Double Life House is a sleek and modern terrace on Reservoir Street in Sydney’s Surry Hills. It was custom designed for lawyer Stephanie Lambert and her partner Russell Beard – a sanctuary from the bustle of their inner-city neighbourhood as well as their busy people-facing jobs.
Beard is co-owner of some of Sydney’s best cafe’s, Paramount Coffee Project and Reuben Hills, and new fast-casual eatery Shwarmama – all in Surry Hills too. He’s also co-owner of the boutique Paramount House Hotel and hired Breathe Architecture to design both his home and the hotel. “We renovated the house first and it became a blueprint for the larger project,” he told Broadsheet.
Both buildings have minimalist, industrial interiors hidden behind original facades. Inside, they share similar aesthetics: exposed timber, poured concrete, black steel and brick-faced tiles laid in a herringbone pattern.
Although the two-bedroom terrace has a relatively modest footprint (88 square metres of internal space; 20 square metres of external space), design architect Jeremy McLeod employed several tricks to maximise the space and create defined zones.
The entrance hall is lined with sound-absorbing Autex material, which Beard says creates a “calm and tranquil effect as soon as you walk in.” The sunken living room has built-in banquettes and a large artwork by Sonny Day from We Buy Your Kids; the painting swings open to reveal a television and AV equipment. A concrete stairwell links the downstairs courtyard and upstairs balcony, creating a flow between the outdoor areas. And in the bathroom, there is an open-air shower – requested by the owners – with a retractable ceiling for inclement weather.
Despite the contemporary interiors, the facade has been left alone. “We could have fixed up the front a little more – the roof is rusting a bit,” admits Beard. “But we didn’t touch it [in order] to play on the whole ‘double life’ thing – the noisy outside world and then this quiet, peaceful, well-thought out interior.”
The terrace dates back to the early 20th century, and during the renovations they discovered a few pages of scrunched up newspaper in the walls, presumably there for insulation. Beard thinks the newspaper could be as old as the building, and keeps the pages – which include an article about Surry Hills – in his filing cabinet.
Beard and Lambert commissioned three artworks especially for the space: the TV-hiding Sonny Day in the lounge, a four-metre wide Max Berry landscape that fills an entire wall of the kitchen-diner, and a piece by Marty Baptist in the acoustic cocooned entrance hall. Later, all three artists contributed work to the Paramount House Hotel.
Other decor comes from the couple’s travels, including wooden sculptures from Guatemala, rugs from Mexico and artwork from a South African gallery. Most of the design features are built in though, which means whoever buys the house next will get to keep a lot of the decoration.
Double Life House is being auctioned on December 7 as Beard and Lambert have decided to move to a larger space in nearby Taylor Square. At the open houses, many visitors have asked if the artwork is included. “Depends on the offer,” says Beard, laughing.
Names: Russell Beard and Stephanie Lambert.
Live: In a four-metre wide, two-storey terrace in Sydney’s Surry Hills.
With: Their two year old son, Ace.
What made you fall in love with the house in the first place? To be honest I didn’t love the terrace that we were buying, but I liked the location. If you like eating and drinking, Surry Hills has so much on offer. And being close to work is a real bonus for me. The house is between two of my businesses, Ruben Hills and Paramount, so that made it an obvious purchase.
We bought it with the intention of completely changing it. It might sound a bit strange to buy something you don't love, but I suppose you have to have the foresight – or vision, stupidity, whatever you want to call it – to modify it to a level that you do love. Renovating an old terrace can be very expensive so often you do these things as a labour of love.
Favourite room in the house? I'm torn ... maybe the sunken living. It’s just a very enjoyable place to hang. You can put on a record, you can sit back and relax, you can do some work. It's got a concrete floor and beautiful, high, timber ceilings. It's got that Autex material so it's really peaceful and calming. And all my favourite AV equipment is in there, so it’s got a lot going for it.
Favourite item in the house? The Max Berry landscape painting in the dining room. I absolutely love that piece, – it's got such a lovely juju. Without it, the room just wouldn’t be the same. People always comment on it.
Favourite places to find homewares and art? China Heights Gallery always has really interesting artists-in-residence doing interesting shows. I don't really shop for homewares other than when I'm travelling. But I do love Cultiver for linen, it feels great to sleep in.
“Home Visits” is a Broadsheet series exploring homes across Australia.