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A Refined Bronte Beach Apartment Rental

Homes

Every day’s a holiday in the rented Sydney home of interior designer Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher, partners and founders of Forme Studio

The couple’s bright and breezy apartment functions as a partial design studio during the week, but come the weekend it’s a casual ‘surf shack’ where towels and swimmers hang to dry between dips at Bronte and Tamarama beaches (they’re within steps of both).

See inside the refined home, styled using clever renting hacks, ‘slow furniture’ pieces, and Monica’s own art.

3rd August, 2022

Custom USM Haller sideboard from Anibou. Vintage Luxman turntable and Yamaha amp sourced and restored by Daniel Lorenzo. Vitra Akari 1A Lamp. Ceramic planter by Emi Ceramics. Amber J’ai Soif Carafe from Maison Balzac. Clear Alvar Aalto bowl from Iittala. Vintage Bang & Olufsen speakers handed down from Ben’s grandpa. The Arc Console in Stripe from Worn Store. Artwork on the left is ‘Forma No.5’ painted by Monica Colla and framed by Daniel Lorenzo. Artwork on the right is ‘Forma No.6’, by Monica Colla. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Vintage Italian travertine and smoked glass dining table from Curated Spaces. Vintage Ludwig Mies van der Rohe MR10 Chairs. Secondhand Herman Miller George Nelson Pear Bubble Pendant suspended from ceiling by Daniel Lorenzo. Linen tablecloth from McMullin & Co. N°001 Ewer from Softedge Studio. Solid timber stand from McMullin & Co. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Interior designer Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher. Checkered Bamboo silk rug from Zouzou Rugs. Framed photograph of surfer by Katrina Parker. Vintage Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Picasso Lamp Square and Picasso Lamp Circle by Neighbourhood Studio. Brass candle blocks by Corbet. Vintage vase. The Tiberio stone sample from Artedomus is one of the many material samples lying around the home! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Vintage Italian travertine coffee table. Objects on the coffee table: Green Alvar Aalto Vase from Iittala. Rolled Rim Bowl in Caramel by Softedge Studio. Ceramic vessel from McMullin & Co. Muse sofa from Sarah Ellison. Framed beaded artwork is ‘Test for Red Flag’ by Camille Laddawan. Vintage Kartell Componibili Unit. Checkered Bamboo silk rug from Zouzou Rugs. Framed photograph of surfer by Katrina Parker. Vintage Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair. Picasso Lamp Square and Picasso Lamp Circle by Neighbourhood Studio. Brass candle blocks by Corbet. Vintage vase. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Column Blanket by Trinket Solo on couch. Framed artwork on the right is ‘Forma No.4’, by Monica Colla. Vintage Italian travertine coffee table. Objects on the coffee table: Green Alvar Aalto Vase from Iittala. Rolled Rim Bowl in Caramel by Softedge Studio. Ceramic vessel from McMullin & Co. Muse sofa from Sarah Ellison. Framed beaded artwork is ‘Test for Red Flag’ by Camille Laddawan. Vintage Kartell Componibili Unit. Checkered Bamboo silk rug from Zouzou Rugs. Framed photograph of surfer by Katrina Parker. Vintage Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair. Picasso Lamp Square and Picasso Lamp Circle by Neighbourhood Studio. Brass candle blocks by Corbet. Vintage vase. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

The Arc Console in Stripe from Worn Store. Ceramics by Softedge Studio. Clear Alvar Aalto Bowl from Iittala. Artwork is ‘Forma No.6’ by Monica Colla. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Vintage Marcel Breuer Cesca chair, restored by Daniel Lorenzo. Artwork is ‘Forma No.8’, hand painted by Monica Colla and framed by  Daniel Lorenzo. Jean Cushion Bellini from Trinket Solo. Bed linen from Deiji Studios. Alpaca throw from In Bed. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Jean Cushion Bellini from Trinket Solo. Bed linen from Deiji Studios. Alpaca throw from In Bed. Secondhand Herman Miller George Nelson Saucer Pendant hanging from ceiling, and Pear Bubble Pendant used as a bedside lamp. Curtain Set from I Love Linen. Artwork in corner is ‘Forma No.7’ by Monica Colla and framed by Daniel Lorenzo. Frank Bench Seat by McMullin & Co. Secondhand jute rug. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 3rd August 2022

‘It’s kind of like slow fashion but for furniture and objects. We don’t rush into buying things that have a short lifespan; instead, we invest in staple pieces (secondhand or new) to last us a lifetime, or at least have excellent resale value.’ – Monica Colla.

The Bronte home of interior designer Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher has everything they were looking for in a rental property: it’s a top floor apartment in a medium-density building; north-facing windows; cross ventilation; easily personalised interiors; and some communal outdoor space to grow vegetables.

The pair moved into the building mid-2020, and have spent the last two years slowly styling the space with renter-friendly modifications.

The first order of business — switching out the existing ceiling light fixtures for secondhand George Nelson pendants in the bedroom, study and dining room. ‘This already made such a difference in achieving a sense of permanency in the apartment,’ says Monica. 

The couple have also hung ready-made linen curtains in the bedroom to soften the space and diffuse harsh sunlight. ‘They were so easy to install; you just tie the knots and hang it on a rod!’ says Monica. ‘This means we can easily dismantle the curtain and take it with us to our next home.’

Ben and Monica’s approach to styling is to invest in new items they’ll have forever, or shop secondhand. ‘It’s kind of like slow fashion but for furniture and objects. We don’t rush into buying things that have a short lifespan; instead, we invest in staple pieces (secondhand or new) to last us a lifetime, or at least have excellent resale value,’ Monica says.  

With that in mind, Ben and Monica have invested in a few pieces in their home; an Akari lamp, silk bamboo rug from Zouzou Rugs; and a modular USM Haller sideboard. ‘Our goal is to never throw any furniture out onto the street for council pick up!’ Monica says. ‘If it takes us two years to save up for a furniture item then, so be it. We’d rather wait and invest in something we really love for the long run than to buy something cheap to fulfil a short term solution.’

These pieces form the base of the interiors, layered with natural materials, the occasional check or stripe print, and paintings by Monica created for the very purpose of brightening up the apartment! 

‘I start each piece by referencing a photograph of a space, or a designed object, or even a concept from a designer/artist that I’m interested in… I’d say the contents within our home have also inspired some of these paintings, [such as the] colour, composition and form,’ Monica says. 

Ben and Monica hope their home interiors will age like a ‘fine bottle of wine’, much like the bones of the 1930-40s apartment. 

On weekdays you’ll usually find the couple working from home or on Forme Studio side projects in the evenings, but when the weekend hits, this home is all about the beach!

‘Particularly in summer and on weekends, the apartment is an absolute surf shack…Our favourite ritual is an early morning swim in the bogey hole or surf on the reef, followed by catching some sun up at the concrete deck at the Bronte pool, and of course, a sneaky sourdough croissant from Iggy’s Patisserie,’ says Monica. 

‘Bronte has that effect on you where you feel like you’re on holiday, even though it’s just the weekend!’

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net