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Plateau Project with Georges Antoni and Phoebe Ghorayeb

Home to fashion photographer Georges Antoni, model and presenter Phoebe Ghorayeb and their three young children, this 60-year-old Sydney bungalow is at its core a love letter to family. In giving the residence new life, the couple honored the post-modernist heritage while infusing it with modern warmth. Understated in palette and lively in texture, everything feels intentional and inviting – the perfect backdrop to rest, play and gather.

Architecture by RAMA Architects
Interior Styling by Lara Hutton
Shoot Styling by Joseph Gardner
Photography by Sean Fennessy & Georges Antoni

You documented the entire build on Instagram. What types of interiors were on your original mood board?

I wanted to stick to the roots of the house, which is Australian post-modernism (rather than post-modernism in a US or European sense). We went through a number of fantastic books that focused on those elements. But then the more we thought about it, the more we loved the idea of the simplicity of my family's homes in the mountains of Lebanon. So we tried to take a fresh perspective – making the interior of the house very simple, easy and understated, and allowing the texture of the house to dominate over the colors. That's how we ended up with the palette that we've got.

Phoebe: To be honest, our original ideas weren’t too different from the final look of our home now. I think Georges and I are at a time in our lives where we’re pretty sure what we like and what we don’t like. We’re always happy to venture outside of our comfort zone, but we always come back to what is true and authentic to our personal style. Lots of neutral colors, natural materials, desaturated tones and warm accents. We wanted to create a home that was impressive to look at but felt homely to be in.

At what point in the process did the space start to feel like home?

Not until move-in day. A home without people is just a house, so without all of us actually living in it, it never felt like home. Only once the kids were tucked up in bed, and Georges and I were chilling out with our feet up on the sofa, did I really feel like we had arrived at our destination.

Georges: The time that it really clicked for us was nine months after we moved in. Our entire family – 22 people from Queensland – came and stayed with us for the Christmas holidays, over two and a half weeks. Everyone used the house in different ways and it never felt cramped or overloaded, even though people were sleeping on the floor and on sofas.

Plateau Project was built in the 1960s. How did you work with RAMA Architects to complement rather than de-emphasize that history?

We loved the original home as it was and wanted to do as little as possible whilst still adding enough space for our growing family. We took what the house already had and mimicked these aspects in other areas of the build. The guys at RAMA loved our house too, so it felt like an incredibly easy and organic process to use and emphasize what the house was already giving us.

Georges: The bones of the house were quite bold and interesting, so we tried to replicate existing elements. For example, there was a circular turret for a stairwell so RAMA cleverly added another two turrets on the extension. There was also a southern highlight roof that acted like a slanted ceiling – what we did, instead of having a flat roof, was take that angle and turn it into a butterfly roof leading out to the northern view. It was a little bit of a labor of love and a focus on the detail to make the architecture consistent with its original heritage.

Each room feels minimal without lacking interest. How did you achieve that balance?

Our home is very minimal in color but abundant in texture. We used as many natural materials as possible and, as a result, every surface of our home is either bumpy or soft or holey or rough or grainy or satin. Nothing is shiny or plastic, so the house emanates a natural warmth through all its beautiful, raw materials.

Georges: We tried to make the tones similar, revolving around shades of oatmeal, then combining as many textures as we could –travertine, micro cement, lime-coated paint, brickwork, aerated concrete. RAMA did a fantastic job of including architectural elements that maintained interest, as well. There are beautiful curves throughout the home, in the hallway and in the kitchen island. We also showcased the things that people try to hide – beautiful light fittings, plugs and switches – which is pretty much the opposite philosophy to the way most people would design a house.

Photos by Sean Fennessy

"We wanted to create a home that was impressive to look at but felt homely to be in."

Georges, composition and storytelling is integral to your work as a photographer. How did that inform your approach to the interior design?

Well, I'm sure Phoebe would be happy to tell you that I am probably a little bit over the top when it comes to pre-planning in the design phase! More than anything, though, it's me trying to formulate my own idea of what I think will work and what is beautiful. If you look at my initial influences and references – they were very extensive in the beginning, and then it became a real activity of trying to boil them down to something that was meaningful and resonated with the space, the architecture that was proposed, and our family's lifestyle. It wasn’t so much the storyboarding but the edit of the storyboard that become critical – not what we chose to do, but what we chose not to do.

What were your requirements when it came to curating the art and photography on display?

This is still very much an ongoing process and I think the longer we live here the more we will understand what our home needs, art-wise. All I know is I want as many photos as possible of our children and family. To me, that is the ultimate “art”. 

Georges: We approached art in a bit of a different way. We incorporated two very unusual plants – firstly, a long single-stem fiddle leaf fig that hugs the lounge room. The second is a 48-year-old bonsai, which I bought for my birthday last year. It has unusual features; the stem curves into circles. They act like art pieces in themselves. I also worked with my beautiful friend Lara Hutton, who helped conjure the idea of a three-pillared fireplace that sits in the center of the room and provides a visual highlight.

The Northern Beaches setting is quite idyllic. How did you reference the natural surroundings in the interiors?

When it came to photographic art, I wanted to duplicate the colors outside our window in the reserve our house overlooks – compositions of black, yellow and warm, soft green with occasional hits of red. They tie the house together beautifully and feel cohesive with the color palette and textural approach. I focused on photography layered with painting – one of them was a series I worked on with a friend. I photographed the prints and she painted on top of them, then they were mounted in beautiful steel frames to echo the steel doors on the southern side of our house.

Phoebe, you’re a food connoisseur and are known to enjoy entertaining. What were your design priorities in terms of ensuring this home would be suitable for your generous hospitality?

I’ve always loved the idea of an open plan kitchen where I can cook up, plate up and clean up in the company of our guests. I understand some of the benefits of having a separate kitchen, like keeping all the mess and preparation hidden, but I’d much rather be spending time with our family and friends than worrying about keeping a clean kitchen. I love the idea of our guests being a part of the process and chaos of entertaining. I wanted our kitchen to be the heart of the home and I wanted to be able to stand in our kitchen and still have connection to all the other living areas. Being able to laugh with those lounging on the sofa, share a drink with those chilling at the bar, and converse with our guests relaxing at the dining table. Entertaining is all about connection, and our kitchen definitely delivers.

Photos by Georges Antoni

Whether it’s an entire room or a fine detail, is there an element of your home that you’re particularly enamored with?

I think the powder room is really beautiful, with an amazing patina from the textural combinations of the travertine, the aerated concrete tiles, the tubular sink with the tap that comes down from the ceiling, and the gorgeous hardware.

From a functionality standpoint, I adore the layout that RAMA built for us because when my kids are watching TV and we're cooking in the kitchen, or somebody's out in the pool and somebody is cooking a barbecue, all the places in the house interact beautifully. You can be both together or alone, and you're in the same space. It's very much up to how you decide to use it, and I think that's probably the most genius aspect of it.

Phoebe: I love the cactus garden next to our pool. Every time I step outside and see it, I feel like I’ve been transported to an island paradise.

Your children are still young. How do you hope this home will endure and evolve over time as they grow up?

This is probably the question that Phoebe and I have had to grapple with the most. Our opinion is that the house is not perfect for the age our children are now – the bedrooms are slightly too far away, the pool is not within view of the living room or kitchen, the toy room is downstairs. It’s still very liveable and the kids love it. I think all of those elements are going to be a massive advantage in about five years. As the children get older, the house will carve out its own areas for them to do their own things and have their own levels of autonomy. And I think that is the function of a good house. We will grow into the house, and it's very much going to be our forever home.

Phoebe: I just want our home to be a safe and nurturing space for them so that even when they’re 16, 25 or 33 they will always want to come home.

Photos by Georges Antoni