Style A glamorous Toorak penthouse inspired by a popular 1980s drama series
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With seductive gemlike hues of ruby, sapphire and gold, and lashings of sheen, this multifaceted penthouse in Melbourne's Toorak has all the alluring glamour and drama of a jewellery boutique. But perhaps that's not surprising, as it is owned by James and Jaimee Belle Kennedy of Kennedy luxury jeweller fame.
The couple bought the three-bedroom apartment shiny new in 2020. Its then-minimalist design had been masterminded by Sue Carr of Carr interior designers and architects, so it had quality bones and the flow of the spaces worked smoothly but, seeking more exuberance and energy, they asked designer Greg Natale to add.
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As if draping jewels on a classic outfit, the designer added layers of colour and texture to make the spaces glow. And with the couple being young and now having a two-year-old son, they asked the designer to make it fun and flamboyant – as they have plenty of time for the more serious stuff as they get older. "I love working with," Greg says, "because they are a blank slate and lend so much scope".
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The couple had already amassed a collection of Jonathan Adler furniture – with its retro lines and whimsy – of which Greg has been a perpetual fan. "It made us all a good fit," he says. So, it became the appropriate starting point for the miraculous makeover. Appropriately, too, he was in Paris when he was given the nod for the project and that's reflected in these bold, elegant spaces that don't hold their punches. "It's the city of maroon and arches," he says.
Greg enthuses about his love of television - and movie-set design, and the eclectic range of influences also includes Alexis Carrington's apartment in that 1980s potboiler Dynasty, here reprised in. "When Greg Natale turns your home into a Dynasty set…" muses Jaimee Belle.
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The result is a treasure trove of colour, texture and pattern, with strong echoes of Memphis postmodernism, which Greg lovingly recalls from his youth. "As a child of the 80s, Memphis was one of the things that made me want to be an interior designer," he recalls. It was the first major design style he encountered, with bold colours and vitality being its signatures, not to mention cheekiness. "It was playful, ironic, humorous, with lots of colour."
Greg left the floor plan, with the open-plan living areas along the south-western side accessed by a long hallway and the bedrooms and service areas on the other, largely untouched. The notable exception is a fluted dividing wall ingeniously obscuring a structural pillar in the open plan. The hallway is a succession of golden arches and mirrored panels, creating both a sense of arrival and expectation for what lies beyond. And those other rooms don't disappoint.
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Greg resurfaced the kitchen bench with a, the luscious colour further highlighted by the two-pack joinery, which he resprayed, while the two bathrooms were also treated to lush maroon marble.
Burgundy wallpaper in the main bedroom and the statementin the dining area lend colour and pattern.
"I treated the apartment like a jewellery store," explains Greg, reflected by the vast banks of joinery, both lacquered ("like a grand piano") and mirrored, all suitably, perhaps, installed by shopfitters. The rich palette echoes that store's precious merchandise, with Greg's and Jaimee Belle's shared passion for 1980s peachy pink added to the heady mix.
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Those lustrous surfaces are further highlighted by warm brass accents ("one of my signatures") and luxe velvet sofas. Meanwhile,in those golden archways and fluted joinery, the latter providing a strong visual contrast with the smooth lacquers. Jewel-like chandeliers and elegant sconces are also in on the act, in a project "that has drama and is designed to perform".
Meanwhile, Greg re-covered the couple's cherished Jonathan Adler furniture in Memphis-inspired designs, but perhaps not wishing to gild the lily, he left the original limed floorboards untouched. "It's not meant to be timeless," the designer says of this fabulous flight of fancy. "It's not James and Jaimee Belle's forever home and they only spend part of the year here. It's youthful and probably not what they would do if they were older, but they wanted it to be grand and elegant – after all, they're in the jewellery business."
Be that as it may, the penthouse still offers hints of what we could see from Greg in the near future. "Style-wise, this is an evolution of everything that has gone before," he says. Can we expect to see furtherand postmodernism, as he draws more and more from his formative past? "Watch this space," he says with a smile.
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