A Surfside Sydney Home Among The Clouds

The family home of author, creative director, and art curator Karina Dias Pires feels perched among the clouds.

Originally built in the 1930s, the house underwent a major renovation in 2019 designed by Andrew Burges Architects. The result features an ‘upside down’ floor plan, inspired by Clovelly’s topography, which gradually steps up from the water for living room views of coastal vegetation, the beach, and horizon.

Karina has effortlessly styled the home to enhance its calming interiors, and the relaxed lifestyle of her family.

What’s most important to them is the emotional response and memories the home elicits: comfort, warmth, and family interaction.

Lucy Feagins
Editorial styling
Supported by Dulux

Vitra dining table designed by Jean Prouvé. Mexican water decanter used as vase. Dinosaur Designs green vase.

Mexican water decanter used as vase.

Rachel & Benoît laminate tray against splashback. Maison Balzac teal glasses.

Baxter Nepal Chair designed by Paola Navone. Akari 1AY Print – Yellow Sun by Isamu Noguchi.

The addition is clad in pre-weathered hardwood with aluminium windows.

The contemporary home exploiting the site’s elevated position for optimum living room views.

Lucy Feagins
Editorial styling
5th of June 2024

Clovelly, NSW/Gadigal Country

After renovating a house in North Bondi, and a stint living in Byron Bay, Karina Dias Pires and David Hanna were seeking a carefree home to facilitate their move back to Sydney.

‘Our plan was to find a quieter location, walking distance to the beach, [and] we thought that renting would be a good idea before we fully committed to buying in a different suburb,’ explains Karina.

The Surfside House was exactly what the couple and their children were seeking.

Located in Clovelly, this 1930s home had been recently transformed in a renovation designed by Andrew Burges Architects. What was a ‘warren of dark rooms’ was transformed into a contemporary home, exploiting the site’s elevated position.

The architects describe the updated ‘upside down’ plan as an extension of the stepped climb up from Clovelly beach, which gradually climbs out of the containment of coastal banksia vegetation, to reach the home’s living room above the treeline.

It was this living room view — framed by a large window— that Karina and David were most attracted to about the property.

‘The oversized glass windows upstairs bring a sense of ‘living in the clouds’ and being surrounded by nature,’ says Karina.

‘We enjoy the ocean and garden views, and at night, when we turn all the lights off, the sky and the stars feel so close. You will often catch me or one of the children, sitting by the large window sill looking at the sunset, dreaming away.’

Behind its pre-weathered recycled hardwood cladding and aluminium windows, the renovated house reveals a robust yet calming palette of painted brick and timber.

In styling the home, Karina has opted to keep space clutter-free to let the materials speak for themselves.

She explains, ‘As my work involves a lot of visual stimulation as a creative director, art curator and photographer, at home I prefer to allow a sense of space for the mind and body to rest, having only key furniture pieces and objects.

‘I enjoy living with less, it allows for more headspace and moments of connection and interaction at home.’

The one exception is Karina’s beloved book collection, which features in almost every room and adds colour to the space.

Karina believes the most important element of any home is the emotional response it elicits — a sentiment that’s documented in her own book, Artists at Home, which captures the creative spaces of 32 artists in Australia.

Through her work, Karina has learned comfort, warmth, connections to nature, and spaces for family interaction take precedent over the more superfluous details.

‘For me, a home is much more about the atmosphere you create,’ she says.

‘I am always more attracted to how comfortable a sofa is than how it looks, (but if I can have both, I will take it!)’

The Surfside House taps into both, ultimately resulting in a peaceful place for Karina and her family to retreat to each day.

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