Australian Homes

Sibella Court and Ben Harper

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 14th May 2014

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Sibella Court’s workspace / studio above her Paddington Store, The Society inc. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Annex off bathroom, above Sibella Court’s Paddington store. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Sibella’s bathroom of classic subway tiles, black grout and hardware pieces from her own range. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Incredible tiny eclectic kitchen!  The kitchen sink was purchased at The Great Gatsby prop sale, the zinc splash back, and open shelving were custom made by a local blacksmith. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Sydney stylist, author, designer and TV presenter Sibella Court gets quite a lot of press, and with good reason.  I’ve admired her work from afar for a long time, but it wasn’t until I recently had the opportunity to shoot her Sydney home and studio that I really began to properly understand Sibella’s genius! With an uncanny knack for creating the most layered, rich and dramatic interior spaces, Sibella sources details from across the globe to give her projects a depth and sense of timelessness that is very hard to describe.  When you turn a camera on Sibella’s interiors, the magic is clear.  These spaces really do encapsulate something far richer than the sum of their parts.

The word ‘bohemian’ gets bandied about a lot these days but I would have to say it’s entirely accurate in Sibella’s case!  Sibella’s creative projects and her everyday life are intrinsically linked, without much distinction between the two.  Indeed, when I first approached Sibella’s team to request the opportunity to photograph her home, they sweetly explained that whilst she could certainly accommodate a shoot, Sibella’s living arrangements were a little (characteristically!) unconventional.  Allow me to explain.

At present, Sibella’s workspace and daytime living / working quarters are above her beautiful shop, The Society Inc, a sweet little corner store in a building which dates back to the 1800’s, in Sydney’s leafy Paddington. Here, Sibella has created an eclectic environment complete with tiny kitchen (crammed with all manner of vintage knick knacks), bathroom with antique tapware and hardware from Sibella’s own vintage-inspired range, and an incredible multi-purpose studio space above the shop where Sibella’s small creative team is based.  Day to day, when not travelling, Sibella is based here.

In the evenings, Sibella, her baby daughter Silver and partner Ben Harper retire to sleeping quarters elsewhere – a self contained wing of a large shared mansion in Bondi.  Here Sibella has created a sanctuary of sorts, incorporating a moody master bedroom, Silver’s bedroom, a bathroom, and a connecting outdoor balcony / sunroom.  10 minutes by car from her studio and shop in Paddington, somehow, this peculiar arrangement suits Sibella and Silver just perfectly, whilst Ben divides his time between Bondi and Wategoes near Byron Bay, where his business, McTavish Surfboards is based.

Sibella has had her store for five years, and has been based between here and Bondi for the past twelve months, since just before Silver was born.  (Previously, she lived above the shop fulltime). The shop was completely stripped back to its raw shell when Sibella first took it on in 2008.  Though at first glance they might appear original, in fact the kitchen and the bathroom were both painstakingly renovated to reinstate some of their former Victorian charm.  In the bathroom, a dinky bathtub was removed to make way for a more open wet room. Classic subway tiles with black grout were used, with an old French cleaners sink, picked up the taps in a Paris flea market, and Sibella added decorative hardware from her own hardware range.

The kitchen renovation started with the cast iron American sink, purchased at The Great Gatsby prop sale.  As soon as she had installed said sink, that very afternoon Sibella ripped out the whole kitchen, replacing it with a deceptively authentic Victorian-style kitchen – ‘which my brother thinks looks like its from the 1860’s’ she says!  Sibella used salvaged wood for her kitchen bench, and had her master blacksmiths Saul Forge line the walls with zinc and hand perforated shelves, with specially designed forged brackets. Open shelves display Sibella’s many plates, mugs, bowls, jugs, water carafes and ‘every other kitchen un-necessity you ever possibly want’ says Sibella!

At Bondi, Sibella was keen to create a darker, moody atmosphere for her sleeping quarters.  Both her own bedroom and Silver’s were painted in deep tones which give the space an enveloping cosiness, punctuated by Sibella’s treasure trove of collected antiques, artwork, textiles and vintage ephemera.  Though her various projects vary in scale and style, it is this clever layering of detail upon detail which really define Sibella’s distinctive aesthetic, and give so many of her projects their richness and unmistakeable sense of nostalgia.

‘I have got lots of favourite things. Everything has its story, important to me, collected over time from around the world’ says Sibella, who describes her home simply as ‘typical of me’.   I often feel that documenting someone’s personal space can be the ‘truest’ way of understanding what makes them tick – in this case, today’s story certainly presents a vivid snapshot of the inner workings of one truly unique creative mind.  Thankyou Sibella for sharing your world with us!

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The Society inc. store – staircase leads up to Sibella’s studio above.  The store itself is housed in an 1800’s corner shop in Paddington.  Here Sibella has created a unique space specialising in local and global textiles, furniture, homewares and beautiful treasure. The shield reads ‘I was born on a pirate ship’ ! Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Sibella’s studio and office above her shop.   Custom made wall to ceiling shelves to house her extensive library, which she references daily for inspiration. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Details from Sibella’s studio. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Sibella has her own hardware range, Merchants & Traders, which she sells in her store. She gathers inspiration for her products ranges whilst travelling the globe. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Custom designs in zinc and copper in Sibella’s studio, for the commercial spaces she is currently working on. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Bathroom details.  Taps found at a Paris flea market, and a few of Sibella’s collection of old shaving mirrors from around the globe. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Sibella, Ben and Silver’s sleeping quarters in a shared mansion in Bondi!  Pictured above – the outdoor room off the master bedroom. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins/The Design Files.

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Master bedroom. Bed head is custom designed by Sibella, and made by Magic Axe, with a zinc top by her black smith, Saul. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Sibella loves cut flowers, especially anything on the branch to add scent & texture to her room. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Abundance of hats collected from all around the world in Sibella’s wardrobe. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins/The Design Files.

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Baby Silver’s enchanting bedroom. The mosquito net was dip dyed by Shibori. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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A relaxing nook in baby Silver’s bedroom. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Sibella collects fancy dress ups & masks from all around the globe, and keeps them in her walk in wardrobe in an old leather suitcase. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 14th May 2014

35 comments

  • Sarah 2 years ago

    Wow. Simply gorgeous.

  • kuma stephens 2 years ago

    Love this Bohemian Clutter……Its UBER Style, it’s Priceless and cannot just be bought!

  • Elizabeth 2 years ago

    Amazing… Purely amazing.

  • lexi 2 years ago

    Oh how positively dreamy. I love Sibella’s style, and this home is so visually rich, I may have to stick that master bedroom on my inspiration wall. Beautiful.

  • Indra 2 years ago

    Jackpot!! For so long I have wanted to see inside Sibella’s home! Well done, so very beautifully put together!

  • Georgina 2 years ago

    Breathtaking at every turn. Thank you Sibilla (and Lucy) for allowing us a look inside your home and personal spaces.

  • Edwina 2 years ago

    So great to see houses that are not to your own taste, but so interesting to see. This is one of them for me- the detail in every room is exquisite.

  • Booie 2 years ago

    Sibella can style! Amazing detailed spaces…

  • catker 2 years ago

    Love sibella! Always a treat to see her spaces. Wish I had my own blacksmith!

  • Sarah Fuller 2 years ago

    wow wow wow

  • Jacqueline 2 years ago

    Love love love Sibella’s style, always! <3

  • Honeysuckle 2 years ago

    very cluttered ,crazy and Selby-ish interior… reminds me of my own life in Sydney in Paddington 25 years ago.

  • Helen Fatharly 2 years ago

    Love it!

  • mel 2 years ago

    Truly, this woman is a genius in the art of collecting and decorating. Thank you for showing her beautiful and incredibly interesting home. Mel x

  • Shannon 2 years ago

    Sibella really does practice what she preaches!!!

  • brismod 2 years ago

    Love. Reminds me of Margaret Olley’s home…

  • Kristen 2 years ago

    Oh dear, this makes me feel all twitchy. One persons layering is another’s clutter!

  • jennie 2 years ago

    NO WAY… this is just incredible!!! I want to go to there.

  • Renae 2 years ago

    Thanks Lucy, I love that you had the opportunity to show us a glimpse of Sibella’s home. I too have admired and followed Sibella for some time, she is certainly an amazingly unique creative soul. I love that her home is a true extension of what she works hard to create professionally. Just beautiful.

  • Mel 2 years ago

    Fabulous

  • Grace 2 years ago

    Wow. How refreshing! All those tidy, white homes start to look the same after a while.
    Great post.

  • Patricia Pye 2 years ago

    I love your house , it is so beautiul and quirky and makes me feeel happy to look at it . I cae to it via facebook and Small Acorns

  • Jayde 2 years ago

    Visually stunning, Thanks for sharing, loved it!
    I just have to ask though…who does the dusting???

  • Maxine Lewis 2 years ago

    Awesome fabulousness! Especially love the dark toned bedrooms, but love everything, really…

  • Awesome post and images. Thanks for sharing.

  • Annie Yu 2 years ago

    unbelievably awesome!! lets do an open house there and I will be flying from Melbourne to just come and see! great found!!

  • Georgina Campbell 2 years ago

    Beautiful light, but a very cool palette in Sibella’s life

  • mark 2 years ago

    I love the houses and interiors that reflect who the owner is. The objects look like they have been collected over a lifetime …….quite amazing, visually intriguing.

  • Susan 2 years ago

    Magical. It’s like a vintage storybook…

  • Lita notte 12 months ago

    beautiful feel in all your rooms.

  • marmalade 9 months ago

    This is what its all really all about for me, the layers of history, of life being lived, memories and trinkets, everything moving and changing and coming together in amazing and inexplicable ways, the poetry of it all. When it boils down to it life is messy and cluttered and busy and inspiring all at once and not all neatly curated and perfected in a moment in time and space. The heart keeps giving, So truly inspiring and embodying such a great spirit of adventure.

  • marmalade 9 months ago

    … “The only people for me are the made ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace things, but burn burn burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the sky.”

  • Philip Swifte 9 months ago

    Love your program “Restoration Australia” and just fascinated by the pictures of your ‘apartment’ using old collectable items. Some people can just make them meld together and others just a collection. One day when we are in Sydney we might drop into your shop and look around. Just keep up with your tv program as we just love it. Cheers Philip & Jill Swifte

  • Tim Simpson 8 months ago

    Very interesting. I suspect that Sibella’s greatest achievement is in successfully appealing to a certain market. Her eclectic style is hardly new – it’s been a feature of the British magazine ‘Architectural Digest’ for decades, but her presentation of it in an Australian context, backed by her attractive appearance and determined personality, has been very effective.

    In short, while her cluttered, country house style is not particularly worthy of note, her business model is, and I applaud her for her hard work and success in that area.

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