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Home Stories: Vanessa Hawes

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This week on Home Stories, it’s the colourful Narrabundah abode that interior designer Vanessa Hawes shares with partner, architect Paul Tilse, and her family.

When I was quite young, I recall my dad explaining that when we look after things, they in turn look after us. I know he was referring to human beings and animals in general but at the time we were carefully servicing my prized 1988 hot red Toyota Celica and I couldn’t help but blend the ideas together.

Is it possible that inanimate objects could look after us if we took care of them? I thought so, and despite the lack of logic in that statement I have always treated ‘things’ with the respect I believe they deserve…and I have to say, they have been pretty good to me. So how is this related to this edition of Home Stories? Allow me to explain.

Celebrated interior designer Vanessa Hawes and her architect partner Paul Tilse designed their Narrabundah home, H House, as a duplex townhouse, always with the intention of making one of the duplexes a home.

It was an exciting project that allowed Paul and Vanessa to blend their supreme skill sets to produce a visually stunning and lifestyle-focused home.

H House has been celebrated many times by various design publications and I’m sure that photographer Cass and I had the same wide-eyed expressions as other journalists that have walked in thorough the front doors.

It’s not only the modern lines and flowing spaces that get you—but also the blended minimalism of Japanese ceramics, modern Scandinavian furniture and bursts of Parisian vintage décor.

There is an undertone of timeless concrete greys and warm wooden tones throughout the home which in turn allows all the furniture and decor to sing in harmony.

Those lovely Pierre Paulin Pacha chairs just pop in the lounge room as do the pink Gubi beetle chairs in the dining and the Jardan Valley lounge that stretches in the living area.

The ‘pop’ moments aren’t just reserved for the big pieces and artwork either—all the finer details really own their space too.

Take a closer look at the pale green Japanese tiles in the bathroom with their unique patterns and moulds, or the hand-crafted Tasmanian door handles, or the Gubi multi-light pendants in the bathrooms and bedrooms.

I wondered aloud if Vanessa found herself to be a challenging client. She explained that, on the one hand, it was difficult to focus so many ideas born out of years in the industry into a single home, but on the other, the excitement of working on your own home overcame any troubles. In fact, the goal of having a multi-zoned space for the family to grow up in provided real clarity.

I also asked Vanessa what her favourite piece in the house was, to which she pointed upwards. “Most-certainly the popped-up wooden ceiling,” she said. “It provides visual warmth and is such a point of difference.”

I have to admit that I did notice the ceiling when we walked into the living space but was too focused on hearing Vanessa’s take on the creative process of interior design to point it out.

What was so interesting about our conversation with Vanessa was her encyclopaedic knowledge of the clients she has worked with and the makers, shops and creatives she has close relationships with.

Her take on design and homes is all about the experiences and connections we as human beings get from the spaces. She spoke about homes in a way that almost made them seem alive.

And here we are at my original point. Our conversation reminded me of that day back in 1988 with my dad.

Vanessa treats her home with real respect and in return it looks after her by providing a feeling of happiness, comfort and belonging. Cass and I could feel it too as we were shown around.

Houses may be inanimate objects, but they do absorb our personalities. Perhaps it’s time to come home and hug the wall, or the door, or the couch—whatever you think has been good to you.

Vanessa Hawes. Photo: Anne Stroud.














Planning a move in 2021?

Save your energy for styling and leave the rest to ActewAGL

For a simple and seamless move, connect with Canberra’s local energy experts.

Editor’s note: This editorial was photographed prior to the ACT 2021 lockdown and current health directives.

Home Stories is brought to you in partnership with ActewAGL.  

Read all of Ashley’s Home Stories series here. 

Photography: Cass Atkinson. Feature image: Anne Stroud

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