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A Tiny Slice Of Japan Inside A Pink Darlinghurst Terrace

Homes

On a tight Darlinghurst street just moments from Sydney’s Hyde Park lies a tiny, pink 1890s terrace concealing a masterful renovation within. 

The home belongs to Laura Butler, designer and maker at Mennt, and her partner Aman Braich, who collaborated with architects Trias to completely transform the interior in accordance with Japanese design principles, and German industrial designer Dieter Rams’ philosophy “less but better.”

In doing so, the amenities of the home have been reduced, but the quality of these spaces has remarkably improved. 

What this home lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty, form, flow, and community. 

30th November, 2022

Artwork is textured, carved and glazed tiles by homeowner Laura Buttler for her ceramics studio, Mennt. Laura also rolled and cut the terracotta floor tiles by hand. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Laura Butler, designer and maker at Mennt; and partner Aman Braich. Custom table designed by Laura and made by Zandt Building. Mennt carafe on table. Viabizzuno Lenticchia light by Peter Zumthor. J39 Mogensen Chair Fredericia. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Artwork made of textured, carved and glazed tiles by homeowner Laura Buttler for her ceramics studio, Mennt. Laura also rolled and cut the terracotta floor tiles by hand. Idle daybed designed by Laura and built by Thomas Keith. Wästberg Holocene No 4. by John Pawson. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Mennt 095 Cup and other utensils in the minimalist kitchen. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

The full Mennt porcelain tableware range on display in the open kitchen shelving. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Handmade wall tiles by Laura for Mennt. Garden design by Studio Rewild. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Viabizzuno Lenticchia light by Peter Zumthor. J39 Mogensen Chair Fredericia. Mennt ceramics. Custom table designed by Laura and made by Zandt Building. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Artwork made of textured, carved and glazed tiles by homeowner Laura Buttler for her ceramics studio, Mennt. Idle daybed designed by Laura and built by Thomas Keith. Wästberg Holocene No 4. by John Pawson. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Viabizzuno Lenticchia light by Peter Zumthor. J39 Mogensen Chair Fredericia. Mennt ceramics. Custom table designed by Laura and made by Zandt Building. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Viabizzuno Lenticchia light by Peter Zumthor. J39 Mogensen Chair Fredericia. Mennt ceramics. Custom table designed by Laura and made by Zandt Building. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Fredericia Pon side table. Mennt planter. Custom daybed made by Zandt Building in the style of Donald Judd’s daybed. In Bed cushions and throw. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Eric the cat! Potence Wall Lamp by Jean Prouve for Vitra. Fredericia Pon side table. Mennt planter. Custom daybed made by Zandt Building in the style of Donald Judd’s daybed. In Bed cushions and throw. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Artwork made of textured, carved and glazed tiles by homeowner Laura Buttler for her ceramics studio, Mennt. Laura also rolled and cut the terracotta floor tiles by hand. Wästberg Holocene No 4. by John Pawson. Dulux Lexicon Quarter paint colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Artedomus Sugie tiles. Brodware taps. Custom made brass hooks and rails designed by Laura. Ikea stepladder. Aesop Brass Oil Burner designed by Studio Henry Wilson. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Artemide Dioscuri light. Muji towels. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Bed Threads bed linen. Mennt 095 cup. Viabizzuno Roy light. IXIA vase by Hattie Molloy. Glazed tile art by Laura. SKAGERAK Cutter Stool. Custom timber blinds made by Laura. Twentytwentyone Hotaru Marker light designed by Barber Osgerby. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Bed Threads bed linen. Mennt 095 cup. Viabizzuno Roy light. IXIA vase by Hattie Molloy. Glazed tile art by Laura. SKAGERAK Cutter Stool. Custom timber blinds made by Laura. Twentytwentyone Hotaru Marker light designed by Barber Osgerby. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

The pink 1890s terrace facade! – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 30th November 2022

‘The whole design was focused around Dieter Rams’ principle of “less but better.” – Laura Butler

There’s no romantic story as to how ceramicist Laura Butler of Mennt, and her partner Aman Braich discovered their Darlinghurst terrace back in 2016. It was simply a small house, in a central location, and in their price range.

‘It was damp, awkward to move around, and had no shortage of DIY patchwork jobs everywhere you’d look,’ says Laura. 

Purchasing and renovating the home called for sacrifices (both now and into the future), but it was worth it to live in such a coveted Darlinghurst location. ‘Other than being able to live with a bit of space, it doesn’t feel like we’re giving up anything’ says Laura. ‘Most of our neighbours have been living here for over 20 years. Being able to add to that history is something special.’ 

It took Laura and Aman four years of ‘hard saving and living in a forever-leaking house’ before they could engage architects Trias to design a major renovation. The pink terrace facade and basic structure would remain, but everything else needed to go. ‘Renovation is a light word to use for the approach to our build… The entire house was gutted,’ says Laura.

Downstairs, Trias reoriented the staircase, moved the kitchen, removed a bathroom, and added an accessible courtyard with a Japanese maple—an outdoor space serving both aesthetic and practical functions. 

‘In its simplest form, it’s a beautiful green space that helps establish scale; ages with the home; and the leaves of the Japanese maple remind you of the changes in season,’ says Laura. ‘As a functional space, it improves airflow throughout the home.’ 

Upstairs, the second bedroom (a cramped study with a loft bed above) was removed entirely in favour of an open bathroom. ‘We understood that this house with its one bedroom might not suit us forever, but it was not worth cramming an additional bedroom in at the expense of every other aspect of the home… The whole design was focused around Dieter Rams’ principle of “less but better.” 

This new bathroom embraces the rear of the home, featuring a new rooftop garden—designed with Kirsty Kendall of Studio Rewild—providing a slice of nature among the dense urban rooftops.

Dulux Lexicon Quarter forms a uniform matte base to the interior, complemented by built-in timber furniture and handmade tiles on the kitchen floor and courtyard walls that Laura worked tirelessly to create. ‘This was a suggestion by our incredible architects and was a huge undertaking that saw me camping in my studio for six weeks because we were in a lockdown in Sydney, so travelling each day was restricted!’ she says. 

The sacrifices have all been worth it. Working with Trias and Zandt Building, Laura and Aman have created a minimalist and restful retreat in a busy part of inner-city Sydney, that thoughtfully reflects the values of its inhabitants, whilst also capturing the serene ethos of Mennt, Laura’s popular ceramics brand.

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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