Of zigs-zags, stripes and graphic geometry
The owners of a traditional Queenslander in Brisbane, Australia, approached Sydney’s Greg Natale not only to remodel that house but to design the interiors of a newly built modern home on their estate. The couple wanted his signature style, an aesthetic maybe best described as part David Hicks bold graphics, part Kelly Wearstler luxe glam, all pulled together with a certain modern elegance. Natale — an interior designer known for wearing slim navy suits and crisp white shirts that evoke a fashionable Tom Ford–like aura — understood their vision for the property and how to achieve it.
“The owners wanted a very full and layered interior," says Natale. That was a fairly uncommon request in the sense that “Australians don’t tend to layer," he notes.
The project was layered enough, in fact, to push the graphic-pattern-loving designer to create even more unexpected shapes and movements at each turn.
“We really upped the layering: Every floor, ceiling, and wall has a pattern," Natale says. The new home, a 10,000-square-footer with three stories and four bedrooms, does not have a single painted wall inside; all are covered with wallpaper or some kind of treatment. The effect, he says, is “a feeling of richness, cohesiveness, and a big wow factor."
Natale’s mastery of proportion is on display throughout the home’s spacious interior. In the dining area, a long table custom-made from Macassar ebony by the New York furniture designer Dakota Jackson sits amid generous chairs from Bolier. Natale set the patterns at play, making this space one of the home’s most layered: The square motif of the custom plaster ceiling panels echoes the graphic marble floor, while Hermès striped fabric on the chairs contrasts with the chevron-panelled walls of black-stained American oak. The area’s crown jewels, two Baccarat crystal chandeliers, counterbalance a wildly expressive Dick Watkins painting. “I do love adding abstract work, because I really think they add some energy," says Natale.
In the formal living space, an expansive wool-and-silk rug lies beneath two sizable onyx-and-chrome coffee tables from Minotti that help to anchor the large room. Ample grey Minotti sofas, as well as navy armchairs from Fendi Casa, define the seating area.
The custom chevron-panelled walls of black-stained oak that appear in the dining area are a design element that is found throughout the home, including the kitchen, where they conceal appliances and other equipment. Here the angles of the chevron pattern are echoed in the handcrafted candle-and-metal light fixtures by Kevin Reilly. Richly veined Arabescato marble graces the countertop, floors, and backsplash, and four leather-upholstered barstools from Andreu World flank one end of the centre island.
When preparing a meal, the owners can head downstairs to the den to choose a bottle of wine from their collection, which is artfully displayed on angular built-in shelves in the same black-stained oak. A Chesterfield-style sofa by A. Rudin upholstered in charcoal grey provides comfortable seating, and fronting it is another plush perch: a Thayer Coggin ottoman covered in crocodile-embossed black leather. Glass doors lead to a hallway that connects to the home’s garage.
Just down the hall from the den on the lower level is the luxurious theatre that Natale outfitted for the homeowners, who love to watch films and sports. The designer covered the floor in his Christian carpet (from his Axminster collection for Designer Rugs), and for the seating he went with a combination of pieces – sofas, chaise longues, armchairs – from the Australian furniture company Fanuli. The pillows, some of which are covered in Robert Allen’s Carmane Cayenne fabric, give the mostly grey room welcome pops of orangey-red colour. Tray tables provide easily accessible surfaces for snacks and beverages, and the curtains absorb sound and conceal the speakers, allowing the 4m-wide screen to take centre stage. The dramatic ambience continues in the hallway leading away from the theatre, thanks to a wall of backlit cappuccino onyx that bathes the area in a soft glow.
Natale describes the grounds as “almost Balinese." The main house and other structures on the estate, including a guesthouse – a Queenslander remodelled by the designer – and a stand-alone pool house, are connected by pathways, reflecting pools, and hardscape and plant areas designed by Sydney’s Rolling Stone Landscapes. At the pool house, outdoors and indoors blend to create a comfortable alfresco living room replete with a sofa, a flat-screen television, and Minotti’s metal-framed Cortina chairs. Flanking the open-air structure are sitting and lounging areas and a pool.
For the guesthouse, Natale and his team worked with the Darwin, Australia–based architect Hully Liveris. Built in the early 1900s, the structure has traditional Queenslander elements: a timber exterior, metal roofs, and raised living spaces, among other features. Natale and the group maintained the integrity of the facade, which has curved and angled rooflines that inspired graphic motifs that appear in other parts of the property.
Back inside, on the home’s top level, the master bedroom maintains Natale’s focus on pattern. Navy elements are also significant here, serving as sophisticated additions to the largely black-and-white colour scheme seen throughout the house. On a buying trip to Los Angeles, Natale says, “we kept going from store to store and the owner kept buying navy for himself, his wife, and daughter. I said, ‘You really love navy, don’t you?’ "
The bedroom floor features Natale’s charcoal-and-white carpeting from the theatre, and the custom flooring in the master bath is diagonal-cut marble in Arabescato Corchia and Pietra Gray – a hard-surface play on the carpet pattern. The sleek tub, free of hardware save for a freestanding faucet by the Italian design house Fantini Rubinetti, is an oasis of peace within the pattern.