By Chris Pearson
To balance our her busy public profile, the Australian model and TV presenter wanted the house she shared with her husband, Jake, to provide a haven that is both hidden from the world and connected to nature.
With the water lapping on the beach below and birdsong in the eucalyptus and angophoras above, the Sydney retreat of model and TV presenter Jennifer Hawkins is a world away from the red carpet frenzy. Here the one-time Miss Universe swaps heels for sneakers and basks in her own made-to-measure universe of calm.
In 2014, she and husband Jake Wall found this plumb waterfront site, overgrown with lantana and squandered by two cottages past retirement age. It was steep, but they could see its potential. Having worked with architect Koichi Takada in their property development business, J Group, they chose him to create their dream home.
“We wanted to create a resort feel that was still warm and homely, an escape not only for ourselves, but also our friends and family,” says Hawkins. And it had to achieve the seemingly impossible – soak up the spectacular water views while offering them privacy.
The awkward site, while a challenge for Wall and his J Group builders, proved a boon for Takada. “It gave me steeper angles down to the water, so I stepped the building back, with broad overhangs on each level,” he says. The cantilevered terracing helps shield the building from curious eyes on the water and floating timber screens to the side ensure privacy from the neighbours.
Those cantilevers are also a nod to tropical living, because they allow Hawkins and Wall to open up the house completely, even on rainy days. With sliding walls of floor-to-ceiling glass, inside and outside meld into one. “The home’s a contradiction,” says Takada. “It’s visually connected to nature, blurring inside and out, yet it’s built for privacy. You can see out, but no one can see you.”
Sandstone walls used internally and externally reinforce the natural nexus and visually anchor the building to its site. “The architecture is Japanese in that it is neutral and Minimalist, and in harmony with nature,” he says. “I draw inspiration from nature, such as the sand, bush and water here, using its hues and textures.
“A lot of my work includes the Japanese sense of retreat, with calming spaces, subtle and textured. With their busy lifestyles, Jen and Jake want to relax and be in touch with nature,” says Takada.
The sheer walls of glass and natural materials also belie the home’s size. On four levels, it includes four bedrooms on the top, entry level, while an entire level below comprises the main bedroom with ensuite and expansive walk-in wardrobe. “Jen spends a lot of time in there, so we had to get it right,” says Takada. The third level features open-plan living areas, with a show kitchen (and functional kitchen tucked behind), while on the lowest level are the informal areas, including home theatre, bar and casual entertaining area abutting the pool. Internal spaces are connected by wide openings with sliding doors for an organic flow.
For the furnshings, interior designers Sarah-Jayne Marriott of SJS and Hellen Pappas of H Interior Design took their cues from the landscape and Takada’s materials palette.
“Enveloped in floor-to-ceiling glass, sandstone walls and limestone flooring, this home was already rich in texture,” says Pappas. But the hard surfaces required softness to add the casual warmth the couple wanted.
“Given the spectacular view, breathtaking from every level, the furnishings needed to sit quietly rather than compete,” adds Marriott. Layers of linens, velvets, and leather soften the bleached European oak they chose to complement the internal finishes. Meanwhile, a handmade banana fibre pendant in the dining room adds to the home’s bespoke quality.
“Inspired by the magical views of the water, silvery grey tones were enhanced with teal greens, burnt oranges, berry tones, and feminine soft pastels,” says Pappas.
Splashes of colour, from artworks and accessories by Australian artists and designers, add surprise to a neutral canvas.
“The home’s like Jennifer – full of life and animated,” says Takada. “She brings in lots of energy.”
Hawkins’ favourite spaces, not surprisingly, include the relaxed indoor-outdoor areas on the lower levels, their walls of glass framing the water. And, while this home is her haven, her passion for fashion isn’t left at the door.
“I won’t lie,” she says. “I pinch myself when I walk into my wardrobe – it blows my mind!”
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