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!