What’s this leafy industrial-style home trying to prove? That it’s definitely not the size that counts.
In the heart of bustling Sydney is a secret, surprising sanctuary created by Susanna and Paul Harrison for their young family. Housed behind a yellow door in a small concrete warehouse and complete with a lush green courtyard, once inside, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the CBD is just around the corner.
“Building this little place has been a great journey,” says Susanna, a graphic designer and illustrator. “We discovered you can have a beautiful connection to nature right in the middle of the city, and you don’t need loads of stuff to find happiness and a sense of home.”
After a long and frustrating search for an industrial building that was just right, the couple decided to get creative. “We’ve always loved the colour and texture of concrete,” says Susanna. “After a lot of searching, we finally found a company that could both make the pre-cast panels off site and agree to transport and crane them onto a tiny block in the inner city.”
Opening onto the courtyard, the home’s hub is the kitchen, which is centered around an island bench with storage on one side and a breakfast bar on the other; the bench is on castor wheels so it can be moved around the room as the need dictates. Exposed piping overhead provides a unique place to hang this, that and the other thing for practical and visual appeal. •
The pair worked with storage designer Gary Galego to create plywood cabinetry in the kitchen and living room that hides functional items such as the fridge, pantry and television. In these spaces and the bedrooms, the concrete walls prove the ideal blank canvas on which to display Susanna’s drawings and other treasured homeware.
The family has a heartfelt connection to all the art in the house, including pieces by prominent Australian artists. “We have a gorgeous Mirka Mora, a small Paul Davies we scored at an auction, and a great piece by Simon Degroot in the girls’ room,” says Susanna. “The indigenous paintings and carvings are also so important to our home, and probably some of the first things I’d grab in a fire.” She also has a soft spot for vintage and handmade ceramics, and considers her big blue Italian Bitossi vase one of her best-ever acquisitions.
On the second floor, Susanna has created a small home studio. A lot of her work is influenced by vintage textiles and floral prints, themes that are echoed in the décor. Susanna describes her interior style as “vintage nostalgia meets nature and art. I’d like to think there’s a playfulness and also an earthy feel to my style.”
She doesn’t believe you have to spend big to create a happy and inspiring home, peppering hers with op shop, market and curbside finds. The vintage dresser in the couple’s loft bedroom, which is accessible only via ladder and has a view of the children’s room below, is the perfect example of her “good op shop luck”, purchased at the bargain price of $20.
Inspiration for the garden came from the couple’s travels to Buenos Aires, Argentina, a densely populated city where living spaces are typically small. Susanna recalls that many of the courtyards they saw there made great use of vines and hanging pots. Wanting to recreate the look at home, she says the process was “a trial and error exercise of plant and pot selection”. They’ve used cacti, succulents and natives such as the perennial, purple-flowering Scaevola Aussie Salute. There’s evergreen liriope grass, assorted herbs and a water lily, and Boston and Swedish ivy climbs the walls. It’s enchanting, yet low-maintenance. “People often ask me what my garden secrets are,” says Susanna, “and I always say, ‘Water.’”
An avid collector of Polynesian and Hawaiian souvenirs and artefacts, Paul reckons no courtyard is complete without a tiki bar. “It’s his man cave,” says Susanna, “and I love it because it’s lots of fun, and the girls love to play their shopkeeper games in it too.”
With loads of creative thinking, Susanna and Paul have built a warm and inviting oasis: their dream home. Love aside, says Susanna, “A nice place to sleep, a nice place to cook, an outdoor space and a tiki bar are all you need!”
Words & Styling Kerrie-Ann Jones
Photography Maree Homer