It’s the midst of Christmas party season, and at HerCanberra we are quickly finding ourselves…
I’ve never watched Dr Strange, but from what I understand, it’s about a guy in a cape who has a PhD in bending reality by doing this circular motion thingy with his arms.
I’d like to apologise right now to the bajillions of Marvel fans out there, however, it turns out that I didn’t need to watch the film, as I had a reality-bending experience of my own when Cass and I were invited to Bobbie Vanduren’s home in Northshore on the Kingston Foreshore.
Bobbie is the very opposite of strange. She’s exceptionally nice and welcoming, however, you have to admit with a name like hers, why would you need a superhero alias?
Things started out pretty normal when we met in the entryway to Bobbie’s apartment. Aside from Cass and I being similarly mesmerised by the dusty blue kitchen cabinets set against the industrial light fixtures, we were in our standard state of excitement at the thought of peeking into someone’s home.
For the majority of her working life, Bobbie has engrossed herself in heavily analytical work, and—if you’ll allow me some creative license—Bobbie’s kitchen is a parable for this work. That is, the precursor to a career change that saw her take a deep dive into something much more creative–interior styling.
Bobbie always had a keen interest in design, but never the platform upon which to exercise it. That was, until she bought this apartment and had the freedom to change every single thing about it.
That’s right; not a single thing you see was as per the original apartment plan—the entire floorplan and its styling originate from Bobbie’s imagination.
This brings me to Bobbie’s superpower. Most of us can picture something in our heads and get pretty close to reality—for example, buying a new rug or sofa and envisaging its placement in the living room. However, it’s another thing altogether to organise tile patterns from Italy, hand-upholstered couches, rock crystal pendants, Australian artwork, led light door details, and more, all at the same time.
Somehow, despite the level of detail, inside Bobbie’s head was a crystal-clear vision held in bubbles of delight.
By the way, “bubbles of delight” is not me being poetic, but a quote from Bobbie, which Cass and I thought perfectly summarised her style.
Upon entering each room, your eye is immediately drawn in a hundred different directions, however, they’re all connected through a relationship of colour, pattern or period.
I’ll let the photos do the talking, but let’s take the kitchen and living areas for example.
You can see Bobbie’s eclectic taste, with a strong historical influence in those Louis XV chairs, the crystal deco table lamp and French-style doors complete with vintage hinges and door handles. And they’re all linked though contemporary splashes on the roller blinds that relate to the colours of each of those pieces.
As we moved through the apartment, Bobbie suddenly disappeared into another dimension and was talking to me from a space I could not work out. Yes, here is where I bring in Dr Strange. I could see a corridor and two rooms in the distance, but on my right were large floor-to-ceiling vintage mirrors, which reflected my confused face. Then, a reflection on another mirror of what looked like a classic bathroom in Venice complete with stunning blue tiles and leadlight windows above a copper bath.
It turns out the mirrors are doors which reflect different areas of the corridor, depending on how they are positioned. Couple this with some asymmetric wall lines and hey presto: Dr Strange. It’s actually a fantastic feeling when your senses get surprised like that and it is exactly this effect that Bobbie was after.
“We often take interior layouts at face value when we move in and accept that a bathroom or a study needs to be locked in a square,” she explains. “The truth is, there is nothing stopping you from knocking out some holes, turning those into windows and even applying LED lights on the outside to give the impression of daylight coming in. It’s amazing what you can do with seemingly standard spaces.”
Another great example of this is the ensuite, where leadlight windows open into the bedroom. Visually, it adds the kind of complication you do a double take at—but when you think about it, it’s classic European design applied to a contemporary apartment.
As we were walking out, Cass and I kept stopping to examine unique pieces—all of which had a history, a back story, or an interesting fact attached to them.
A lot of them were found through searches in vintage shops, auctions and overseas trips, however, as Canberrans we’re also lucky to be able to find home décor elements locally to create a similar aesthetic.
“The key is to have a vision, keep adding to it and adapting with it—and above all, have fun!” says Bobbie. And you don’t need a superpower for that.
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Read all of Ashley’s Home Stories series here.
Home Stories is brought to you in partnership with Canberra Outlet Centre.
Photography: Cass Atkinson