sneak peek: sarah davison

Two years ago, when Sarah Davison of Ara Design moved into this apartment on the top floor of a 1920s Spanish Mission-style building overlooking Sydney’s Tamarama beach, she knew she wanted to create a light-filled home that paid homage to both the Pacific Ocean and the apartment’s existing Spanish Mission architectural features. The most challenging part of the project was creating a new bathroom and kitchen that would sit comfortably within the existing barley twist columns, decorative ceilings and stained glass windows. She’s managed to create a serene and relaxing space. But in case you worry that it’s too calming, Sarah’s sister, brother-in-law and 2-year-old niece, Violet, live in the apartment downstairs, so there are plenty of play dates, communal dinners and laughter! Thanks, Sarah! And thanks to Prue Roscoe for the lovely images! — Amy A.

Image above: Interiors to me should be very personal. I like an eclectic, yet cohesive mix of furnishings. The throw pillows are made from sarong fabric that I bought on my annual trip to Bali. The antique bronze French lantern was a lucky find at a local antique store. Roses are my favorite flower and really seem to suit this room. The walls and ceiling, painted in Dulux “Natural White,” have a luminous quality.

Image above: A vintage faux bamboo entry table with old green glass bottle and captain’s mirror. Glass is very beautiful in the strong, clear light we have here in Sydney. I love the curved form of old bottles, too, and the way they soften a space.

The rest of the sneak peek continues after the jump . . .

Image above: The theme of bamboo is picked up from the screen in the vintage bamboo chair. Bamboo works well in this apartment. It’s tropical, feminine and a little bit exotic.

Image above: I bought the gorgeous hand-painted Chinoiserie screen in LA on a whim. It fits the wall perfectly and gives a lovely sense of freshness and depth to the room.

Image above: I like to have some black elements in a room to add a little contrast, glamour and depth. The large cut-screen photograph is by famous Australian photographer Bill Henson. It’s moody and very evocative. Also here is the Harry Bertoia “large diamond” armchair. One of my favorite chairs and so comfortable! Its sculptural form sits incredibly well with the vintage furnishings and the decorative architectural features. The platinum-glazed “Bishop” sidetable is by India Mahdavi. Casual roller blinds in split bamboo suit the beachside location.

Image above: The dining table is a replica Sticotti. Chairs are Series 7, Fritz Hansen. Painting, “Oyster Leases, America’s Bay,” is by a favorite Australian artist, Joshua Yeldham.

Image above: The kitchen was inspired by a wall of original white glass tiles with decorative black listello border. I removed a wall to create an eat-in kitchen.

Image above: The back door leads to a sun-filled deck and garden/BBQ area.

Image above: Fresh greens and citrus yellows combine well with the black and white color scheme and add a summery, tropical, very “Sydney” vibe.

Image above: The bedroom and sunroom have a wonderful view of the ocean through the arched windows. A restful color palette of warm whites and soft, peachy-beige linen complemented by the travertine and terracotta flooring is a great foil to the deep blue of the Pacific outside. The bedlinen is “Society,” and the hand-embroidered linen bedspread was bought in Morocco.

Image above: Unlined linen curtains hang softly in the sunroom. A pale green French table sits on a floor of unglazed Moroccan terracotta tiles. The daybed was custom made, and the cushions are covered in vintage sarong fabric from Indonesia.

Image above: Framed black coral on an antique Japanese dressing table.

Image above: The bathroom is one of my favorite places in the apartment! We had “Stucco lustro” plaster hand-applied to the walls to get a great visual texture. The shower floor and walls are tiled in glazed hand-made Moroccan tiles.

Image above: We used a vintage bronze Chinese blind hook as a hand towel holder and accented the tub with an antique bronze temple lantern hanging over the bathtub.

  1. Megan says:

    Love it, especially the bath tub and the spiral columns!

  2. I love how the colorful accessories really get a voice due to the pale walls and textiles. Lovely.

  3. A says:

    Where can I find that beautiful hanging mirror?

  4. Bev Weidner says:

    I am just IN LOVE with the color scheme going on! I could snuggle this house. wow.

  5. Aunt Mim says:

    Now THIS is my kinda home! Love the black and white kitchen which we are thinking of doin’ and it owuld make our ol’ cabinets nearly disappear.Loved the clean lones throughout!

  6. Casey says:

    This is 100% not MY style, but I am 100% in love. So many things are so, so right about this place.

  7. Very inviting home. The kitchen is my favourite room. Sarah has an amazing eye for detail! I always love Prue’s photography as well. Such a talent.

  8. Oh this is amazing! I think this has to be one of my favourite Sneak Peeks yet!!! Fabulous interior :)

  9. Katherine says:

    The Mirror looks just like this DIY from this very site!
    When I first saw this mirror with the leather I was not won over to it totally, but seeing one just like it in this home is so inspirational!
    … and those FLOOORS!! the herringbone floors!! Stunning. What a lovely, comfortable home.

  10. A lovely home! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Oh! To have interesting architectural details to work with! I’m quite jealous.

    I love what the simplicity of white walls can do to make a place so open and airy. And the use of greenery is splendid!

  12. Susan says:

    So inspiring! This home is beautiful, warm and dramatic. I can do without the big twisty columns, but otherwise, magnifico.

  13. MO says:

    I Love the use of floral arrangements in this space! They add to the simplicity of the designed space beautifully!

  14. Jennifer says:

    This is one of my fav. sneak peeks yet….fem. but not frilly, carefully put together but not “decorated-looking”. Love the pillows , bedspreads…

  15. kristina says:

    Soooooooooo perfect.

  16. Fiona says:

    Stunning! I love this house. LOVE. I am typically someone who loves a lot of color, but this is so restful.

  17. Stephanie says:

    What a beautiful home! Absolutely amazing interior. Beautiful textiles and gorgeous furniture.

  18. absolutely beautiful home! I love it! you can tell the owners have a love for travel and an eye for beautifully unique things.

  19. Gorgeous! I especially love the framed coral – simple, graphic and lovely!

  20. Hannah says:

    Wow, what a gorgeous property! The brickwork in the bathroom is fab. I’d love a nice long soak in there. Btw I haven’t been on your blog for a while – cool redesign!

  21. Beautiful home. I’m drooling over those herringbone floors in the kitchen.

  22. Alice Domett Doyle says:

    I love this house. It is so beautiful with all the original purchases from around the world. Would love to do a holiday house swap!!!! If you are ever keen to come to Wellington……..

  23. Christina says:

    This is an absolutely stunning sneak peek. It is very well edited and refined,

  24. flowerpress says:

    Love the Bill Henson photo and the worn mirror!

  25. rooth says:

    How can I get mirrors like that in my home? And how can I get gleaming white subway tiles like that in my home? Le sigh

  26. This is really unique and well done. Love it!

  27. mosey says:

    This is refreshingly different and super beautiful! That bathtub stone surround! What inspiration!

  28. Jan says:

    So jealous! This place is BEAUTIFUL, and you have a Joshua Yeldam!! His art is amazing!

  29. Jessica says:

    I absolutely LOVE this, it has such a calm, fresh feeling about it yet still has hints of interest throughout the place. I love Moroccan elements. And a shout out to a fellow Australian! Well done Sarah :)

  30. I LOVE everything about this apartment!

  31. donna esposito says:

    i love you guys so much…..but it seems lately that i am seeing spaces which have furnishings etc. which are out of my price range and actual lifestyle… still think you are
    doing a wonderful job of presenting such inspiring content… I was born and raised in
    Greenpoint Bklyn. fled to Portland OR since I can no longer afford my neighborhood,
    which was an industrial wasteland when I was growing up. If only it was so cool then
    with Design Sponge in town… I would have been a happy,Grace and team!
    Donna Esposito

  32. let mous says:


  33. I love the floors and that round mirror in the 1st pic.

  34. Elizabeth Randon says:

    Definitely the best “favorite thing to do in my home” yet! Drinking champagne in the bathtub is my idea of ultimate luxury (even if I’m really just drinking cheap prosecco in my modest tub). But moroccan tile tub! That’s just over the top amazing!

  35. Lua says:

    OOOoooooooohhhhhhh. This is my favourite place yet. I am in love. The kitchen cabinetry and that way the tile is on all the walls: scrumptious. The bathroom is astoundingly beautiful. I’d love a bath there myself. I must admit, i feel envious, a gorgeous place and in Sydney. What a life. wow!!!!
    The lighting too, this place is super super super wonderful. What a treat. I am in love.

  36. Feather+Wind says:

    I am in love with that bathroom!!

  37. You have stolen my heart, my name, AND my love of champagne in bathtubs! And I love you for it!

  38. al says:

    i adore the lights in the bathroom…lighting is a major “to do” in our house and i feel pretty inspired to bring some of the morrocan and perhaps chinese influence that i see in these lamps to our pad. thanks so much for sharing this home!

  39. Montserrat Morones says:

    I LOVE IT !!!!

  40. Evelyn says:

    I love the vase! If you want the same look for less you can get it from me! Check out that vase and more at

  41. salina says:

    Absolutely beautiful! I love this home

  42. Very nice. I love the simplicity of the framed coral. Gets me thinking I should go back to the antique store to purchase that large piece of coral I spotted.

  43. MB@YarnUiPhoneAppv1.7 says:

    I’d like to know what that light fixture is in the sunroom…it looks Art Deco, I love it. Otherwise, I notice a round mirror theme…so retro and I want to copy it one day.

  44. Lauren says:

    What paint color was used in all of the rooms? Love it.

  45. So inspired by this serene, beautiful home. Especially the first shot with oversized mirror and gorgeous pillows. Elegantly understated and exceptional!

  46. Wendy says:

    Absolutely love this! I love that it’s light, airy, beautiful with the right amount of exotic elements. I love French, Morrocan, Chinoiserie, Shabby chic and classical decorating, but never knew how to put it together without looking too done and affected, and I always want a timelessness to the look. This look shows me the base is far and wide, but the supporting and accent pieces don’t need to be huge or expansive, they just need to be right. LOVE

  47. stephanie says:

    Every element in this space is exquisite. Love the how the simple Moroccan tiles blend so seamlessly into the mix…

  48. Christy says:

    A timeless beautiful “undecorated” home. I love it.


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