This story appeared on Houzz, 30 August 2016
Who lives here: Heidi Mortlock, writer and founder of Adrift
Location: Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, NSW
Size: 42 square metres; 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom
In such a sought-after location as Sydney suburb, Elizabeth Bay, space is a commodity. But thanks to a clever renovation by the owners, and renter Heidi Mortlock’s request to have the whole space painted fresh white to cover up the garish rainbow-striped cupboards lining the living room, this compact one-bedroom apartment now feels anything but small.
Mortlock returned home to Sydney in September 2015, after spending five years travelling across London, San Francisco and Amsterdam. The well-travelled writer was determined to find a place she could set down roots, and with a few small tweaks this bayside rental apartment turned out to be just the right fit.
“This area has made me feel at home again in Sydney,” says Mortlock of her new home in Elizabeth Bay. “I love wandering around the Potts Point Farmers Market, the quaint little coffee shops, the beautiful parks and of course being so close to the water.”
Before the apartment was put up for rent, both the bathroom and the kitchen were updated to give the whole space a fresher, more modern aesthetic. But while Mortlock loved the local area, this apartment wasn’t as instantly appealing as its surrounds. This was mostly thanks to its colour scheme.
“Each panel [was] a different colour of pink, light grey, dark grey and various shades of blue,” she says. “People were walking in and walking straight back out again, but I knew it had good bones.” After requesting that the owners have the whole place painted white, it looked exactly as she had hoped.
One wall of the living room is storage, housing books, clothing and even a hidden TV, while the other is lined with floor-to-ceiling mirrors. As the main living space faces north, the mirrors help to reflect natural light into the bedroom and kitchen.
Mortlock bought the goat-hair throw on the end of the couch in Iceland earlier this year; the cushion she found in Amsterdam.
Mortlock’s apartment is filled with interesting knick-knacks, ornaments and pieces of furniture, each with a story from her travels. “It’s filled with bits and pieces I have collected over the last five years of travels, plus some additions I picked up here in Australia,” she says. “The key for me is being surrounded by all the things I love, things that make me happy and stimulate me.”
Another example of her worldly collections is the 200-year-old decanter she found in Bruges in Belgium that sits on her windowsill in the living room. Next to this are her calligraphy brushes that she started collecting 10 years ago in Australia.
“The windowsill is one of my favourite spots in the house, so I’ve made it a feature space,” says Mortlock. It’s filled with books from France and South Africa, small ceramic Dutch houses and vases from Portobello Road in London.
From the living room you can see straight across Rushcutters Bay into Sydney Harbour.
“There’s a Dutch word, ‘gezellig’ which doesn’t translate literally in English, but basically includes everything from cosy to friendly, to general togetherness or time spent with loved ones,” says Mortlock. “From the moment I heard this word, it’s been something I’ve tried to evoke in my homes. With this apartment, there wasn’t a specific decorating style I had in mind, but rather this feeling I wanted to have each time I walked through the door.”
When guests walk through the door, they are greeted by the galley-style kitchen. The well-designed cabinets line one wall to block noise from neighbouring apartments. Stainless steel benchtops have been installed to give a modern industrial look that complements the older style of the building, while the timber floorboards are original and run throughout the home.
Two of Mortlock’s favourite items were found in an op-shop in San Francisco. The big white wood mirror on the right and the oversized copper bowl, which houses her ever-growing collection of travel and home magazines, and which she’s shipped around the globe with her.
The small study, bathed in sunlight opens from the living area, adding extra space to the otherwise compact apartment.
For someone who loves to write, this space was a huge drawcard for Mortlock when she first saw the apartment. Enveloped by windows looking onto the water, she can work watching boats floating by down below.
“Of an evening, I love being home as the sun goes down; this is often when I try to do some work on my website as I watch the clouds turn pink above the bobbing boats,” says Mortlock.
At the other end of the living room is the bedroom, which can be closed off from the living area by bi-fold doors. However, Mortlock usually keeps these open, to create a feeling of more space. “I rarely wake to an alarm these days, because each morning I am woken by the sun coming up and shining its rays through my living room window – the light reflects through my living room and into my bedroom,” she says.
With limited storage in her bedroom, Mortlock has created a display area using an old ladder to hang her magazines and bags from.
Keeping flowers in her home is another vital part of decorating for Mortlock. “Although they only last a week, fresh flowers are an investment in my daily pleasure and you’ll always find them in my home,” she says. “I love my weekend ritual of getting a coffee and wandering up to my local florist to arrange my flowers for the week.”
The bathroom, which leads off the bedroom, is surprisingly large for the size of the apartment. A built-in shelf and cabinet are again smart storage solutions for this small space.
It may be small in size, but the far-reaching views and an abundance of well-loved items make this apartment feel spacious and cosy. “The first thing every girlfriend I’ve had over for a wine or cup of tea has said is, ‘This space is so you’, which is exactly what I wanted,” Mortlock says.