Renaissance Living

House-Copacabana-H-3A rather grand house filled with sumptuous, European flair makes for a surprisingly livable, coastal home.

Copacabana is a seaside suburb revolving around its beach and surf club. It’s also popular with holiday makers, drawn by the pristine beach and a plethora of desirable beach houses, most of which are stylish dwellings, light and bright. Typical of seaside living.

But one local has taken a different approach to renovating her home..

I’ll admit that my first thoughts were to wonder why, given the location, she would choose to recreate the sumptuous style of a European country house. The idea seemed rather at odds with its environment.

The day we chose to meet Tanya Bianchi at her home was a steaming hot summer’s day. Crunching across the pebbled front garden in blinding sunlight, we were met by a buttery yellow exterior with a deep-set, giant doorway.

Crossing the threshold we entered a cool, dark oasis of an interior, and I began to think that Tanya perhaps knew a thing or two …

The hallway is long, tall and wide, painted a deeper yellow than the exterior. It features a magnificent timber floor, European antiques, delightful artworks, and ends in glass doors that draw you on to a light-filled living area. Opening from the hallway enroute are four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a study.

Having a little knowledge of the original home, I assumed that Tanya must have extensively remodelled the original ‘80s Spanish bungalow, but she assured me this wasn’t the case. In fact Tanya says it was more like undertaking a restoration rather than a renovation. The home had been constructed by a Spanish builder as his family home. It was a large dwelling with tall ceilings and generous spaces, the perfect house for reinvention.

With such good bones this building would make a stunning home regardless of style, but I began to see how grand European design had suggested itself to Tanya when envisaging her new home.

Through the glass doors you enter an open living space with a dining area and kitchen. With sumptuous upholstery and superb European finishes, this might not seem like a family room for two growing boys. And yet it’s open, comfortable and welcoming. Not at all “stuffy” or precious.

The sofas invite you to plump down amongst the cushions, and in cooler weather the fire draws you to settle on the rug with a cup of tea. The TV isn’t cunningly hidden in an antique armoire, it’s out ready to be used – belying its impressive appearance, this is actually an immensely practical and stylish home.

House-Copacabana-H-1Tanya, who project-managed the renovation of her home, using local tradesman, has always loved grand European style, perhaps not surprising given her family’s Italian heritage. She purchased much of the furniture to fit the space but has been clever not to stick to one particular style or era.

There are touches about the home that are much more modern than her source inspiration, such as art deco pieces and her beloved Le Corbusier chaise that come from an earlier life when Tanya was a designer in Melbourne. It’s these pieces, as much as the French-style, wing back chairs, that give the home it’s European country house flavour.

The style that Tanya is referencing might seem a cohesive decorating style to us when reproduced, but the real thing has grown over generations. Part family home, part farmhouse, part hunting lodge, modern additions sit comfortably by family heirlooms. In the same way Tanya’s home defies categorising – there is still a certain Spanish flavour, Italian flair overlies French sophistication … It’s part European home, part English club, a smattering of luxury hotel with a spice of Australian beach house feel for good measure.
Rather like Tanya herself. Petite and blonde, she’s the epitome of beach chic, in cool white cotton, when we meet. But as we chat I realise what Tanya actually is.

A Renaissance Woman.

Astoundingly well read, an accomplished musician and in-demand vocalist. A trained designer and experienced decorator. A sculptor, a painter, a gardener, an avid charity worker and a mother of two, with a genuine love for all children.

What better place for a Renaissance woman than this beautiful home, reminiscent of an Italian villa, built high in the hills to escape the summer heat? Then transforming into a cosy lodge when the weather turns cool and you feel like bunkering down. And always a level, five minute walk to one of our most stunning beaches.

I think Tanya has made clever choices with her renovation. In fact it makes me realise that all too often we arrange our homes for summer only, placing too much emphasis on our long, hot summer days and forget the other seasons – the rain and cold evenings – that are also part of our temperate climate.

This is a home that is comfortable and embracing all year round, which perhaps points to the reason that those grand European country homes, that were Tanya’s inspiration, endure to this day.


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