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

News

Delicious New Bed Linen From A Local Fave

Melbourne-based bed linen stars, The Sheet Society, launches a moody new winter range ripe for mixing + matching.
Sponsored

Interiors

A Before-And-After Interior Renovation That’ll Knock Your Socks Off!

AMA Studio Interiors transforms a rustic, wood-panelled cottage on the NSW Central Coast into dreamy family retreat.

Interiors

A Sydney-Meets-Melbourne Family Terrace

Full of Grace Interiors bring Melbourne design influences to this breezy Sydney home.
02:27

Travel

A Perfect Day in Daylesford & The Macedon Ranges, With Paul Bangay

Lucy joins legendary landscape designer Paul Bangay for a dreamy day trip in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, capturing the best that the

Homes

A Remarkable Family Home Transformation

Maddie and Mike Witter transformed a mould-ridden, dilapidated house into a bright and breezy family home for six!

News

The Very Best In First Nations Fashion Design!

The National Indigenous Fashion Awards were held on Larrakia Country (Darwin), recognising First Nations artists + designers across six cate...
Sasha Gattermayr
  19 hours ago

On The Market

A Rammed Earth Masterpiece With Sweeping Mountain Views

Rarely are the stunning architectural homes we feature for sale... but this jaw-dropping Peter Stutchbury Architecture-designed home is!
Marcus Lloyd-Jones

Food

Julia's Strawberry Crumble Cake

A golden, nutty butter cake with crunchy oat topping and a layer of spiced strawberry, from food columnist Julia Busuttil Nishimura.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

TDF Design Awards

The Most Fabulous New Furniture Designs In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021

There is no shortage of innovation and inspiration from the Furniture Design finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards this year!

Interiors

11 Mirrors That Are Having A Moment!

Lauren Li's edit of her favourite mirrors out there right now, to take your space to the next level!
Lauren Li

Architecture

A Minimalist Home Where The Landscape Takes Centre Stage

This Mount Mellum, Queensland home by Sparks Architects is all about its incredible views, taking in the ocean and D'Aguilar Range!

Architecture

A New Zealand Villa Built For Hosting

Architecture firm Maud creates a home for a family of hospitality professionals, built around a generous kitchen, outdoor room + pétanque g...

Shopping

The Latest Collection From North Is A Total Dream

Created in collaboration with artists from Marrawuddi Arts and Culture and Injalak Arts, 'Stone Country Collection' is a celebration of the
Sally Tabart
  13 hours ago

Architecture

A 90m² Inner-Suburban Block Turned Multipurpose Family Home!

MRTN Architects have designed family home, office, and granny flat on a mere 90m² Brunswick East block!

Homes

An 1870s Church Turned Stylist’s Family Home!

Stylist at Read&Hall Sarah Fairhead Hall and husband Adam converted an 1870s church in Willunga, South Australia into their family home!
Lucy Feagins
  22 hours ago

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

Architecture

A 90m² Inner-Suburban Block Turned Multipurpose Family Home!

MRTN Architects have designed family home, office, and granny flat on a mere 90m² Brunswick East block!

Interiors

A Before-And-After Interior Renovation That’ll Knock Your Socks Off!

AMA Studio Interiors transforms a rustic, wood-panelled cottage on the NSW Central Coast into dreamy family retreat.

Architecture

A New Zealand Villa Built For Hosting

Architecture firm Maud creates a home for a family of hospitality professionals, built around a generous kitchen, outdoor room + pétanque g...
02:27

Travel

A Perfect Day in Daylesford & The Macedon Ranges, With Paul Bangay

Lucy joins legendary landscape designer Paul Bangay for a dreamy day trip in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, capturing the best that the

On The Market

A Rammed Earth Masterpiece With Sweeping Mountain Views

Rarely are the stunning architectural homes we feature for sale... but this jaw-dropping Peter Stutchbury Architecture-designed home is!
Marcus Lloyd-Jones

News

Delicious New Bed Linen From A Local Fave

Melbourne-based bed linen stars, The Sheet Society, launches a moody new winter range ripe for mixing + matching.
Sponsored

Food

Julia's Strawberry Crumble Cake

A golden, nutty butter cake with crunchy oat topping and a layer of spiced strawberry, from food columnist Julia Busuttil Nishimura.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

TDF Design Awards

The Most Fabulous New Furniture Designs In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021

There is no shortage of innovation and inspiration from the Furniture Design finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards this year!

Shopping

The Latest Collection From North Is A Total Dream

Created in collaboration with artists from Marrawuddi Arts and Culture and Injalak Arts, 'Stone Country Collection' is a celebration of the
Sally Tabart
  13 hours ago

Interiors

11 Mirrors That Are Having A Moment!

Lauren Li's edit of her favourite mirrors out there right now, to take your space to the next level!
Lauren Li

Architecture

A Minimalist Home Where The Landscape Takes Centre Stage

This Mount Mellum, Queensland home by Sparks Architects is all about its incredible views, taking in the ocean and D'Aguilar Range!

Homes

A Remarkable Family Home Transformation

Maddie and Mike Witter transformed a mould-ridden, dilapidated house into a bright and breezy family home for six!

News

The Very Best In First Nations Fashion Design!

The National Indigenous Fashion Awards were held on Larrakia Country (Darwin), recognising First Nations artists + designers across six cate...
Sasha Gattermayr
  19 hours ago

Homes

An 1870s Church Turned Stylist’s Family Home!

Stylist at Read&Hall Sarah Fairhead Hall and husband Adam converted an 1870s church in Willunga, South Australia into their family home!
Lucy Feagins
  22 hours ago

Interiors

A Sydney-Meets-Melbourne Family Terrace

Full of Grace Interiors bring Melbourne design influences to this breezy Sydney home.

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.