Sibella Court, the Sydney-based author, interior stylist and new mother lends her creative projects a distinctly warm, personal touch. Here, a look behind the scenes at her anything-goes workspace along with her latest endeavour, the opening of a delightfully charming one-bedroom check-in.
Photographed by Hugh Stewart
Interview by Natasha Inchley
What ignited your love of design?
I grew up in a family that was very much inspired by the arts. My Mum used to take us to the theatre from a very early age and I was always given subscriptions to the Sydney Theatre Company for Christmas. We were surrounded by books, which in turn influenced the crafts projects we did at home. On the flipside, my Dad is a builder and is very passionate about things like old bricks and chimney pots and this made us appreciate all the fine details. Both my parents really embraced my creative notions from an early age – if I wanted to do carpentry or painting they would sign me up to classes, and so the passion grew.
You have such a distinct aesthetic, how would you describe your look?
As a stylist, I think you can be quite the chameleon – whether minimalist or eclectic – depending on the mood or the brief. I think my personal stamp, however, is that my styling props are very thoughtful and considered, they’re collections gathered together with meaning. When working with a client, I tend to take a lot of my own collections to the space, be it a bar or home interior – at Mr Wong restaurant, for example, there is a painting of camellias behind the bar that my grandmother did, and downstairs is a huge curtain that I sourced from the Andes in Ecuador. Regardless of what the theme is, I like to really focus on the personal touch.
How did your own brand, The Society Inc., come about?
When I lived in New York, I used to walk around Gramercy Park and take in all the old clubs in the area. At night, you could see people gathered around in these welcoming rooms inside grand brownstones and terraces, and I loved the old-school notion of it all. I’m also very inspired by the 1850s, when London hosted a huge exhibition in a crystal palace and people came from all over the world to show off their wares.
What is your secret to creating a warm yet compelling space?
It’s all about the importance of what you surround yourself with, both new and old. It’s a balance between the found and the man-made, and hard and soft textiles – something natural such as fresh flowers, or shells and stones will always soften an environment.
And what about your signature palette – for our Country Road story, you selected grey and camel tones:
I only ever wear neutrals; it comes from working on big interior sets and spaces and not wanting to stand out in the environment I was creating. My philosophy, though, is that everyone has his or her own personal palette. I often advise a client to look closely at all their favourite things – from a favourite dress to a ring they might have bought for a party, an invitation or bed linen – and a colour palette will always be revealed, it works every time. In my own home, even though I only dress in neutrals, I’m attracted to colours in washed out tones such as mossy greens and dusty blues.
Your new one-bedroom terrace hotel located in Paddington is an insider delight:
I travel extensively and I’m always on the hunt for interesting places to stay. I love luxury as much as the next person, but I also don't like generic. I prefer somewhere that is a little offbeat and personal. I was very emotionally attached to my old building in Paddington and when I opened the new store I wasn't ready to let it go, so I had the idea of a one-bedroom hotel where guests could experience all the things that I love about this particular pocket in Sydney. It’s a sensory experience, all about immersing yourself in the environment.
As a new mum to baby Silver, how do you strike a balance between work and family?
I think of it as having two babies. I love my job and have never had to think about work-life balance because one informs the other; there are huge overlaps between my job and my interests. I’ve also never been a late-night worker, I’m very efficient at getting things done between 9am and 6pm. I don't go home and work on my computer, I switch off and I’m there for my family.
And finally, what would be your ultimate indulgence right now?
I’ve just been invited to stay at Satellite Island in Tasmania for three days and I’ve no doubt that will be incredible because it’s a quiet, remote place and therefore all about relaxing and doing nothing as opposed to scouting. Now I just have to find the time to escape there.