I really wanted a more ‘grown-up’ or traditionally organised home, like houses were built 100 years ago, rather than the contemporary open plan approach which can sometimes lack privacy, comfort and a sense of security and warmth,” Tamsin explains. This has allowed the designer to have fun juxtaposing styles and eras, from the antique 18th-century Flemish verdure landscape silk tapestry to the USM sideboard in the lower ground floor dining room.

    A corner of the dining room cleverly combines a USM sideboard with 1920s French Art Deco wall sconces, a pair of 1970s Spanish rough-hewn alabaster table lamps, and a 19th-century French still life oil painting.

    Designer Tamsin Johnson in her home.

    While there are dramatic moments throughout, the home is not just for show. “I wanted very elaborate doses of information to keep it exciting, but I wanted to express comfort too – it’s a family home after all,” Tamsin says. She has cleverly managed to upgrade the home to meet all the expectations of modern life while maintaining its essence complete with largely vintage furniture and fittings and hand-crafted finishes that will age beautifully over time.

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