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Transcending Time with Alicia Racovolis

For fledgling designer Alicia Racovolis, curation is everything. Fluent in the nomenclature of fine art and vintage furniture, each of her interiors could be a case study in everyday refinement. Her latest project in Elizabeth Bay has a beautiful natural aspect, but it is the tactile elements and striking details invigorating the tonal décor that inevitably draw the eye.

Photography by Dave Wheeler

How did you find your calling in interiors? Who are some of the people who have mentored you along the way?

I began my journey into interiors with a strong appreciation for art and history. I started my studies in the art world; however, it was my studies in Decorative Arts spanning the 17th-19th century at Sotheby’s in London that prompted my progression into interiors. During this time, I honed my knowledge of authentic craft and design.

I have always had a sensitivity toward how an environment or piece of art would make me feel. With this, I knew I wanted to create spaces of beauty that also imbued meaning. My family strongly influenced my love for design, My sister has an incredible talent for curation and my mother is extremely detail orientated – I trust their tasteful eye the most. My mother also worked in the design industry and has always used creativity to make life more beautiful for my sister and me.

How would you describe your ethos as a designer? What are some of your signatures?

Timeless design that possesses meaning is my north star. Something I have always been aware of, and is important to me, is how I feel in my surroundings. I feel my best when I am both inspired mentally and physically calm.

Much like when you are visiting a historic building – there is such a special energy within those walls. My mind expands as I try to visualize the many years it has been there, who has been there and the evolution behind how we live. There is something so calming about its permanence. This is front of mind when I come across antique pieces or when I incorporate classical architectural design elements and finishes. The imperfection in patina and wear adds character that transcends time.

I take inspiration from many different design movements – whether that be the shiny chrome materiality that defined the industrial age of the 1980’s or the ornate details of an 18th century European piece. My designs mostly have an element of restraint, it is simplicity and careful consideration that create an elegant and effortless environment.

Give us a little insight into your creative process. From initial meetings to breaking ground and beyond, what step do you find most rewarding?

I am my happiest when sourcing unique pieces for my clients, and this includes meeting and working with artisans, artists and makers from all over the world. I have a strong appreciation for their craft and often find myself connecting with like-minded creatives through my work – it makes each project so inspiring and genuinely joyful.

Each project begins with a great creative energy that is carried through to install, and this is because I work with clients who hold similar values to me, so it is always a pleasant meeting of the mind and soul. During the creative process, my attention is across all elements that comprise the spaces I design, but I love those penny-drop moments when I come across something difficult to source or when a custom design comes to life. The most rewarding part of a project overall is when I have been able to enhance my clients’ lives and see them become discerning with their own creativity.

What was your brief for the Elizabeth Bay project?

I was tasked with balancing classicism and modernity with a tranquil and calming palette. It was important to create a space in which my clients would be able to express their own style. It needed to be a peaceful retreat that wasn’t overly decorative and visually stimulative, but rather an emotive experience. Also, being [located on the] waterfront, the design needed to be harmonious with nature, which plays its own contributing role.

In what ways did the history of the neighborhood inform your vision?

One of my favorite outlooks, although hard to compete with the mesmerizing bay, is the neighboring building with Spanish colonial terracotta tiling. Drawing from the outside inward, incorporating Spanish influence internally felt seamless and sympathetic to the location.

The residence receives the most beautiful natural light. What are some of the ways you harnessed that in planning the design?

The palette and materials play a significant part in enhancing the natural light of this building. Travertine stone offered softness and warmth, along with tactile surfaces and neutral textiles which allowed the light to pool in without obstruction or absorption.

What were the lifestyle needs of your clients, and how did they shape the finished product?

My clients are highly creative that know and place value in good design and authenticity. For them, being surrounded by pieces that reflect this was important. Creating a home that was able to have the duality of both a calming retreat and environment that is invigorated when welcoming guests was paramount.

It is a sensory experience in this home, where they have all aspects of scent and sound covered. This comprised of an area for their record player to feature, their impressive book collection displayed throughout and serene settings for daily rituals. The interiors only enhance this atmospheric way of living that is unique to their creative lives. 

"Timeless design that possesses meaning is my north star."

We’re honored that our Agra rug made its way into the main living area. What considerations are front of mind for you when selecting a rug to work back with a room?

The Agra rug anchored the main living room and was perfect for the space, adhering to the brief of tranquillity, calmness and tonal comfort. Sectioning off this area was also considered in using this rug, as the space spanned across a large, long area that required a resolved solution in layout. Also, the tonal nature of the Haze color in the Agra range kept the space open and wide.

The home feels so bespoke, curated with vintage objects sourced from your travels near and far. What are some of your favorite pieces?

It is hard to single out pieces although they could all stand alone. I love the combination of the 18th century Spanish table with distinctive patina, Marcel Breuer Cesca chairs designed in 1928 and Carlo Scarpa’s travertine table from the 1970’s.

You also have a keen eye for fine art – how do know when a particular work will enhance an interior? What do you look for?

I tend to view all aspects of an interior artistically. I particularly bring art expression through furnishings so that the investment also forms as function. Art is very subjective, but I approach it the same as anything that I bring into my designs – and that is quality, emotion and the ability to hold its endless value. And, of course, my clients need to connect with it.

As much as I like to view highly stimulating art pieces, these can often make spaces feel unnecessarily cluttered and chaotic and I am sensitive toward living with this. The art I select complements my designs and are chosen to offer visual interest and enjoyment with continuity and a sense of calm.

Finally, interiors or otherwise, what has been inspiring you lately?

I recently created a side table that takes its inspiration from European artisans – Alberto Giacometti has forever inspired me with his honest and moody masculinity. In honor of iron makers from the 1920’s, the table is made from solid iron and hammered over numerous hours by hand. It is an ode to the craftsmanship of that era, and I hope it brings a sense of raw, intentional beauty to any environment. Exploring craft and its history continues to be enlightening, and creating a piece of furniture derived by these crafts has been extremely rewarding and inspiring.