A Timeless Apartment Renovation By Tamsin Johnson

When interior designer Tamsin Johnson was engaged to design this penthouse in South Yarra, she let herself in and was greeted by a handwritten note from the client saying, ‘I can’t wait to see what you do to my home.’

This level of trust underpins the success of this project – now a serene and tranquil haven for a busy young professional.

Amelia Barnes

The South Yarra penthouse designed by Tamsin Johnson. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

This post-war apartment is a sanctuary for the owner – a busy young professional. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

A gallery wall in the apartment. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

Interesting pieces feature on nearly every surface. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

A mostly monochrome palette was chosen for the interiors. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

The 1970s dining setting is by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

‘We had the entire kitchen handmade with a local metal worker who is an artist in himself,’ says Tamsin. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

Brushed matte finishes contrast glamorous Calacatta viola marble. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

The leafy outlook is framed by original steel framed doors. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

The layout of the home was reconfigured to become more open. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

The bedheads are among features that were custom made in the apartment. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

A beautifully minimal bedside lamp. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

‘I wanted the space to feel restrained, with moments of drama and abstract sculptural lines in the furniture silhouettes,’ Tamsin says. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

The bathroom was completely redone in the renovation. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

Custom waxed and rendered Venetian plaster cabinetry. Photo – Sean Fennessey.

Amelia Barnes
13th of December 2019

The day Tamsin Johnson flew from Sydney to meet the owner of this South Yarra apartment, things didn’t quite go as planned. The client was unfortunately called away for business at the last minute, leaving a key under the mat for Tamsin to let herself in. Luckily, upon entering the space, the interior designer says, ‘I instantly knew what was needed to make this place feel like home.’

Tamsin intended this three-bedroom apartment be a sanctuary away from the client’s busy work life and inner-city Melbourne. A mostly neutral and monochromatic palette was selected, with added moments of surprise throughout. ‘I wanted the space to feel restrained, with moments of drama and abstract sculptural lines in the furniture silhouettes,’ Tamsin says.

The apartment’s original steel-framed floor-to-ceiling windows were retained in the renovation, complemented by theatrical yet timeless decor and furnishings. Many of these pieces were actually custom made in the apartment, such as the irregular bronze framed mirror, the bedheads, most of the wall lighting, and the entry console.

Other standout pieces include the Mario Bellini ‘Le Bambole’ chairs, Willy Rizzo coffee table, Charles Rennie Mackintosh dining setting, and 1930s French ceramics. The open shelving in the kitchen and living space allow these items to be on display, serving as semi-permanent fixtures of the design.

Antique floorboards were initially selected for the flooring, but due to acoustic and sound engineering issues, these were switched for a softer option. While not originally planned, these blonde floors are a calming addition to the mostly chromatic interior with steel accents.

The actual structure of the apartment was also updated to enable a more open and functional layout. The bathroom and kitchen were completely reconfigured in this process, the latter of which is now Tamsin’s favourite room in the home. ‘We had the entire kitchen handmade with a local metal worker who is an artist in himself. I love that brushed matte and industrial finish against the glamour of the dramatic Calacatta viola marble.’

It’s clear that the client’s trust in Tamsin’s design expertise, paired with the beautiful bones of this post-war apartment, is what’s behind this highly successful renovation. As Tamsin explains, ‘The client really trusted the design journey. There was no single moment where she questioned the aesthetic intention, which really made for the most enjoyable process and result.’

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