houses, luxury, Seaside

sight lines: a sydney harbour enclave gets a luxury monochrome revamp

The new galley-style kitchen that can be accessed from the entry hall flows through to the dining area and takes in the view of Parsley Bay, a Sydney Harbour enclave.


'This is not the project we expected to be building,' says architect and interior designer Brooke Aitken as she walks me through a recently renovated home overlooking Sydney's Parsley Bay. Brooke's name had been given to the owners after they saw renovations she had done for their friends, and she was engaged to design a top-floor renovation of their existing home. The brief and discussions centred around the aesthetic of minimalist luxury resorts, and designers Christian Liaigre and Kelly Hoppen. A sketch of a design proposal had been presented and accepted, and stage one was about to start when the owners called to say they'd just bought a new house. It was bigger and better located, but badly laid out— a hangover from the 'closed rooms era’, made worse with a tacky 90s renovation — and it didn't take advantage of the outlook. The brief was to clean it up and make it liveable with the intention of rebuilding a few years down the track. Nobody expected to be doing a major renovation but when Brooke was given a few hours' access to measure up for new furniture, she realised the house's potential. This led to a major rethink and the brief changed to a complete renovation. 'Although its every architect's dream to build a new dwelling on Sydney's coastline, one of the aims of our practice is to be sustainable,' says Brooke. 'I believe that houses can be saved by the right type of renovation to keep the old spirit and refresh it with a focus on a new owner ... Being able to make a house sing again is one of our favourite things to do.'


(Left) A black and white colour palette was employed, with the floorboards painted white and topped with black sisal, and monochrome furnishings in textured materials bringing warmth and detailing.


It was important to get the flow right from the beginning. 'The main surgical changes to the house were for all rooms where possible to he connected to the view and to each other. The use of a black framing device allowed us to carve holes in walls for oblique views, and to keep existing openings also connected with the view,' says Brooke. The main staircase at the entrance was opened up and turned around at the bottom, and the old balustrade concealed in new joinery. Kitchen, living/dining, and TV room all flow from here with the openings framed in black. It was agreed to whitewash the existing floors as a light, relaxed and relatively inexpensive flooring. Material choices that had been discussed for the previous house came back into play, much as the black Belgian sisal, and this sparked the strong black and white aesthetic seen throughout. A layer of warmth and detail is added with pieces such as the textural Japanese Inax tiles on feature walls, black sisal wallpaper, and the material choices of leather, silk, cowhide and velvet. The kitchen is white and minimal, a foil for the decorative ceiling of the dining/living room to which it is connected. Although the TV area is linked with the formal living area and the view, it can be closed off with sliding doors. It is a cosy space, and provides a womb-like retreat away from the bright light of the waterfront. The owner works from home and there are a number of spaces that allow for all four of the family to have privacy, including the self-contained bedrooms upstairs and an attic on the top floor. 'Brooke was a delight at all stages of the design,' says the owner. 'The budget was challenging but she worked well within its constraints and was most conscious of it at all times. Nothing was too hard for her, she guided us through some building challenges and she made the process enjoyable.' For more go to

(Left) Architect Brooke Aitken, who had been engaged to do the work, could see the potential of  the house and talked the owners into a full-scale renovation, obviating the need for a rebuild.
(Right) The main bedroom is oriented towards the view with a bed and Italian spread from Analu. The chair is from Revival, Milton, partnered with an Hermes rug.