Published on September 29, 2018

For 25 years Sibella Court has been wowing the world with her bespoke interiors, lively hotels, and clever, carefree approach to both life and work. Her Sydney-based studio, The Society, bears a sign that reads “F*ck Everything, Become a Pirate,” which has become a mantra for the free-spirited freelancer. A decade ago she launched her first set of hardware in collaboration with Anthropologie, and now she’s kicking off a second independent line of industrial pieces, including anchor door knockers, shield hooks, and haberdashery scissors.

The debut coincides with her new book, Imaginarium, which Court calls “a journey through my image library of objects, travel, color, and interiors.” Add to that a few hospitality projects, her own home remodel, and a surprise wedding to her now-husband, Ben Harper (who runs operations at The Society), and one could say that Court is enjoying her next chapter of success.

Often calling herself the  “captain” of her brand, Court wears that hat with refreshing irreverence, from her nods to the pirate life to the much-loved “Press for Champagne” doorbell at her Hotel Palisades. Nearly every one of her designs features a curiosity cabinet of objects for people to hold, admire, and marvel at. But while the entrepreneur may be known for her relaxed bohemian spirit and dresses in casual neutrals, she pushed herself to be bolder when remodeling the 1,300-square-foot Art Deco apartment she shares with Harper and their 4-year-old daughter, Silver.

“I get very excited about how attracted people are to the same shades over and over again. It informs their fashion, accessories, car, even hair, but then the default is so often white when it comes to their homes,” says Court, adding that she always encourages her clients to create a beautiful backdrop. “I decided to take my own advice and use color in every room with a no-white-wall policy.”

Pulling from her line of house paints, Court came up with a “subtle but stormy palette.” She chose 10 hues for the entire apartment and stuck to them down to the accessories, a trick she swears works in any combination. Moody, sea-inspired shades of green, blue, and soft gray play off the nearby coast—such as the rich teal sofa in the master bedroom, a “perfect tone to lift the mood.” The distinctive indigo in the kitchen highlights her must-have “humble materials” of zinc, brass, rope, leather, and cane, all of which patina nicely over time.

The room became a lab for trying out Court’s new hardware, from drawer pulls to hanging shelves to a custom-made knife rack by blacksmith Saul Tomkins of Coloforge (which is for sale online as of September). A marble island with stamped iron legs and a fixed brass dome lamp she commissioned from California lighting designer Hilary Nagler of Flea Market RX are more examples of her commitment to promoting what she hopes is the resurgence of old trades. (Her father, a master builder, passed on his deep appreciation for brickwork and steadfast materials.)

For the patio, Court hired a scenic painter to reimagine the black-and-white tiles at 10 Corso Como in Milan as a graphic statement wall. “Pattern,” she says, “can reflect how you use a space”—and the lively terrace is where most of the entertaining happens. Fortunately, it’s outfitted with a bar and fluted, shallow stoneware sink from Tasmania, the perfect spot for mixing drinks or cutting fresh flowers, which she gets at the market every Saturday.

Sinks, Court admits, are her greatest weakness. Months back, when Harper told her to go buy a dress for his birthday party (which was actually a surprise proposal–turned–on-the-spot wedding), she returned with a 19th-century marble sink that she’s currently keeping in hiding, vowing it will dictate the look and feel of their next home.

“A colorful house can be subtle, calming, and a beautiful backdrop to layer with your life’s souvenirs,” says Court, who adds character to her apartment with storied collections.

As for now, Court is content to highlight more found and favorite objects, further infusing the space with personality. The hallway alone is a medley of thoughtfully displayed souvenirs, including a Chinese bench, dip-dyed paper lantern, Japanese pilgrim jacket, nautical rope, and Moroccan rug. Somehow, the pieces come together seamlessly. Whether a repurposed flag for a bed covering or artwork casually clipped up on silk cord rather than framed, Court’s interiors leave her guests with a sense of wonder and delight. “There should always be a concept of play,” says the designer. And from her well-loved imaginarium of a home, she has achieved just that.

From the Pages of Imaginarium

A peek inside Sibella Court’s newly released book.

“I first imagine the spaces I work with based on my experiences and memories—the colors, scents, and ideas I have gathered. I collect them like objects. They all become my life library, which I draw on for inspiration to dream up the interiors and products I design. This alchemy is part history, part reality, and a whole lot of make-believe. At my design studio and store, which is housed in a warehouse from the early 1900s, overflowing arched bookshelves tickle the ceiling alongside labeled and numbered drawers that were once shop-fitting pieces. Art lines the walls, and the desks are old dressmakers’ tables. The studio encapsulates the timeless essence of a cabinet of curiosities—encouraging you to pick up the things that brim from the many shelves and boxes. Imaginarium is an actual place, as well as a place in my imagination.”

Photography by Anson Smart Text by Jennifer Blaise Kramer

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Domino, titled “Curated & Carefree.”

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