REAL HOME: Nordic Style

A love of Scandi-inspired style, and the need for more space to accommodate their growing family of six, lead this couple to re-think, re-organise and re-design. 

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Photography Kirsty Burns 


Professional organiser, product and food stylist, and owner of Shop With Sarah interior shopping tours, Sarah Shanahan, her husband Matthew, four children and cocker spaniel Barney. 

 Scandi-inspired interiors have been a thing for a while now. Rooms flooded with natural light, blonde timber and white-washed walls have been a source of interior inspo for minimalists worldwide, and for interior expert Sarah Shanahan the obsession continues. She’s dedicated her heritage home on the outskirts of Adelaide’s CBD to the Nordic style. 

 “I’m definitely a minimalist with a love of Scandinavian design,” says Sarah, who makes a living decluttering and organising people’s home. “Working through people’s ‘stuff’ makes me want and need less in my own home – it makes me happier!” 

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 The sprawling turn-of-the-century home exudes character; lofty ceilings that boast ornate pressed metal ceilings and intricate roses feature in almost every room and the original timber floorboards, which have been re-sanded and re-polished, offer instant warmth. The furnishings in this front part of the home, which was part of the original 1905 build, have also been thoughtfully placed, paying homage to its heritage. “I love the feel and character of old houses, as well as antiques and furniture with a bit of history,” says Sarah, who has collected some key pieces from the furniture stores along Magill Road, including the antique hall table and imposing church pew that greets you as you enter.  

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 While this old part of the home had obvious appeal, the layout and size didn’t suit Sarah and husband Matthew’s large brood – “there were six of us, and the kids were all still at school, so we needed extra space,” explains Sarah. With this in mind, ten years ago the couple added a new light-filled kitchen, dining, lounge and laundry to the back of the house. Bridging the gap between old and new, the high ceilings were continued in  the new open-plan space, offering continuity between the old, character-filled home and the bright, new Scandi-inspired extension.  

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 To ensure this new area offered the functionality needed for the family of six the layout was given careful consideration – the original kitchen was turned into a workspace for Sarah and the separate dining area was converted into a spacious main bathroom. “My biggest ‘want’ for the extension was a place for the kids’ school bags to go – it drove me crazy that they had no home and so I designed a bench seat with four drawers underneath. The kids could then empty out their lunch boxes and  put their bags away. No mess! It also doubles as a great place to sit and chill on a cold winter’s day!” 

 Past this light-filled nook is the central living space, which is home to a well-appointed kitchen and inviting dining area. “We got our dining table from Willie Stewart Interiors on Magill Road,” says Sarah, “it’s long but quite slim, which makes it great for mealtime conversations!” Large French doors frame this space at one end, providing plenty of natural light and glimpses of green, while a large Marimekko stretched canvas adds a splash of colour on the adjoining recessed wall. “I’m a huge Marimekko fan and I’ll never tire of it,” laughs Sarah, “much to the protests of the kids!” 

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 It’s this mish-mash of statement patterns, the odd strong colour and interesting textures that give this home its playful, almost quirky feel. Pared back with shades of white and key rustic pieces that offer warmth to the mostly neutral palette, this home’s young, fun and obvious Scandi style works. Functionality and easy living were at the top of Sarah and Matthew’s reno wish-list ten years ago, and thanks to some well-thought out planning and Sarah’s impeccable eye for detail their ‘new’ space is as relevant today as it was then. Sure, the aesthetic has changed slightly over the years, with the addition of a new artwork or rug here and there, but the bones still work for this large brood.  

 Desk time 

Incorporating a functional and inspirational work space into the home’s updated design was key for Sarah, who is the owner of a self-named interior styling business. “There are three sections of my business – I work as a product and food stylist, run ‘Shop with Sarah’ interior shopping tours around Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills, and of course offer a home decluttering service,” says Sarah, and so having a highly organised, designated space to work and store all of her products was essential. Sarah’s centrally-located office space features floor-to-ceiling cabinetry that houses all of her stationary and packaging supplies and a large white timber trestle desk. The styling is minimal and a few felt garlands and lots of greenery are the only glimpses of colour against an otherwise stark backdrop.  

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