For Isabelle Harris, working on Centennial Park Residence felt personal from day one. Not only had she once called it home, she was aware of the legacy she was now a part of. “When you get an opportunity to work on a building that has its own history, it helps to create a clearer design process,” says the interior designer, who took on the project with architect Jonathan Spicer. She saw the home as “travelling through time” and, in the process, developing not just character but a soul of its own. By reinventing this historical space for contemporary living, she was connecting the past and the present of Australian design.
An early arts and crafts home, the building had extraordinary bones, delineated by soaring proportions and elegant details. Built in 1908, it was designed by the architect BJ Waterhouse, of architects Waterhouse and Lake. The sprawling mansion came with its own ballroom, and the focus of the current redesign included designing and upgrading the bedrooms and the bathrooms.
Harris had long been in love with how the entire building was graced with stone columns, windowsills and internal archways that curved and arched as if made of some altogether more fluid material. Isabelle Harris Design wanted to extend those yielding lines to the interiors she was creating, incorporating them into the marble benchtop, vanities and joinery. By deliberately softening any sharp edges, she allows the house to gently envelope its inhabitants. There are no shortcuts here – the craftsmanship is as demanding as it looks: seamless, distinctive and an indisputable demonstration of mastery.
Details like the benchtops in the kitchen and the metal work in the bathroom were a response to what was inherent in the design, just interpreted in a more contemporary way, says Isabelle. That is what brought her back to Rogerseller, a historically Australian business that first opened its doors in 1895. No stranger to the brand, Isabelle says she has never walked away thinking “that is a collection I do not see myself using.” “I go to them when I want a high-end product that I know is impeccably designed,” she says, adding that she can count on the company to carry exceptional brands – both Australian and international – in their showrooms.
For this project, Harris gravitated towards Rogerseller’s distinctive Eccentric tapware collection. The designer loved that the line was Australian made and that it paid homage to the quirky genius of the greatest minds in history – it seemed poetic that they were now part of this home that belonged to the arts and crafts movement, itself a celebrated chapter in Australian design.
Another Rogerseller classic to find its way into the home were the Caldera sinks – inspired by shapes of deep volcanic craters – which are perched atop vanities made from Carrara stone, a strong material which is resistant to heat and easy to clean. Together, they perfectly complement the marble flooring. Isabelle says the design succeeds in being almost viscerally enticing: “The sinks just look so beautiful, and they have something about them that makes you want to go in and just touch.”
In this instance, Rogerseller supplied a comprehensive solution, allowing Isabelle Harris Design to complete the ensemble with Arq ii tapware, Roll heated towel rails, Apollo flush plates and Catalano toilets. Some of the key elements are in solid brass, and for the designer it was critical that they conveyed the gleam of luxury and avoided the garish and ostentatious.
The subtle yet strikingly unconventional shapes and forms offered by Rogerseller’s collections were a lovely way to incorporate modern details into the house. “I was really drawn to their simplicity,” says Isabelle, who appreciated how all the elements became part of a cohesive whole and conveyed an air of refinement and calm. “When you add really beautiful things to a design grouping, you do not want all of them screaming for attention.”
Isabelle appreciates that each piece represents craftsmanship at its most accomplished even as they are utterly discreet, not taking an inch of space more than necessary. It is a wonderful bonus that their curving outlines echo the larger building. She compares these spaces to outsized jewellery boxes, laughingly admitting that her favourite room in the house might now be a powder room so elegant, and so luxurious, you might forget where you are.
First published in The Local Project on May 13, 2021. By Smriti Daniel. Photography by Dominic Lonergan.