This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

A Timeless Apartment Renovation By Tamsin Johnson

Interiors

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.

13th December, 2019

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
Friday 13th December 2019

‘I instantly knew what was needed to make this place feel like home.’ – Tamsin Johnson

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.’

This Week

1.34

One Room Wonders

A Classic, Colourful Kids Room Transformation

We transform a simple baby's bedroom, with Surround by Laminex wall panelling, and a playful injection of colour, pattern and texture!

Podcast

Cormach Evans On Creating Space For Aboriginal Excellence, On TDF Talks

In our podcast season finale, Yorta Yorta man Cormach Evans talks to host Lucy Feagins about the two organisations he founded and directs: S...

Architecture

A Flood-Proof Transformation Of A 1960s Brisbane Home

Lineburg Wang saved a 1960s Paddington, Brisbane home from future flood damage, and added an inspired indoor-outdoor extension.

Shopping

Greenhouse Interiors Have Transformed This Heritage Warehouse Into A Fully Shoppable Interiors Mega Space!

Julia Green’s latest venture is her most ambitious yet - a completely shoppable interior project spanning 600 square metres and two floors...

News

These Hand Painted Ceramics Celebrate The Soft Power Of Women

Femme Fantasy is the new 22-piece collaborative collection of painted, ceramic vessels from artist Marisa Mu and ceramicist Alicia McVilly.

Family

Finding Harmony In Life, Business And Family, With Meg Tanaka Of CIBI

CIBI's Meg Tanaka on growing up in Japan, running a family business with three young boys, and living life the CIBI way.

Modernist Australia

A Pristine Mid-Century Family Home Buried In Greenery

A North Balwyn home designed by architect Alan Nance and built in 1957 is on the market, and it's amazing!
Trish Callan

Architecture

A Japanese-Inspired Heritage Home Transformation

Ha Architecture overcame heritage restrictions to transform this Hawthorn home into a Japanese-inspired tranquil space.

Shopping

Shop Local At This Fabulous Pop-Up, By Four Of Our Favourite Creatives

Hattie Molloy, Sunday Salon, Curio Practice and Nicole Lawrence Studio come together for a month-long retail residency in Fitzroy. Retail is...

Homes

A Perfectly Personalised Art Deco Rental

The colourful, art deco South Yarra apartment of Skinny Wolf owner and florist Leila Sanderson, and sound engineer Tony Espie.

Shopping

11 Curated, Independent Homewares Stores We're Obsessed With!

The gifting season is upon us, but these local stores have an impeccable selection of items all year round!

Designers At Home

At Home With Architect Shin Kil + Visual Merchandiser Jessie Choi

The minimalist Fitzroy apartment of architect Shin Kil and visual merchandiser Jessie Choi, featuring the sleek Samsung The Serif TV.

News

The Ultimate Tap For A Minimalist Kitchen

New additions to Phoenix’s award-winning Axia line expand the modern minimalist collection to sleek new heights!
Sponsored

Architecture

A Breathtaking Coastal Home On The Tasmanian Shoreline

This serene holiday home by Tanner Architects makes the most of its rugged Tasmanian outlook.

On The Market

Victorian Charm Meets Dramatic Modern Luxury In This Princes Hill Home For Sale

Featuring so many modern, custom made elements, every room in this house has its own distinct personality!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Homes

Tamsin Johnson's Tamarama Wonder!

Interior designer Tamsin Johnson shares her serene beach side family home.

Designers At Home

At Home With Stylist Simone Haag

The celebrated interior stylist takes us inside her Ringwood home and offers advice on how to style with technology, in partnership with Sam...

Interiors

A Modernised Period Home, Filled With Custom Joinery

CJH Studio have turned this once dark, period house into a practical, light-filled and contemporary family home.
Amelia Barnes

This Week

Homes

A Perfectly Personalised Art Deco Rental

The colourful, art deco South Yarra apartment of Skinny Wolf owner and florist Leila Sanderson, and sound engineer Tony Espie.

Architecture

A Flood-Proof Transformation Of A 1960s Brisbane Home

Lineburg Wang saved a 1960s Paddington, Brisbane home from future flood damage, and added an inspired indoor-outdoor extension.

News

The Ultimate Tap For A Minimalist Kitchen

New additions to Phoenix’s award-winning Axia line expand the modern minimalist collection to sleek new heights!
Sponsored

News

These Hand Painted Ceramics Celebrate The Soft Power Of Women

Femme Fantasy is the new 22-piece collaborative collection of painted, ceramic vessels from artist Marisa Mu and ceramicist Alicia McVilly.

On The Market

Victorian Charm Meets Dramatic Modern Luxury In This Princes Hill Home For Sale

Featuring so many modern, custom made elements, every room in this house has its own distinct personality!

Family

Finding Harmony In Life, Business And Family, With Meg Tanaka Of CIBI

CIBI's Meg Tanaka on growing up in Japan, running a family business with three young boys, and living life the CIBI way.

Modernist Australia

A Pristine Mid-Century Family Home Buried In Greenery

A North Balwyn home designed by architect Alan Nance and built in 1957 is on the market, and it's amazing!
Trish Callan

Architecture

A Japanese-Inspired Heritage Home Transformation

Ha Architecture overcame heritage restrictions to transform this Hawthorn home into a Japanese-inspired tranquil space.
1.34

One Room Wonders

A Classic, Colourful Kids Room Transformation

We transform a simple baby's bedroom, with Surround by Laminex wall panelling, and a playful injection of colour, pattern and texture!

Shopping

Greenhouse Interiors Have Transformed This Heritage Warehouse Into A Fully Shoppable Interiors Mega Space!

Julia Green’s latest venture is her most ambitious yet - a completely shoppable interior project spanning 600 square metres and two floors...

Podcast

Cormach Evans On Creating Space For Aboriginal Excellence, On TDF Talks

In our podcast season finale, Yorta Yorta man Cormach Evans talks to host Lucy Feagins about the two organisations he founded and directs: S...

Shopping

Shop Local At This Fabulous Pop-Up, By Four Of Our Favourite Creatives

Hattie Molloy, Sunday Salon, Curio Practice and Nicole Lawrence Studio come together for a month-long retail residency in Fitzroy. Retail is...

Designers At Home

At Home With Architect Shin Kil + Visual Merchandiser Jessie Choi

The minimalist Fitzroy apartment of architect Shin Kil and visual merchandiser Jessie Choi, featuring the sleek Samsung The Serif TV.

Architecture

A Breathtaking Coastal Home On The Tasmanian Shoreline

This serene holiday home by Tanner Architects makes the most of its rugged Tasmanian outlook.

Shopping

11 Curated, Independent Homewares Stores We're Obsessed With!

The gifting season is upon us, but these local stores have an impeccable selection of items all year round!

Similar Stories

Homes

Tamsin Johnson's Tamarama Wonder!

Interior designer Tamsin Johnson shares her serene beach side family home.

Designers At Home

At Home With Stylist Simone Haag

The celebrated interior stylist takes us inside her Ringwood home, in partnership with Samsung.

Interiors

A Modernised Period Home, Filled With Custom Joinery

CJH Studio have turned this once dark, period house into a practical, light-filled and contemporary family home.
Amelia Barnes

The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.