Photos by Susan Papazian
When Bahar Etminan viewed her Art Deco apartment in 2013, she immediately fell head over heels, and it’s a good job too, as it needed a lot of love! After consulting her friend and mentor, real estate agent John McGrath (it’s not what you know, right?), she made a full price offer. “I literally fell in love with my home.”
The glamorous but grounded working mother, who owns fashion, beauty and lifestyle site rescu.com.au, just published her first book. Rescu Me is subtitled ‘the makeover guide for a life more fabulous’ so it’s fitting there’s nothing ordinary about her chic Sydney home. But not before it had its own makeover!
The block of six 1930s units had been owned by one family since they were built and eventually sold off one by one over five years. “My apartment was nearly original 1930s condition and was being used as a group flat. It needed to be stripped out, rewired, re-plumbed, repainted, new floors, gas in the fireplace and a bathroom update.” Two months later, she and daughter Lilly moved in. “The transformation has been remarkable without losing its Art Deco charm. I wanted to leave the period features absolutely intact but make the apartment more comfortable for modern life.”
A lover of vintage, Bahar has collected her furniture over the years. “Each piece is special and has dazzled me at some point. Even modern pieces I have bought have a vintage vibe. I’m not a minimalist type of person so modern and new don’t suit my style. I also bought the apartment when my daughter was three, so I was looking for a family home; a place that was comfortable, livable and not too precious.”
Her favourite pieces are two cabinets she bought with the guidance of friend Jason Parlett from an antique shop in Glebe. “He had them totally restored and painted black for me. We go ‘trinkateering’, a term we coined for going shopping for trinkets! Some trinkets are bigger than others!” Other treasured possessions are her impressive bedhead and side tables from D’Cotta; new but with a vintage feel.
As Bahar works the eclectic look so very well, I couldn’t resist asking her for her tips: “I think colours and shapes have to work together even if periods and fabrics are not so matchy-matchy. I think where you place things can also really make a difference. I had the apartment feng shui’d by a master and she taught me a lot about the importance of where seats, beds and objects are placed. Luckily, I didn’t have to move much but I did tweak a few details and I think it made a difference to the flow and how we use each space.
“I like to mix up a few grown up pieces with things that feel feminine and fun. I also like to flip the rules on what should go where. I have a zebra print hide on the floor of my formal dining room and black wingback chairs in my sun room, which overlooks the harbour. I have a mix of cane, wood and velvet in the living room but the colours and the shapes all work.”
While Bahar doesn’t apologise for her home being feminine, she has been careful not to go overboard. “I decorated the home for my daughter but I like earthy tones, black and wood so there is nothing chintzy. My daughter’s favourite colour is blue and I never used to have anything blue at all, but now I have blue art, blue in my upholstery and blue decorative objects here and there. I think it’s wonderful to create an environment that reflects places you’ve been, people you love and how you see yourself.”
Vintage poster art is clearly a weakness, with Bahar loving the “vibrancy, joyfulness and instant glamour” it brings to a room. She also loves photography and recently bought two Slim Aarons photographs.
Lilly’s room goes to show that a child’s room doesn’t have to be full of plastic or garish colours to be fun and inviting. “I wanted her to have a beautiful room she’d enjoy playing in and felt fun and chic. Her room is actually quite dark so I’ve tried to lighten up the furnishings and added lots of colour.”
The rare deco chair was an eBay find, the ceramic wings a first birthday gift (which Bahar secretly wants on her own room) and the vintage poster, bought for herself years ago, then put it in Lilly’s nursery when she was born. “It’s a girl riding a motorbike. The decor will grow up with her. I never did have a traditional nursery of pink and white.”
On the subject of living with little people when you have lots of nice things, perhaps unsurprisingly, Bahar doesn’t believe in child-proofing your life. “Lilly understands what she can and can’t touch, which rooms are for play and which rooms are to keep tidy. I would say that if you can afford a play room where all the bright and crazy toys can go, I’d do that. The toys make me crazy!”
Living on the same street as the Prime Minister, Bahar and Lilly certainly feel very safe with bonus round the clock security! “We have a lovely little beach across the road, two beautiful parks, two yacht clubs and absolute peace and quiet. I do sometimes miss the buzz of cafes and shops at my doorstep. Having previously lived in The Elan, The Wharf at Woolloomooloo and Rockwall Apartments, I do also sometimes miss having concierge and the facilities of a modern apartment complex like a pool and lifts.”
While Bahar believes you should buy the best bed you can possibly afford and it’s worthwhile splurging on a beautifully made couch, decorative objects can be collected along the way and there’s nothing wrong with a few bargain buys in the mix.
Rescu Me is published by Harlequin and available from all good book stores and online. It’s full of practical insight and advice from the best experts in health, relationships and wellbeing, finances and career, fashion and beauty.