Inside An Art Deco Elwood Home Enriched With Art + Colour

The decorative makeover of this art deco home in Elwood, Melbourne was an exercise in harmonising its original with the contemporary addition designed by Manna Architects.

In furnishing and styling the home, Alessandra Smith Design was tasked with unifying its five key rooms: the sitting room and main bedroom (in the original rooms of the house); with the living room, dining room, and studio (in the addition).

As it stood, there was ‘no cohesive style or colour palette throughout the spaces and the furniture felt like a bit of an afterthought with a mish-mash of pieces that didn’t quite work together,’ says Alessandra Smith, interior decorator and principal designer of Alessandra Smith Design.

While the new decorative scheme needed to be harmonious, each of these spaces required its own personality appropriate for its purpose.

The art deco sitting room on entry needed to set the tone of the home and overcome its existing issues.

‘It was filled with furniture that was far too large for its small footprint and it also felt very dark and uninviting,’ explains Alessandra. ‘It wasn’t a space that you wanted to spend time in.’

Rather than look to brighten the sitting room, Alessandra leant into the decadence of the existing palette, inspiring a moody colour scheme with curving furniture pieces. Dulux Eastern Gold paint on the plaster walls and ceiling contrasts with the dark wood panelling to envelop the space with warmth and comfort.

‘This is now a room that my client is proud to show off. It’s become the perfect space to relax with a book, unwind with a drink, and host an intimate gathering with friends,’ says Alessandra.

Beyond the sitting room, the home opens to become the new open-plan dining, kitchen and living area.

‘As someone who typically leans towards maximalism, I felt like this space was calling for some considered restraint. However, it was also important that there was a cohesive thread tying it to the art deco part of the home,’ says Alessandra.

The designer achieved this by introducing colour through artwork, particularly the gold and red-hued Greg Mallyon painting about the dining table, which echoes both the sitting room and recycled brick wall of the addition.

This painting is one of 18 vintage and contemporary artworks specifically selected by Alessandra for this project.

The same attention has been applied the lighting scheme, which features no identical pendants. A tactile Akari light emits a cosy and warm glow in the living area, while a sleek black pendant above the dining table creates an intimate setting without obstructing the view of the painting.

The strategic placement of use of art, colour and lighting continues upstairs where Alessandra has transformed the bedroom into a calming retreat with soothing dusty blue walls.

The studio, located above the garage, also has its own identity that reflects its use as a teenager’s retreat equipped with its own kitchenette, bathroom, and desk. Black and recycled brick walls form a striking backdrop for the more vibrant furniture and art selections, including green carpet and a Donald Grant painting.

Alessandra has successfully revived the look and feel of this Elwood home while managing to incorporate the client’s existing furniture wherever possible — even those not previously suited to its proportions.

She explains, ‘Rather than get a new sofa or a new dining table, I decided to get the dining table cut down and refinished by the original furniture maker. We had it cut down by 40cm which made a significant difference to the feeling of space in the room.’

The Jardan modular sofa (well loved by the owner’s dogs) was also reupholstered in a modern tweed fabric to offer a new lease on life.

The project speaks to the power of decoration for enriching a home with personality, intrigue, and emotion.

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