Before and After Interior Design Project — North Shore Interior Designer

10 August, 2020

Before & After — Shirley Rd Interior Design Project

Before and after stories of interior design projects are always exciting to see. In this project, we used colour, lines and shapes to trick the eye, and to make these spaces more inviting to the owners — a soon-to-be-retired couple on Sydney’s North Shore. As fate would have it, the rooms were completed just in time for the Covid-19 lockdowns in NSW, meaning the clients had plenty of spare time to really enjoy their ‘new’ rooms. 

Before & After Interior Design Project — These clients came to me as they were approaching retirement, and wanted to maximise their time spent at home with rooms they could make better use of. Having spent many years in this house, they’d also begun to accumulate furniture and artwork from other family members, so the home wasn’t a true reflection of them anymore. I find this a lot with clients, especially those who’ve had grown-up kids move out. One day they seem to look around and think — “where’s the “us” in all of this?!”


As a starting point for the project, my clients asked me to focus on the original formal sitting and dining rooms. The house is a lovely, wide Federation bungalow on Sydney’s Upper North Shore, and the formal rooms had retained plenty of heritage details which gave me a great starting point for the design. 


The brief from the clients was to make the rooms more inviting and contemporary, while honouring and highlighting the beautiful Federation architecture. They also wanted to add colour and personality, so the spaces would be inviting and also great for entertaining guests. This is one of my favourite briefs — where I get to combine old and new — so I got to work creating and transforming ASAP. 


The result, as you’ll see, is a complete transformation. I credit this to the clients’ willingness to make big changes, and their total trust in me as their designer, which I was very grateful for. I’d love to know what you think too — feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch here.

See below for the before and after shots of this interior design project.

Dining Room 


The dining room of our Shirley Rd project, in its "Before" state. Before and After Interior Design Project

Before and After Interior Design Project. Dining Room in a Sydney Federation bungalow

The dining room had some beautiful details, and some lovely heirloom pieces, but it felt quite formal. As a results, the room was barely used. It’s also a very wide room, with four separate entry points, which meant I needed to be mindful of not blocking thoroughfares. 



I decided to paint the walls a dark blue, to add some drama and depth to the room. My idea was to create a contrast between the inter-connecting sitting and dining rooms, while also making them feel connected and cohesive. The light pink rug from Armadillo added softness, and the mirror above the fireplace reflected the light, and the shape of the doors leading outside.



Before and After Interior Design Project in a heritage home in Sydney

The doors out to the courtyard were strangely much lower than the other doors in the room. In order to make them seem grander, I opted for floor-length linen curtains on a rod that sits much higher than the doors. 


A dining room in a heritage home on Sydney's North Shore with interior design and decoration by Alex Gourlay of Vellum Interiors

Artwork above bar cart by Maria Kostareva, via Curatorial & Co.


Sitting Room


Before and After Interior Design Project. Federation bungalow with bay windows in Sydney North Shore

Before and After Interior Design Project. Lead light circle window


Before and After Interior Design Project. Ceiling details and cornice

Like the Dining Room, the Sitting Room already had some stunning heritage features — original ceilings (complete with cherubs!), a large bay window and a beautiful little round lead light window. All of these provided me with great inspiration, and my aim was to make these features stand out even more.



A beautiful, light sitting / living room with bay windows with interior design and decoration by Alex Gourlay of Vellum Interiors

The room is quite wide, and the previous configuration, with two sofas opposite each other, meant that you were sitting a long way from guests on the other side of the room. I replaced the matching sofas with one, large, curved sofa, and two armchairs. This means the furniture is now set up in a way that is much more conversation-inducing. Side tables, a large coffee table (the classic Rio table, designed by Charlotte Perriand), and a curved console table all provide ample space for cups of tea and plates of cheese. 


A beautiful, light sitting / living room with bay windows with interior design and decoration by Alex Gourlay of Vellum Interiors


A beautiful, light sitting / living room with bay windows with interior design and decoration by Alex Gourlay of Vellum Interiors


Using the rounded shapes of the circle window and the bay window, I opted for more circular shapes in this room, in contrast to the square, straight lines of the dining room. The bay windows have been highlighted with sheer roman blinds, mounted high above the windows, again to elongate them, and trick the eye. The result is a huge amount of light into the room.


Colours were used to make the space look and feel more friendly and inviting. 


I couldn’t be happier with the final result! 


Luckily, so were the clients:


“Our formal lounge and dining rooms have some lovely period features and are relatively large, but they were mainly unused prior to Alex coming to the rescue.  With the prospect of retirement ahead and the greater opportunity for leisure, including in and around the home, we wanted a more engaging area for us, our family and friends.  We were at a loss on how best to achieve this and recognised that we needed help, though were both cautious and somewhat conflicted about consulting an interior designer. That was before meeting Alex, and her setting about to achieve an environment combining a fun, contemporary ambiance but also reflecting the integrity and heritage of the house.
Throughout, we appreciated Alex’s structured and meticulous approach which gave us the confidence to trust her judgment fully and to commit the necessary resources and effort. At all times Alex was professional, reliable and competent. She has excellent communication skills, sound project management abilities, and has a wide network of reliable suppliers and support services.  She is clear in her ideas, ethical in her dealings and honest in her advice. And she is a canny shopper.  All our meetings were focused, productive and fun. 

We are very happy with the outcome as the rooms now offer a beautiful and elegant enhancement to the house and our use of these new spaces has been most pleasurable and only been limited, hopefully temporarily, by the current response to the Covid 19 epidemic.”


See more pics of the project here.

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