Life & Style
Newcastle

House Proud

An education in design, inside the McGrath's home

Everywhere you look, there are odes to the love Kip and Lillie share. From the oil painting of Dudley Beach; to the hand-painted bedhead and picture frames that Kip painted in Lillie’s favourite shade of red. - Julie Kosy

Commanding what could quite possibly be the best view in Newcastle, the penthouse apartment of Kip McGrath and his wife, Lillie is a tribute to their love of art and of each other.

When Lillie moved from Drummoyne to Newcastle six years ago to live with her new husband, she was eager to add her creative touch to what had already been Kip’s home for ten years. Lillie’s style and creativity were evident from the moment she opened the front door with her infectious enthusiasm and pride in her new home.

Upon entering the apartment into a foyer that Kip has added a striking, geometric splash of gold onto the facing wall, the first thing you notice is the art, and in particular, the sculptures. Lillie’s favourite piece takes pride of place – an original Salvador Dali bronze sculpture called ‘Space Venus’ bought for her by Kip during a trip away in Sydney.

Lillie, what was the apartment like when you moved here?

It was colourful and I felt it was all a distraction from these wonderful views. I wanted neutral tones”

“Kip and I both have the same taste in art and we love to collect so we needed the views and the art to be the heroes.

What changes have you made?

“We had the place repainted in white throughout. It took seven painters seven days to paint because there is so much woodwork. There were 370 door knobs that we replaced! The originals were brass and I wanted silver to complement the new all white interior."

The penthouse apartment was fitted out by the developer of the Kingston Apartments with the intention to live in it himself. The cabinetry, parquetry flooring, and marble bathrooms ooze opulence and then there are the unexpected surprises. For example, the ingenious skylight in the kitchen and the different ceiling treatments in each and every room.

At the southern end of the apartment is the guest wing, featuring a bedroom with one-off paintings by Kip and Lillie themselves, and a striking ‘Jojo’ feature double seater love seat. At first sight, the chair looks to be made of wood, but in fact, it’s made from metal that the artist uses high water pressure and heat to mould into shape.

Lillie spent eight years importing modern high-end decorator items from around the world including the striking Jojo’s furniture and decorator pieces from Israel and sold them to retailers such as David Jones and Harvey Norman as well as other retailers. Other Jojo pieces are featured throughout the home, including several large scale metal vases and a ‘King’ chair in the master bedroom.

Much of Lillie’s design inspiration for the apartment’s refurbishment comes from the Jojo designs.

The walls are adorned with art and each and every painting has a story behind it. Many pieces come from their travels around Australia, Malaysia, China, Spain, Europe and South America. Kip and Lillie find interesting pieces to bring back as memories of their adventures to add to their decorator and art collection.

Kip, do you have a favourite artwork?

“Well, there are a few. Lillie bought me two black and white paintings from the Robyn Nolan Gallery in Katoomba which I absolutely love. I have a painting in my office from Malaysia which is also one of my favourites. It’s semi-abstract and uses a palette of bold colours that I’m drawn to. Perhaps my favourite piece though, is a Chinese silk tapestry in our bar room. It isn’t until you look at it closely that you realise it’s not a painting. The colours and detail are extraordinary. I spent five hours negotiating the price in a gallery in China – five hours well spent!”

Everywhere you look, there are odes to the love Kip and Lillie share. From the oil painting of Dudley Beach that Lillie had beautifully restored for Kip; to the hand-painted bedhead and picture frames that Kip painted in Lillie’s favourite shade of red; and of course, the numerous pieces of art around the apartment that the couple have bought for one another over the years.

Lillie, which is your favourite room?

“Definitely has to be the bar room. It’s where Kip and I spend most of our time. I enjoy my cocktails. I love a Rose during the summer and a Red during winter. Kip loves his Moet and Sauvignon Blanc.”Kip goes on to say, “Sipping a champers on the deck on a summers evening watching the whales is not too shabby!”

The bar room occupies the northern end of the apartment and looks over Newcastle Beach to the east and Newcastle Harbour to the north. This space is designed for entertaining, which the couple love to do. Custom cabinetry showcases their collection of glassware from around the world.

Much thought has gone into making the most of the priceless views. For example, both dining tables are glass and the chairs have now been replaced with Ghost chairs from Domayne, resulting in an unobstructed view beyond to the ocean.

Both Lillie and Kip are no strangers to restoring beautiful properties. Lillie restored a magnificent multi-storey period home in Drummoyne, whilst Kip restored an elegant, 3 storey terrace home on Church Street, The Hill. Kip gave Lillie absolute creative control over the refurbishment of their home and the end result is a home that will continue to bring them pleasure for years to come.