Australian Homes

Frag and Naomi Woodall

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 13th May 2015

Today’s home in Sydney is truly unlike any Australian home we’ve photographed before. This beautiful two bedroom apartment feels like a little slice of Scandinavia, plonked right into the heart of Sydney. It is home to designer Frag Woodall and his wife Naomi, a history teacher.

The European influence here isn’t entirely surprising. Homeowner Frag Woodall is a talented designer who, along with his wife Naomi, is a huge fan of the distinctive interiors in Northern Europe. ‘Having spent some time in Scandinavia we have always been enamoured with the traditional ‘summer houses’, and the way they make the most of the light’ says Frag. Almost all the design and decoration choices in Frag and Naomi’s Kensington apartment reflect an inherent Scandinavian sensibility.

One of nine apartments in this 1930’s block, this apartment had previously been a long term rental, and was very neglected when Frag and Naomi first took possession of the property in 2011. It was thread-bare, painted brown and butter yellow, and had very few redeeming features, but Frag instantly saw its potential.

‘I thought it was crazy that no one else saw the diamond that it was’ says Frag. ‘It actually got passed in at auction and went through two estate agencies because there was no interest’. Frag and Naomi had been desperately hunting for an apartment with high ceilings and natural light, but the thing that really clinched it in the end was the layout. ’It’s only small at 80sqm, but it has a circular layout with no dead space or hallways. You get an aspect into at least two other rooms from any place you’re standing’ Frag says enthusiastically.

Frag had a clear vision of what he wanted to create here right from the beginning. Taking on the role of both designer and builder, he started work straight away to transform the space into a light, airy and welcoming home.

‘I wanted a simple, reduced colour and material palate, but a heightened attention to detail, hence the softened corners on the walls, corded light switches and the handmade shutters’ says Frag. Frag is ALL about the details. He machined his own customised curved architraves for the windows in the sunroom, and he softened the hard corners on all the internal doorways here by physically sawing and sanding back the plasterwork by hand (I have never, ever seen this done before!).

In their original state, the floorboards were not pretty, with lots of defects and knot holes, so it was agreed they would be painted white throughout. The consistent use of white on floors and walls is balanced by the use of rough Baltic pine panelling in the living room. Frag and Naomi also added timber beams throughout the apartment – the larger ones across the openings are structural, whilst the lighter beams are not structural but create a beautiful rhythm and continuity linking the various spaces together.

The walls here have all been painted a flat white with 0% gloss. ‘This is normally used on ceilings and is usually a ‘no-no’ for walls as it sensitive to marking, the benefits, however, are that with no reflectivity they disappear into infinity and create a super soft feel’ Frag explains.

In keeping with Frag’s impressively restrained palette and intense attention to detail, there’s also a great deal of consistency in Frag and Naomi’s pared back selection of furniture, artwork and accessories. Much of the furniture here has been designed and made by Frag – we LOVE his sweet Cloud side tables, now available from Cult nationally! A few key vintage finds add a layer of depth and interest – one particularly perfect addition is the barn door in the bathroom, with it’s soft blue aged patina, which originally came from a lavender farm in the south of France.

‘I was conscious of not changing colours and materials too much between the rooms, which helps it feel much larger than its 80 square metres’ Frag explains. ‘It was important to us to develop a calmness with simple and pared back furniture, letting the light and natural surroundings do all the work’.

If you, like me, are impressed with Frag’s incredible work here, do check out his furniture design website, MrFrag Studios!

Main bedroom looking onto the dining area. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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