For the first Home Stories column of 2022, we visit the Campbell home of vintage shopper and businesswoman Sharyn Pitsilos.
Wait—just hang on! Before you glance at the photos below, tell me this: What do you expect the home of an expert in vintage shopping to look like?
Many dark corridors and big rooms filled with relics and treasures bound in cobwebs like some kind of castle? Because that was my expectation too—I even brought a torch! And not because I was expecting Sharyn—who owns and runs Fyshwick’s Designer Op Shop Emporium with daughter Taylor—to be a hoarder, but because I imagined it would be hard to have the discipline around such an amount of fantastic choice.
However, the truth is that Sharyn’s home in the new Campbell 5 precinct is a perfect example of restraint and discipline—where vintage meets modern. There were plenty of treasures all right, but bringing my torch turned out to be pointless.
The first thing that hit me was how open and light the apartment was. The large flowing spaces and long white walls elevated clusters of vintage pieces the same way clean gallery spaces celebrate art. Sharyn moved photographer Cass and I from spot to spot in the apartment just like a tour guide would. Every piece mentioned had a story, a connection and clearly a special place in her heart. The home wasn’t a castle, but it certainly was the family’s kingdom of vintage treasures.
The apartment must have been stylish enough to begin with when Sharyn and her husband Dion moved in four years ago, but they clearly customised to create more breathing space.
For example, they removed a butler’s pantry to unlock the kitchen, removed walls around the walk-in wardrobe to free up the bedroom and changed grey corridor doors to sparkling white. They also moved away from the original light green wall colour to brighten the space.
After all, there’s plenty of stunning greenery visible through the wide living balcony so why not let that sing? Furthermore, Sharyn modified the blinds so that the tracks curve around the side walls, meaning that when pulled back, that stunning view is completely uninterrupted. Picture perfect.
The second thing that hit me was how modern a lot of the furniture was. I’m not even referring to the state-of-the-art full-surround audio-visual setup that Dion created (including an intelligent LED backlit system and ‘80s record collection to die for), but rather the lounge, the bed and the dining suite.
My presumption was that once you go ‘vintage’ you’re all in, meaning that everything has to be vintage or else you’re deemed to be some kind of a traitor. But, as Sharyn explained, a mixture of modern and vintage actually gives visual depth and the contrast elevates the vintage pieces rather than burying them in a sea of sameness.
In fact, this (apart from learning not to bringing torches to people’s homes), was the biggest lesson of the visit—that including vintage items in your home is about balance between old and new.
Sharyn’s expert advice for starting off was to find a single older piece that speaks to you and build your layout around it. If you find other pieces to complement it than that’s great—but if you don’t, that piece will own its space in your home.
She also explained that vintage means different things to different people. It could be the age or origin of manufacture, or it could be the rarity of the materials, perhaps a snapshot in time or just a piece that evoked sentimental feelings. Whatever it is, however, it has to mean something deeper to you or have an objective value attached to it that other collectors will fight you over.
Understanding these principles, it became clear why Sharyn has been able to apply such discipline over her years of shopping for vintage items and make selective choices as to what comes to home and what goes to the shop.
It goes without saying that she also feels extreme enjoyment from seeing people connect with pieces that have history to them and that they are able to give these pieces a new life by taking them home.
By the way, if the name Pitsilos sounds familiar to you, it could because you may recall me featuring Taylor in Home Stories a few years ago. Taylor has been working at the family business from the age of 18, ever since it launched in 2012 in Braddon. Since then, the shop has moved between two more locations in Braddon until it found its true home in Fyshwick.
Taylor’s expertise leans more to fashion than Sharyn’s, and together with Dion playing Duran Duran in the background, they run a tight family business. And just like the balance we see in Sharyn’s home and in her approach to styling vintage pieces, there is a balance of generations here that will keep giving life to vintage items through many Canberra homes.
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Photography: Cass Atkinson