When you’re a mum with a business to run – and also the “fourth bird” at Three Birds Renovations – the juggle is most definitely real. So when Sophie Bell, owner and director of bespoke creative design agency Peppa Hart Studio, and her husband Michael had the chance to build their forever home from scratch, they decided to create somewhere that provided a sanctuary for their family as well as an inspiring place for Sophie and her staff to work.
The couple bought a lush block of land in the northern hinterlands of NSW in early 2017, and immediately got planning. As digital manager for Three Birds, Sophie was able to call on the team’s expertise when designing the home, which was heavily influenced by the Mediterranean.
“Greece and Italy hold special memories for us. We wanted our home to give us the same feeling we get when we’re at a beautiful beach bar in Europe,” says Sophie. “The key features to achieving this authentic look were the rendered surfaces, arched windows and doorways, and a lot of white paint,” adds Lana Taylor, director at Three Birds Renovations. “Curves and circles added to the vibe.”
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Energy-efficiency was also a high priority for Sophie and Michael, so instead of traditional brick or timber, they built the entire home from a form of high-density polystyrene called NRG Greenboard. “It’s lightweight, cost-effective and suitable for use in BAL29 fire-rated areas, because it contains fire retardant,” Lana explains. Along with its insulating properties, “it can also be shaped easily, which we did to create the arches that are integral to the design of this home, then it’s rendered for a seamless finish”.
To capture the Mediterranean vibe, exterior walls were painted with Dulux Casper White Quarter, and Dulux White on White was used throughout the interior.
The couple chose a simple floor plan for their new home, a “big rectangle” featuring a long, central hallway with bedrooms, a media room and bathrooms branching off. The hallway leads into a large, open-plan kitchen and living space, while upstairs you’ll find an epic master suite and Sophie’s enviable home office. “My office takes up almost half of the upstairs,” Sophie says. “There’s plenty of space for me and all my staff.”
She has diligently used a neutral palette throughout, along with plenty of texture. Living tumbled brass – chosen for its patina – was used for all tapware and handles, alongside timber furniture and warm, earthy tones in the bedlinen and many of Sophie’s framed photographs from her European travels.
“We didn’t want the house feeling new and modern, so we rendered as many surfaces as possible,” Sophie adds. Her verdict on the finished product? “It’s heavenly. As soon as I open the door, I instantly feel calm.”