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Statement stairs twist through Luigi Rosselli’s 1920s villa renovation in Sydney

Stepping inside this house renovation by Luigi Rosselli Architects in Sydney is a bit like a time-travel forwards. While the architects preserved the 1920s house, worthy of a Great Gatsby style party with its charming classical facade and surrounding garden, inside there is a clear departure to 21st-century elegance with an impressive new staircase, and materials including brass metalwork and bronze finishes.

While the house – which sits pretty beneath the canopy of a 100-year-old Pepper tree at the summit of Bellevue Hill, Sydney’s very own West Egg – wasn’t listed, the architects were aware of its architectural contribution and wanted to tread carefully with the renovation. The villa belongs to a movement of Mediterranean-inspired classicist villas that were designed in the 1920s in rebellion to the functionalist, modern movement sweeping Europe.

Architect Luigi Rosselli observed the merits of the property’s grand loggia and portico, its fireplaces and large rooms, yet there were some enhancements necessary for contemporary living. He opened up the plan to create more flow through the rooms, and added a new basement garage, an attic room and a swimming pool. Existing timber framed windows were replaced with larger steel framed windows that open up wider views of the garden (newly designed by landscape architect Myles Baldwin).

A new statement staircase marks the ‘rebirth’ of the house – the architects describe it as a ‘suspended sculptural ribbon’ that twists through the villa’s heart. Entirely detached from the stairwell, the staircase was an element that delighted the clients with its technical and artistic feat, so much so that Rosselli had to demonstrate its strength by jumping up and down on the treads.

Interior designer Romaine Alwill was behind the architectural finishes inside that confirm the new design’s signature elegance, complementing the existing classicism. Dense, heavy and rich materials such as stucco lucido (polished plaster), brass metalwork, solid timber panelling, resin-based wall claddings and bronze finishes on the cabinets create the same sense of refinement that the original villa exuded. §

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