Where Architects Live | Nick Tobias

  • A light-filled, relaxed simplicity underscores architect Nick Tobias’ home.

    When Tobias Partners founding principal Nick Tobias first saw this dark and pokey 1970s brick house in Sydney’s Camp Cove, he only saw its future potential. Situated on a rare corner block within Sydney Harbour’s Watsons Bay precinct, the surrounding Camp Cove neighbourhood held a special childhood connection for Nick. Hanging out with friends in the area growing up, Nick was keen to tap into the special spirit this seaside suburb offers.

    Nick and the design team at Tobias Partners unlocked the architectural promise of the existing house by unfolding the layout, modernising the interiors and opening up to natural light to make the most of the ‘easy-breezy’ coastal lifestyle and climate. We spoke with Nick about the architectural influences behind this renovation, how his creative passions show up throughout the home and how the considered selection of materials, including Tongue n Groove’s oak flooring, has informed the overarching aesthetic of his home.

    Produced in partnership with Tongue n Groove

    The Tongue n Groove Natural Grade Chamoisee oak flooring in Grande format is the foundation of the ground floor material palette. It offers a durable yet earthy feel from which other finishes can flourish.

    Once the site of a charming, old fishing village situated between the harbour on one side and the ocean on the other, Camp Cove’s community charm is largely due to its surrounding national parks and historic sites. When Nick secured the dated Camp Cove House at auction, his ultimate brief outlined building a beautiful urban retreat for himself and his two teenage sons.

    Armed with a vision to restore the home into a series of open-planned and well-ventilated, connected family spaces, the priority quickly focused on harnessing the light. “The connection to street life, the sun and the vistas was really important, so too was the visual connection to Camp Cove Reserve and the nearby Gap Bluff,” Nick says.

    Orientated on a corner plot, the home only had one neighbour to the south. The rear opens up to a reserve dotted with shady fig trees while the front of the home faces northwest, ensuring the house is drenched in sunlight all day long. “While the house isn’t overly large and the floor plan is compact, it works hard for its concentrated size,” Nick says.

    Spread across two storeys, the lower level is dedicated to communal utility and entertaining; a compact yet functional kitchen/dining area sits to the right of the main home’s entrance, while the multipurpose, open lounge is situated to the left. Upstairs, the second floor occupies all the private spaces, including four bedrooms and their adjoining bathrooms. Joining both floors together to offer the home a much-need central void for ventilation is a modern, curved metal stairwell highlighted by a circular skylight.

    The scope of the house developed quickly over a short period of time. “The process was very quick but highly intuitive and so the home has naturally become a manifestation of my aesthetic. It’s simple, calm, warm, slightly restrained, eclectic, earthy and full of art”. Reflective of Tobias Partners’ portfolio of local, highly bespoke work, Nick’s own home is also a celebration of the unique Australian outdoor lifestyle. Removing some of the internal walls and adding a series of sliding, floor-to-ceiling glazing across both floors has allowed Camp Cove House to ‘breathe’ while seamlessly blurring the boundaries between its new interiors and the external landscaping.

    References to the locality are drawn into the material palette selected by Nick to ensure the home embraces its context. From the playful, pink Rosa Nuvola marble kitchen island, original retained brick fireplace, and terracotta tiles in the main bathroom upstairs to the polished plaster walls throughout. “I tried to use authentic materials, things you can touch. I’m a very tactile person, and my home reflects that,” Nick says.

    Given that the home is situated in a heritage conversation area, Nick’s design weaves in nods to the local architecture and charm. “The Tongue n Groove Natural Grade Chamoisee oak flooring in Grande format is one of those beautiful, timeless elements,” he says. “I wanted something really easy to walk on, durable and a material that had a natural, earthy feel about it,” he adds. Connecting the larger part of the home’s ground floor, the Tongue n Groove timber flooring needed to be a gentle finish that would sit seamlessly alongside the other feature finishes, such as the polished plaster walls and sandstone crazy paving outside. “The classical colouring of Chamoisee Oak flooring creates a neutral backdrop for the eclectic collection of furniture and artwork throughout our home,” Nick maintains.

    The Tongue n Groove oak floors are very gentle and natural with lots of organic knots and depth which give our home a really authentic and timeless feel.”


    – Architect Nick Tobias

    In Nick’s dining space, a collection of leather Casina 412 Cab chairs designed by architect Mario Bellini looks out to the orange shade awning to create a nod to the home’s 70s past.

    “I tried to use authentic materials, things you can touch. I’m a very tactile person and my home reflects that.” – Nick Tobias

    “The lounge is a special room that the boys and I spend a lot of time in, from jamming with our instruments together to sitting by the fire – it’s the total chill room,” Nick says. While his beloved art collection was a way of injecting his personality throughout the space there are other details throughout the home that Nick has placed his stamp on. The custom-made, Spotted Gum front door, complete with a bronze handle, sets the tone for the home, while inside the family’s heirloom 1901 Steinway Piano, taking pride of place in the lounge is a beloved and well-played possession.

    Camp Cove House explores a movement of shapes, patterns and offbeat material compositions, creating a sense of playfulness and architectural experimentation. Drawn to the easy living, coastal lifestyle that this unique Sydney suburb offers, Nick has made himself and his boys feel right at home in a house overflowing with good energy.

    The cinema room features custom seating designed by Tobias Partners, upholstered in fabric sourced from Elliott Clarke. The surrounding walls and ceiling are all finished in polished plaster. The photographic artwork on the wall is ‘Border, Petra Goats’ (2004) by Lynne Roberts-Goodwin, and the sculptural vessels are from Ignem Terrae Ceramics.

    Blue tubular steel Locus Solus armchairs by Gae Aulenti for Exteta offer a playful pop of colour in the courtyard.

    “While the house isn’t overly large and the floor plan is compact, it works hard for its concentrated size.”


    – Architect Nick Tobias

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