In Use - Project

Turakina – A historical home in Sydney


Catherine Martin by Mokum

The home of Sarah Tilley, the Creative Director of Mi Designer, is a true piece of local Greenwich history. Built in 1904, this Federation home boasts the spaciousness and intricate detailing of this post-war era architecture. Lovingly restored with an extensive addition completed in 2018, Sarah and her family are only the third owners of this rare piece of architecture.

“La Palma, colour Gilver that hit the brief for the entryway”

The home is said to be named after the SS Turakina, a cargo steam ship that travelled regularly between ports in New Zealand and Britain via Sydney. As the story goes, the captain would signal his wife with a series of horn blows, she’d climb to the look-out up in the roof line with binoculars and wave to her husband who had been at sea for months. The SS Turakina was destroyed by a German Submarine in the WWII.

Vital to Sarah’s renovation was to retain the beautiful features. “We feel like the custodians of the house now” says Sarah, who has been passed down the history of the home from the previous owners, including letters, articles and treasured artefacts, which will be passed on to future owners. 

The brief Sarah set herself was to create a dream family home where the interior flows out onto large outdoor spaces.  Having the flexibility to entertain smaller gatherings right up to parties for a hundred was a key feature, as the previous layout had no outdoor space at all.

As a lover of Federation style homes, Sarah wanted to showcase the ornate plaster work and handmade craftsmanship of the features in desperate need of repair. An avid enthusiast of wallpapers, pattern and textured fabrics, Sarah wanted to keep the layering alive through this combination of design elements. “It needed to speak of a period home with a contemporary twist” says Sarah.

In particular, the grand entryway which was has been cleverly redesigned, turning what was the kitchen and lean-to pantry into an elegant front entrance.  This impressive gateway to the home sets the tone for the remainder of the interiors.

It was Catherine Martin for Mokum’s La Palma, colour Gilver that hit the brief for the entryway.  It had the right colour palette while also tying in perfectly with the blues that can be seen in the adjacent room.  

When asked why Sarah chose this particular Mokum wallpaper she said, “I love the trailing effect of the pattern and I’m very particular about not having a striped effect when looking at the wallpaper.  The branches weave across the roll so you can’t see the pattern repeat, it’s designed beautifully.”   

Growing up three hours south of Darwin, in the town of Katherine, the tropical elements of the wallpaper spoke to her heritage and to the bananas reminded her of the wild “lady finger” bananas she and her siblings would eat off the trees that grew free-range in their garden.   “And we are a bit bananas in our house!” she says, so it totally suited.  “And it’s fun.  When I saw it, that was it.  It said everything I needed it to say.”  

Sarah is a lover of fabric and pattern, her home required easy to care for interiors, while her inner designer needed luxurious finishings.  She has achieved both to striking effect.

Interior Design and finishes – Sarah Tilley Mi Designer
Architect – Patricia Sissons – Sissons Architects
Buider – Neil Jones – Bluestone Homes
Photographer – Tim Connoly

An article about the Turakina can be read here


Catherine Martin by Mokum