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  • Sydney
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  • Home Tour: Light House in Vaucluse Blends History with Contemporary Living

Home Tour: Light House in Vaucluse Blends History with Contemporary Living

A stunning renovation in Vaucluse reveals an airy, open-plan layout with an Italian touch.

Retaining a home’s history and character while renovating can be one of the more challenging aspects of a project, but in the heart of Vaucluse, a home known as Light House is the perfect example of reconciling the two.

Overlooking the iconic Macquarie Lighthouse, which was the first lighthouse in Australia and designed by a convict architect, this dramatic vantage point makes it feel like you’re standing on the edge of the earth.

Originally built in the 90s, the home draws heavily from the traditional Italianate style, featuring bold columns, a grand entrance, and arched windows. The new owners wanted to revamp the home, modernising the aesthetic while preserving its soul and embracing contemporary living.

Light and Airiness

Shona McElroy, principal of Smac Studio, spearheaded the project with the brief to create a light, airy, and classic home inspired by Italian living. It needed to be great for entertaining while injecting a sense of familiarity and warmth into the sprawling property.

“The existing rear of the house was quite sectioned off into formal and informal living rooms and kitchens, which is more of the time that they built it. However, now everyone’s leaning towards open-plan and spaces that all meld together. And so, the brief was to create open plan, bright spaces that open onto the pool and pergola,” Shona explains of the former flow of the house.

Subdued Elegance

While the Smac team is known for their expertise with color, when it came to Light House’s palette, the mood was decidedly more subdued. Swapping out terracotta hues for a predominantly light, white style, save for a few key rooms, the result is a skillful lesson in the age-old adage of less is more.

“We wanted to ensure that the entire home felt timeless. It was really fun for me to be able to lean into the traditional European vibe here because Italian architecture is definitely one of my happy places,” Shona admits.

That’s not to say the team didn’t have some fun with colour. Case in point the cigar room and home office, which are darker, more broody spaces, using a dark-warm grey with a hint of green.

“In traditional homes, you often see dark, heavy timber studies, libraries and sitting rooms, and that’s what I wanted these two rooms to represent. It’s a modern take on that,” Shona says.

The transformation of Light House unfolded through significant spatial reconfigurations, most notably expanding the rear to accommodate expansive open-plan interiors. The western wall was also moved to create more internal space.

A Luminous Narrative

Beyond the spatial changes, the team used lighting to help deliver a “modern classic aesthetic.” Shona curated a luminous narrative centered around a brass theme, integrating an array of Aerin lighting fixtures throughout the residence. “I love all the different layers, materials and shifts of light as you move through the home.”

“Pendants and wall sconces in the formal areas — cigar room, dining room, and home office — all follow a consistent theme,” Shona explains. “They’re neutral, curvy, and subtle, yet they feature striking pops of brass.”

Shona also met with the original architect who designed the home to pick his brain on how best to honour the Italian undertones. “I wanted to ensure that his spirit and his ideals stayed present. I also just love Italian style; it’s well-rounded and well-liked. Venetian plaster, Italian stone, all that stuff is a natural fit for me,” she notes.

Italian Touches

Other Italian touches include archways adorned with Arabescato marble, which frame views between interior spaces, Venetian plaster curves on the staircase and checkerboard floors.

Despite the constraint of a short nine-month build time, Smac prioritised infusing Light House with flair and personality.  “We didn’t skimp on character,” Shona notes.

“It’s as a neutral but layered home with a theme of classicism, with modernity weaved in. It’s like a little black dress with a pearl necklace, something that will be current for a long time,” she concludes.


Architecture: Smac Studio @smac_studio

Photographer: Dave Wheeler @dave_wheeler

Stylist: Studio CD by Claire Delmar @clairedelmar

Builder: Charas Construction @charasconstructions

Words: Bella Brennan @bellarosebrennan

Loved our home tour of Light House in Vaucluse and want to keep perving some of the most stylish places going around? Take a peep inside this impressive Clovelly renovation then discover the cottage-cool charm of this Balmain home.

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