After years of apartment living overseas, Koala product designers Alexandra Owen and James Whitta were seeking a well-designed apartment to settle in Sydney. They came across a medium-density development in Alexandria in 2021 that was nearing completion, and quickly scooped up one of the remaining residences.
‘There are so many compromised and poorly put together apartment complexes in Sydney, and this build is definitely an antidote to the soulless high-rise trend,’ says Alexandra. ‘After living in Europe, we really love apartment living and learned that you can happily exist in these spaces if they are well designed with humans in mind.’
The building contains 18 apartments, and was designed by SJB to offer attention to detail, indoor-outdoor living, and generous proportions. ‘I like to say they are house-like sizes that celebrate apartment living—showing you don’t need a giant piece of land to live spaciously with a great outdoor area,’ says Alexandra.
Full-height doors disappear into the wall cavity to reveal the outdoor space off the living room, with terrazzo floors underneath that seamlessly extend from the interiors.
Alexandra and James put their own stamp on the apartment by painting the living spaces in Porter’s Paint Rubble, and the main bedroom in Porter’s Paints Frozen, which mirror the apartment’s statement marble accents. In addition to the kitchen island bench and bathroom vanity, this marble features in a small nook area where Alexandra starts each morning. ‘With fluted glass and natural light, it’s the perfect place to get ready in the morning while having a coffee,’ she says.
The couple’s furniture and decor has been sourced from all over the world—from Denmark, to Poland, France, and China—to reflect the various stages of their working and personal lives. An Ikea ‘Randig Banana’ print (designed in the ‘80s by Alexandra’s former mentor) reminds the pair of their time working for Ikea in Sweden; pieces by New Zealand artists reference their heritage; the Akari Noguchi lamps were purchased from the original showroom in Tokyo while travelling; and the couple’s first Koala designs—the Getaway Sofa and the Shear Bliss Rug— are proudly on display. These latter pieces represent the deliberately ‘Australian’ aesthetic and approach the pair have worked to establish at Koala over the past two years.
Alexandra explains, ‘We were always frustrated in the past working for Australian companies that revered European/international culture more than our own. A decade ago, Australians were a little embarrassed of their culture and design, and I could never understand why no one would embrace how beautiful Australia’s landscape, lifestyle and people were.’
Both at work and home, Alexandra and James have embraced Australia’s uniqueness in their selection of colours, materials and finishes. ‘This has definitely shown up in our apartment with the Australian palette: sun-kissed tones, earthy naturals, and bright colour pops,’ says Alexandra.
Altogether, the apartment is a sophisticated, personalised home in the heart of Alexandria. ‘I love sitting on the sofa in the living room with the doors open and music on,’ James says. ‘It is definitely my happy place.’