The Bondi home of Vanessa and Christian Holle, and their three sons Jonas (16) Finn (14) and Clay (12), really is quintessential Sydney beachside-living. Vanessa, who goes by the moniker Vanessa Bean, is a ‘graphic designer by profession and a maker of things by nature’, recognised for her colourful palette and whimsical ceramic creations. Her light and colourfully curated Sydney home of 16 years is every bit an extension of her trademark decorative yet graphic style!
Vanessa and Christian have lived in Bondi since they were married, in two different apartments, not too far from where they live now. Vanessa reminisces about how they spent a lot of time walking around their neighbourhood, fantasising about the perfect street. ‘We realised that having kids meant we would need a bigger home, and were very lucky when a house came up for sale in one of those streets. I remember feeling so happy that it was on a cul-de-sac, had a garden and a bath,’ she says.
Moving in just a fortnight before their first child was due, Vanessa muses how they thought they would have a solid two weeks to unpack and get the house ready. But, as is often the way with babies, they come when they wanna come – and Vanessa went into labour on their first night in the house!
Located ‘close enough to walk to the beach, but far enough away from the summer noise and chaos,’ the house was originally a typical semi – entered at street level with rooms off a main corridor, and a basement level below accessed by a spiral staircase. Fortunately for the Holles, Vanessa’s sister Camilla Block, an architect with Durbach Block Jaggers, helped them significantly reshape their home in 2002 – gutting the street level and turning it into an open plan living, kitchen and TV room, plus a double height covered deck. They put in a stair to the lower level, connected the previously outdoor laundry and extended the rumpus room. Another story was added on top, which became three bedrooms and a second bathroom, and clever use of skylights throughout meant the house was lovely and light.
One of the more unique aspects of this house is that it sits above a lush, leafy gully which neighbouring properties back onto – rendering it difficult to see where one garden ends and the next begins! To capitalise on this sense of a ‘mega’ tropical garden, bi-fold doors were added in the living room, opening up views over the gully garden.
Describing herself as ‘perhaps Scandinavian in another life!’ – Vanessa admits there was never a grand plan in terms of interior design. ‘It all just came together based on what appealed to us at the time.’ Drawn to a simple clean, white palette and blonde timber, yet also a big lover of colour, Vanessa describes the house as a blank canvas to which they added layers ‘based on falling in love with things rather than matching things.’ Artworks from known and loved artists have been teamed with framed canvases painted by the three boys, handicrafts from countries visited along the way, and Vanessa’s own crocheted objects and ceramic pieces.
When asked what some of her favourite pieces are, Vanessa describes each piece of furniture, artwork and rug as having a story. ‘The beautiful dining room table was designed by our good friend Jon King, so practical and still looks perfect having survived the rigours of thee boys!’ she says.
Another favourite piece is the industrial antique buffet, once used as a boot locker, that Vanessa had to convince Christian they should buy at the time. ‘He now agrees the house wouldn’t be the same without it!’ Vanessa says.
Other much-loved pieces include the web lamp, TV chair and couch designed by their friends Kath Norman and Caroline Quaine of Norman and Quaine. Vanessa is also a big fan of rugs to soften contemporary spaces, and loves her Missoni rug for its unusual shape, pattern and colours, while her collection of Pappelina rugs satisfies her love of stripes and bright colour.
A stone’s throw from the beach, with vast light-filled interior spaces and a green outlook – sounds like the Sydney dream to me!