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Home Tour: Redefining Family-Friendly Living

A luxurious home in Sydney's East was thoughtfully designed to bring calm amongst the chaos of family life.

Location: Dover Heights, Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs

Designed by: Shona McElroy of Smac Studio for a family of five

Interior style: Modern contemporary with European flair

Favourite room: The main bathroom as it feels really luxurious, calming and upmarket like you could have a bath in there with some candles for hours.

Favourite piece: The Vicki Lee artwork above the dining table. It crowns the space really nicely and speaks to the rest of the interiors.

In a home that blends beautiful design with touches of glam, First Blush proves that when it comes to family-friendly living, you don't have to compromise on the finer things in life. 

After purchasing a knock-down rebuild along the hilltops of Dover Heights in Sydney's Eastern Suburb, Sam and Michael built a modern duplex for their growing family. The duo teamed up with Shona McElroy, interior architect and principal of Smac Studio, to create a home that was a reflection of themselves and their three daughters. 

"There's a warrior woman energy in my house with all the girls, so we wanted the space to be very relaxed and a place where we could all feel comfortable to express ourselves and our creativity," explains Sam. "When you walk in, you get a sense of light and comfort and an easy feeling, which is what we wanted."


Being brought in during the project's design phase, Shona was able to work her magic on the interiors to create a four-bedroom home with two living zones, all without making it feel like a tight squeeze.

"Shona is a spatial acrobat; I don't think there's a person in the world that can do what she does with space. You walk into my house, and although it is semi-detached, it feels like a full house," says Sam.

A sense of calm engulfs you when you step through the front door. A palette of soft hues is elevated by natural stone and pops of art. To one side, glass doors lead into the kid's playroom, while to the other side, you wander into an open-plan living area. To the front of you, a curved staircase with a stunning powder room beneath takes you up to four bedrooms and the main bathroom. 


"The powder room is somewhere you can have the most fun in the house. It should be a real reflection of the overall design of your house and what you want your guests to experience," explains Shona. "We leaned into the feminine energy. The pink throughout the stone, Venetian plaster, panelled mirror, bronze tapware and a beautiful pendant light from Spence & Lyda."


An area made for entertaining, the full-size kitchen comes complete with a butler's pantry, an abundance of storage with bronze handles and a large Palladium marble kitchen island with a ribbed underside. 

"Everything needed to be practical because you know how kids are. If it's impractical, you live in it for three months, and it'll be destroyed after that. So, everything is as elegant as it can be, and at the same time, really practical," says Sam.

A bar area was a must for Michael as he wanted to be able to entertain from the dining area. To ensure the spaces blend, Shona put a French mirror behind the bar and added stone to the fireplace and bronze rails along the shelves, all of which spoke to the rest of the interiors.

In the dining area, the lights from Coco Republic create a halo over the dining table while the Vicki Lee artwork crowns the dining space. The herringbone timber floor adds another layer to the home's elegance.


Upstairs, the bedrooms are a place of solace, with the master room designed with an ensuite, dressing table and a walk-in wardrobe that was skilfully tucked behind the bedhead. 

"I wanted it to feel a bit like a fashion boutique where you can go and relax," says Sam. "It makes such a difference when you purposefully build things to how you live your life. Our lives feel much more relaxed now that we're in the space where everything was created with a reason and a purpose."


The main bathroom is the crown jewel, a T-shape design with a double vanity trough sink made of stone with pink and bronze tones. A panel of bronze framed mirrors runs the entire length and height of the wall, while beautiful Murano wall scones and sheer curtains elevate the space. 

"It's a very harmonious, functional, and a gorgeous place to be. It's one of my favourite bathrooms I've designed. It feels luxurious, calming and upmarket," says Shona.

A warm, calming home that brings the family together is everything that Sam and Michael wanted, "I couldn't be happier; this is my dream come true. Every little detail in this house has been agonised over, and I wouldn't change a single thing. For me, it's absolute perfection," Sam says.


Dover Heights has always been an Eastern Suburbs gem with its prime location and stunning views of the city skyline and ocean. It offers a laid-back lifestyle away from the crowds of its world-famous neighbour Bondi Beach. Although life is a lot quieter up on the hill, this seaside suburb also borders Rose Bay and Vaucluse. Meaning, locals have their pick of Sydney's hottest dining spots, pulsing nightlife and shopping precincts.


For breakfast: Bobby’s Corner Cafe or SHUK, both in North Bondi, are an absolute must to kickstart the day.

For lunch: North Bondi Fish is all about fish tacos and killer margaritas.  

For dinner: Hotel Ravesis in Bondi Beach is a dining hotspot with great cocktails.  

For drinks: For drinks and a feed with iconic views, Icebergs

Go-to local boutique: We can’t choose one when there are so many good ones around Gould and Hall Streets.


Spence & Lyda
Coco Republic
Becker Minty
West Elm
Greg Natale


Design: Smac Studio @smac_studio
Styling: Claire Del Mar @clairedelmar
Photography: Anson Smart @smartanson
Words: Margaret Quilter @inky.content

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