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Ohana - Design Process

“Creating a family home is one of the most personal and challenging tasks any homeowner can undertake. An opportunity to start from scratch offers a blank canvas to include everything a growing family could ever ask for. Located on Sydney’s North Shore, this residence is a glowing capsule of warmth, style and relaxation. Originally a tiny 1940s home perched on a generous 2000sqm block, the homeowner’s parents decided to  subdivide the land into two blocks for each of their children. Keeping it in the family, the client’s sister, Catherine Whitting, was responsible for the interior design of the home, working with architect Gareth Cole from The Ecologie Group. For homeowners Malcolm and Belinda and their three children, it was important the home reflected the family’s ethos and was also environmentally friendly. “We wanted a home that would have a low impact on the environment so we looked for an architect who could design a house which maximised passive heating and cooling, was energy efficient, and used environmentally responsible materials,” says Malcolm.

The brief also revolved around creating personalised interiors complete with bespoke paintings by Catherine, which create a personalised atmosphere.” Annabelle Cloros  Grand Designs Australia Magazine


OHANA means family ... and family means no one gets left behind

Set in the leafy suburb of Pymble, the brief for this home, with personalised signature interiors and original bespoke paintings by Catherine Whitting, architecturally designed by The Ecologie Group, was to reflect the lifestyle of a young family in creating a place of nurturing for entertainment and escape. A monochromatic Resene palette was embraced throughout the interior and exterior of the home, providing a gallery inspired scheme that enabled the family’s international art and graphic collection to take centre stage.  The interiors celebrate bold graphic references to vintage animation and a love of sustainable timbers and stone. The clients worked with Catherine Whitting while sourcing sustainable materials and products on their travels for the interior design of their home. The configuration of the three dramatic pendant lights in the entrance casts the graphic silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s profile on the heated concrete floor below when illuminated – a secret styling device only known to the owners and their close friends!

In its suburban context, the design intention was for a contemporary home that optimises the site development with a simple geometric layout. Land typography permitted the integration of a sub-floor garage and a 20,000L water harvesting tank that lies hidden within the underground basement, as well as the inclusion of a linear swimming pool. The living area flows north onto an open deck and pool area. The kitchen overlooks the dining area and establishes visual linkages within the open-plan layout and extends out to the linear pool to the north.

Each element of the house reveals an architectural purpose and story that transcends the built form of a house to being a family home. From the intricate and emotional details embodied in the personal spaces of the bedroom and bathrooms, to the fusion of communal open spaces linked between indoor and outdoor, the home reveals the persona of a family as their own place for nurturing, entertainment and escape. The inspiration for the achromatic interior colour palette came from the family’s love of classical music, with their three children that play piano, double bass and trumpet at orchestral level. The baby grand piano is the central heart of the home, and the ebony and ivory palette hence permeated through the interiors allowing colourful decorative elements of pendant lighting, graphic textiles and recycled timber to bounce off the walls like music!

The Resene paints internal and external tonal scheme consists of Resene Alabaster, a near white with a light blackened edge, used on all doors, woodwork and ceilings throughout this architect designed interior, thus creating a gallery style interior to hang commissioned artworks, photography and graphics on.

To create a sense of depth and solidity to the interior Whitting embraced the near black Resene Charcoal on dominant interior walls and external features. This strong black and white palette was essential in celebrating the natural timbers and stone, that are featured throughout the home to create a lightness of being and a deep intimacy in the interior.

The interior celebrates bold graphic references to vintage animation and a love of timbers and stones,” says Catherine. “Each element of the house reveals an architectural purpose and story that transcends the built form of a house into a family home”. The home owners flew to Indonesia to source materials, finishes and furniture under the guidance of Catherine. Returning with a container bursting with wall cladding, timber beams, tiles, pavers, furniture and decorative items, Malcolm and Belinda were able to create a signature style with the creation and decoration of their new home. Inspired by the family themselves, Catherine created a visual palette and mood board to steer the design solutions.



Architect: Gareth Cole – The Ecologie Group
Interior Designer and Coordinator: Catherine Whitting and Gordon Albany
Interior Styling and editorials: Kate St James
Builder: E con group
Photography: Marian Riabic

2014 – 2016.




  • Malcolm and Belinda


    Inspired by the family themselves, Catherine created a visual client profile and mood board to determine the interior’s palette.

    We gave Catherine a list of things we loved and asked her to integrate them into our home…our thoughts and wishes were translated into tangential objects and designs that were beautiful and practical.” says Malcolm. A monochromatic palette was utilised throughout the interior and exterior of the home providing the opportunity to showcase the family’s art collection and reference their passion for classical music. The interior celebrates bold graphic references to vintage animation and a love of timber and stone. This home is a mirror image of the family of five who dwell within its walls , combining style and personalisation, the residence is full of life and character. “It is uniquely us!” says Malcolm. “Everything was designed to reflect us as a family”.

    ( Understanding OHANA for this project came particularly easily as Catherine is Malcom’s sister!)



Ohana - Awards

OHANA was entered in the 2016 Resene colour awards and is featured online in the awards gallery