How do you transform a grand historic house into a youthful contemporary family home without diminishing the grandeur of its architectural heritage? This was the challenge faced by Claire Driscoll Delmar, creative director of Australian interior design practice Studio CD, when she was approached by a young family who wanted to transform a five-bedroom Victorian-era Italianate mansion in Sydney into “an expressive city home” that reflected their passion for art, travel and fashion. Given a completely blank canvas to work with, Claire has boldly complemented the house’s period features with contemporary furniture, sculptural lighting, textured fabrics, playful wallpapers and bursts of colour, as well as the clients’ playful art collection of paintings, photographs and sculpture wherefrom the project, Art House, takes its name.

Built at the end of the 19th century in Woollahra, one of Sydney Australia’s inner city suburbs, the two-storey house contained a treasure trove of beautiful period features that were meticulously restored. From the formal wainscoting and parquet flooring, to the ornate ceiling cornices and roses, to the sculpted marble mantelpieces and the arched openings, the refurbished décor not only speaks of the building’s history but also reflects the clients’ love of European architecture.

Swathed in a muted palette of white, and light and dark greys, the refurbished building fabric was transformed into an austere canvas upon which the designer has unleased her creativity by adding playful touches of vibrant colour, sumptuous textures and playful forms that imbue the spaces with a sense of whimsy as much as elegance.

A series of bespoke furniture by Sydney designer Jonathan West, such as the hallway sideboard, kitchen stools, and bedroom headboard and bedside tables, are interweaved with contemporary and modernist pieces, and a selection of artworks that “bring a sense of fun and lightness to the house”, as Claire says, softening its masculine grandeur.

Every room has been meticulously curated, harmoniously balancing old with new features, muted tones with colourful accents and polished surfaces with soft textures, as part of an interplay between the masculine and the feminine psyche. The result is a house of exemplary refinement and youthful spirit that is simultaneously calming and inspiring.