Holly Orsman-Smith and Alistair Smith wanted a family home they could show off to their friends. A look behind the scenes reveals their success. Their run down 1865 cottage is now a modern family home fit for an episode of MKR.
Splashed with white, given a stainless steel kitchen and pared back to its sandstone form, it has become a canvas for art, dinner parties and the pitter-patter of children’s feet.
“The house was in very poor condition when we moved in,” says Alistair. “We had leaking roofs, home style add-ons and the home had never been painted. There was also bad drainage and a slug problem to deal with!”
Yet this home project was just the right challenge for an inner-west power couple. She is the GM for a flashy catering company in the city and he is a Construction Manager for a trendy landscaping firm. They main build took them 12 months with a toddler and two full-time jobs.
“I then undertook the cleaning and repointing of the stone work. It was a labour of love, which took up many weekends of my time. The bathroom and kitchen were outside for a while which was interesting. Just ask the wife!” remembers Alistair.
Holly feels they were entirely up to the task with their careers prepping them for the challenge. “Our jobs by their nature mean that we are major, specific and detailed planners, that’s how we operate everything. We didn’t find it difficult, we just chased a lot,” says Holly.
Despite the tribulations, it was a necessary quest says Holly, to accommodate their peculiarly hectic lifestyle.
“We have very, very busy and complicated lives, we are in the service industry, it is very complex,” Holly explains. “Coming home to a very nice place with white walls is something that just both inspires both of us,” she says.
Punchy colour features against the white backdrop include timber beams recycled from Sydney wharves; a green wall with up to 750 plants and a limey yellow mosaic in the bathroom shower, “to add a bit of fun,” says Alistair.
The kitchen, says Holly, is key to understanding how they live because Alistair was a chef for 25 years.
“When you bring people into your home to break bread, it’s very important they’re able to see you and share in what you are doing,” she says. The same theory, she says works on their two children.
“They sit up on the bench and they watch when we cook. It is such a wonderfully shared space between our whole family,” Holly says.
While the home takes its inspiration from no one period, or no particular architect, it is rather a patchwork of the owner’s tastes and exposure to a life of travel.
“We’ve travelled the world extensively and we have lot of pieces of art from all over. People come here and say, ‘that piece of art is beautiful, where is that from?” and I say ‘it’s from the middle of the jungle in Bolivia’. So you can see, it was important to highlight our experiences and our journeys together,” Holly says.