Living Etc | February 2013

Article title:
Modern Master

When a house has a giant cactus in the family room, a ceramic ‘pet’ dog in the living room, and a light shade studded with dolls in the kitchen, it’s a good bet the owners don’t take themselves too seriously. ‘I’m not sure if the pieces reflect our personalities,’ says Simone Suss. ‘But with us, what you see is not necessarily what you get!’ She’s not kidding. This Georgian-style new build may look conventional from the outside, but inside it’s a one-off fusion of family home, contemporary art gallery and work space. There are classic décor details, such as the chequerboard floor in the hallway and a sweeping banister, paired with a luxury-hotel-style marble bathroom and a minimalist white kitchen. It’s a testament to Simone’s interior design skills that the whole look hangs together. ‘I’m really happy with the house and how it works for us,’ she says, ‘although the build was so stressful, I wasn’t sure we’d ever get to this point.’

Simone and Rob bought the plot in 2007. ‘The house that originally stood here was literally the ugliest in the neighbourhood,’ recalls Simone. ‘Fortunately, the local conservation committee agreed with us, so we were given approval to knock it down and build from scratch.’ Planning permission was quickly secured but the financial crash of 2008, followed by problems with the builders, meant work was delayed and they didn’t move into their new home until August 2011. ‘I used to watch house-build programmes on TV and be thankful they weren’t following our project as
it would have taken too long,’ laughs Simone. On the plus side, this gave her plenty of time to plan each element of the design. ‘However, being my own client and working with my husband was a baptism of fire,’ she says. ‘It was a large-scale project and, as a new build, the possibilities were endless.

We agonised over every tiny detail, from door frames to handles to light fittings, because we didn’t want it to shout “brand spanking new”. Plus, it’s so much more emotional when it’s your own house, as opposed to designing for a client. Rob and I had some heated debates before it was finished.’

They needed the house to be a showcase for Simone’s interior design business, a gallery for their personal artworks, as well as pieces from The Franks-Suss Collection (which supports emerging artists and is run by Rob and a friend), and, most importantly, a family home. ‘We’re a busy household with three young children. We can’t be precious about any of the rooms,’ says Simone. She achieved all that by keeping to a monochrome scheme to work as a neutral backdrop, then using subtle changes in flooring and furnishings to create different moods throughout the house.

The living room and dining room have a glamorous feel, with parquet flooring, ornate fireplaces and velvet sofas. In the kitchen and connecting family room, the vibe is more relaxed, with bright, white spaces shot through with colour. The green splashbacks were inspired by daughter Isabella’s T-shirt. ‘I took one look at it and thought, “That’s it! I’ve found the perfect colour,”’ says Simone. Upstairs, the couple’s bedroom is calm and quiet, and is the one place where they decided not to hang artworks. ‘This is our chill-out territory – a place to read, to talk, to be together. I wanted the walls to breathe, so rather than focusing on specific pieces, we went for a textural wallpaper,’ says Simone. Their stunning bathroom is all about the marble. ‘It’s book-matched, so it’s like a butterfly’s wings – both sides identical,’ Simone says. ‘Finding it was a labour of love; I viewed over 100 slabs of marble at various suppliers. I wanted it to look like a work of art.

‘Whether it’s a natural material like marble or a contemporary painting, I just love pieces that are interesting and different,’ says Simone. ‘They excite your curiosity so you want to take a closer look.’ In this home, it certainly looks like art really does reflect life.

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