High above the beachgoers and surfers down on Sydney’s Bronte Beach, designer Louise Olsen and artist Stephen Ormandy have transformed a 1930s bungalow, badly renovated in the 70s and then long fallen into disarray, into a palatial paradise. Here the ocean or Australian bushland can be admired through vast glass panels and sliding doors from every angle of the house.
The property was a lucky find. ‘It was a dark bungalow on a steep hill, built on a sand dune. The sand had risen so high that it was right underneath the floorboards, which made the house jump, particularly when we had dance parties in the early days,’ laughs Louise.
In the dining room there’s a great synergy between Louise and Stephen’s individual creativity – ‘The boldness of colour comes from Stephen, the way things are put together is me,’ she says. The table is brought to life with pieces by Dinosaur Designs and flowers sourced from Louise’s friend Saskia Havekes at Grandiflora. ‘As the table is long but not too wide, it makes it easy to talk to people,’ says Louise. For a similar table try Lombok (lombok.co.uk)
Filling the living room with art and objects ‘makes the space feel very personal – it’s almost like having our friends with us all the time’, says Louise. Stephen’s own White Cloud print gives the room colour and energy. Dinosaur Designs’ resin vessels and sculptures by Stephen are displayed beneath. Skipper the dachshund adds to the friendly vibe, as does a Smartie floor seat by Michael Young for Cappellini, a rug by Dinosaur Designs for Designer Rugs and an upholstered Bertoia diamond chair
A red chair is offset by a white prismatic table. The background painting is by Will Cooke (willcookeart.com)
In the living room, paintings range from Aboriginal to abstract and postmodern. ‘We like to mix and match genres,’ says Louise
Camille’s bedside table showcases her Dinosaur Designs jewellery and Richard Caldicott print (richardcaldicott.co.uk)
However, the couple didn’t rush into knocking it down or rebuilding – ‘We just painted the whole house white and lived in it until we knew exactly how we wanted it,’ says Louise. With the help of architect Sam Marshall they used as much of the existing space as possible, but when new foundations were needed and the walls began to crack, sadly little of the original house remained.
Taking into account its location and the way the sun and wind fell during the day, Sam designed the house on a cross-axis, so ‘the ocean breezes come right through’, explains Louise. ‘We don’t need air-conditioning and there’s a wonderful sense of light in the house from front to back all day long.’ They also installed eco-friendly fixtures such as water-saving showerheads and redesigned the garden to create an oasis for the local wildlife.
The all-white walls and richly hued Australian eucalyptus hardwood floors bring out ‘a wonderful truth in the colours we love’, says Louise, who met Stephen at art school (they started selling their unique resin wares at markets before founding Dinosaur Designs in 1985). ‘We think of the house as a second studio, away from the buzz of our main design studio in the city where our pieces are still all made by hand and shipped around the world,’ Louise explains. Being near water and nature ‘inspires us in another way’, she continues: ‘Here our imaginations drift and new ideas flow.
Camille’s bedroom walls are hung with her own portraits, a heart by dad Stephen and works by Genevieve Harnett, Isamu Noguchi, David Bromley and Matthys Gerber. The drawers are from Ikea (ikea.com)
Of the couple’s bedroom, Louise says: ‘There’s nothing better than leaving the door wide open and listening to the ocean – the sound of the waves is good for your dreams.’ The couple sleep below Stephen’s own Sweet Dreams artwork on a bed tailor-made in steel
Camille and Stephen on the deck with Skipper
A Georg Jensen pebble dish and assorted jewellery and bowls by Dinosaur Designs are displayed on the sideboard in the couple’s bedroom as well as their The Art of Dinosaur Designs book, which came out last year and celebrates three decades of their brand
Camille and Louise return from a swim at the beach. ‘We are so lucky to be near the sea,’ says Louise
‘We wanted rooms that felt distinct in their own right, but also continued the others, seamless but not open plan,’ Louise says. Yet despite the house’s clean lines, there’s a warmth that comes from inherited pieces such as the wooden dining table Stephen’s mother commissioned in the 70s and artworks by family and friends (Louise’s dad is the famous Australian artist John Olsen).
There are also junk-shop finds and designer classics, treasures from their travels (including New York where the couple also have a shop) and, of course, their own sculptural, tactile pieces, which they’ve been creating for Dinosaur Designs for more than 30 years. ‘We’ve always been drawn to things you want to touch and make you feel good – furniture and objects that nurture you but are exciting to look at, too.’