woman sitting on stpes

When Shona McElroy of SMAC Studio first met her client, Daniel Krimotat, a developer of luxury residential properties in Sydney, Australia, she was barely out of interior design school. Her mother (also a designer) was the one who thought to introduce McElroy to Krimotat’s parents, who were looking to garner advice for their son’s budding business. “At the time, my mom’s price point was too high for [Krimotat], so she recommended my services for a much reduced fee!” says McElroy with a laugh. “At 23 and with only one project under my belt, it was probably a bit of a risky decision, but we worked together perfectly and then quickly went on to complete a second development together.”

floor plan

Mirror Image, the pair’s third project (with three more in the pipeline), is their most personal collaboration yet: It’s Krimotat and his wife Cassie’s own home. The couple, who had two young children, Teddy (3) and Oscar (2), at the outset of the renovation and have since welcomed 4-month-old Willa to the fold, wanted a space that would support their busy lifestyle and love of entertaining. “We always have family, friends, and many children coming and going from our house,” explains Krimotat. “We also love to travel and wanted our home to be stylish and sophisticated.” 

living room with white sofa
Sofa, King Living; Lamp, Aerin via Bloomingdale’s; Art, Anya Pesche via M Contemporary.
art at top of stairs
Art, Paul Snell via Studio Gallery Group.

Even though the property is a new build (it’s one part of a duplex, with the other side belonging to Krimotat’s brother and his family), he wanted it to feel like “something straight out of a magazine” rather than your average cookie-cutter development project. “Cassie’s brief was to make sure it was somewhat of a functional family home,” says McElroy with a laugh, “but they both shared the desire for a strong indoor-outdoor flow and to infuse the interiors with a rich array of materials.”


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marble staircase

One wish-list item was a defined entryway with a curved staircase, made possible by SMAC Studio’s impressive spatial gymnastics. “I feel strongly that a staircase should be treated as its own space and sculptural element, rather than being thrust somewhere because it fits,” say McElroy. She worked closely with the architect (a perk of having been brought in on the project during the building phase) and borrowed square footage from the foyer and powder room, and then still managed to fit the latter neatly underneath the winding steps. Now the structure clearly defines the public and private spaces of the house, while also hugging the Christopher Boots light fixture, “which is more of an art piece really,” adds the designer. 

marble blue bathroom

Not wanting the powder room to seem like an afterthought due to its tapered ceiling, McElroy exaggerated the space’s curvature to make it feel intentionally cavernous. For additional impact, the team chose a bold teal Venetian plaster finish for all the walls; Elba marble for the floor; and Verde Antigua marble for the skirting, which mirrors the height of the trim throughout the house. “The mirror was hotly debated,” says McElroy. The sloped ceiling meant it couldn’t be full height, so she honed in on its playful nature with two semicircular pieces that create the illusion of one continuous shape. The pink Petra sconce, also by Christopher Boots, forms the perfect contrast to the all-teal bathroom, casting a truly stunning glow through the natural quartz.

modern wood dining table
Lamp, Gervasoni; Dining Table, Fanuli; Dining Chairs, Tom Dixon; Curtains, James Dunlop.

Bringing in tons of natural light was also key to achieving that luxe feel. McElroy took cues from her local suburb of Paddington, where traditional terraces open onto the side yards, allowing much more sunshine and air to filter into otherwise dark spaces. “Through the creation of larger doorways and windows and the manipulation of inconspicuous mirrors throughout, the home feels much larger than it actually is,” she explains. Example A: the kitchen. The tall, Shaker-style pantry cabinets are lined with inset reflective glass, bringing the views of the garden outside in.

wood cabinets
blue art in dining room
Art, Rick Carlino via M Contemporary.

The large overhanging island, made out of polished Esmeralda marble, is the true centerpiece, turning any plate of food on its surface into an Instagrammable moment. The solid burnished-brass vent hood and crown-cut, dyed American oak cupboards also pull double duty as jewelry for the room. When the windows to the outdoors are cracked open, the Gervasoni brass pendant lamp over the dining table ripples in the breeze (the Tom Dixon Fat chairs are the perfect place to sit and soak it all in).


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indor-outoor living room
Curtains, James Dunlop; Side Table, &Tradition; Rug, The Rug Establishment.
bronze tv surround
Cushions, Custom Design by Shona McElroy; Velvet by Rubelli via South Pacific Fabrics.

Wanting the living room to feel plush and special but also be able to accommodate numerous guests, the team added a custom marble bench topped with burgundy cushions to either side of the bronze-clad TV unit. For nights when the adults want a little break from the kids, there’s a pair of glass doors nearby with a playroom on the other side that they can shut for privacy (without compromising supervision). Everyone is happier that way: The children have decided they’re not allowed to touch anything in the living room—a self-imposed rule their parents secretly love! “They only use the ‘green front room’ for their toys and playing, ensuring that guests follow the same rules,” says Krimotat, laughing. That’s one way to keep your house looking like it belongs in the pages of a magazine.

mirror bathrom vanity
Faucet, Astrawalker.

The Goods

Go-to local vintage shop: Emoderno. The market is quite a scene at the moment, so I love the down-to-earth, authentic, and helpful feel of its owner, Vlad.

Favorite local home store: Dinosaur Designs is a no-brainer. This is a shop in Paddington that is so easy to drop into when you need a last-minute birthday, housewarming, client—whatever!—gift.

Where I buy decor online: I have a shameful addiction to online shopping, so I always browse the MatchesFashion.com and Net-a-Porter home sections. My partner just got me the entire set of Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage table settings, and anything Helle Mardahl is on my ever-growing wish list.

Who to Know

I loved working with: My client, Daniel, partnered with Airth Building, a company that is so experienced. Its projects run on time, which is unusual in this industry.

The nicest contractor I’ve ever met: Michael Foley does the best bespoke furniture and is also the kindest, most helpful guy. 

Genius landscaper: For this project, we engaged Naomi Barin from Dangar-Barin-Smith.

Other highly recommended craftspeople: Tilly from Est Lighting is my go-to girl, along with Christopher Boots and Lost Profile Studio (both lighting artisans from Melbourne) and Nicky from South Pacific Fabrics. I can find putting together multiple fabrics overwhelming, and she is so good at it that we often workshop things together.