The Venice House with Jodie Fried
Enjoying a classic Californian lifestyle, Armadillo co-founder Jodie Fried and her cinematographer husband Greig Fraser have been happily raising their three young children in the beachside neighbourhood of Venice. Yet nothing could quell the pull of their Australian roots – in particular the nuances of natural light, air flow and proportion, and quality materials that Australian design is known for.
A few years ago, the couple embarked on the adventure of building their dream home, enlisting Sydney-based architect Hannah Tribe and interior, furniture and lighting consultant Arabella McIntosh to bring their vision to life. We spoke to Jodie, Hannah and Arabella about how it all came together.
What was the design inspiration for the home?
Jodie: Our family has lived in California for 11 years now, so building the Venice House was all about incorporating the antipodean architectural details that we couldn’t find in America. We took the rather unconventional approach of engaging Tribe Studio, who are based in Sydney, to design and build our home. Together, we dialled into this idea of worlds colliding – Australia meets California, indoor merging with outdoor, and functional family living blended with an elevated design sensibility.
Hannah, what was it like working with Jodie and Greig, who themselves come from creative backgrounds?
Hannah: It was a real pleasure to work with Jodie and Greig. Jodie has an incredible design sensibility and intuition. She had a beautiful vision of what the house would feel like. Greig’s pictorial and lighting expertise really feature in the finished product – you can feel the composed views in the spaces.
What influences did you take from the neighbourhood?
Jodie: The original house was a charming Californian bungalow that had been built in the 1920s on the Venice canals, then transported to this plot of land in the 1950s. It was incredibly quaint and full of character but unfortunately couldn’t be salvaged, so we tried to capture its essence in our new build.
Hannah: I was taken by the vernacular architecture of Venice – the modest, lightweight bungalows showing gabled faces to the street. We decided to interpret this by creating an abstracted single storey bungalow form and hoisting it up into the air where it hovers on top of a series of garden walls.
How would you describe the home?
Jodie: The home is made of two levels which play with proportion in distinct ways, giving a real juxtaposition of an open, public space downstairs versus a more intimate, private space upstairs.
The lower level has a generous scale, with a free-flowing kitchen, dining area and living room that spill out onto the pool and garden. It is a confident space designed to be full of people – we love hosting friends and their children, so it’s really at its best when it’s humming with activity.
The upper level feels more like a sanctuary. The long, spine-like corridor has exposed ceiling beams, inspired by those found in Australian barns, which peel off into the bedrooms, family bathroom and my creative studio where I work on upcoming Armadillo collections.
What key elements were important to you when building this home for your family?
Jodie: We wanted our house to feel like it could be fearlessly lived in and not overly precious. With a young family, the priority was to choose materials, surfaces and finishes that would be effortlessly refined yet extremely hardwearing. For the kitchen island bench, we went with Caesarstone instead of marble and it has survived spilled wine, finger painting, lemon juice and turmeric! And the Ipe decking around the pool was left unsealed so it could take on an organic patina over time.
Arabella: Functionality played a big role in the decision-making. For example, the living room sofa is actually an outdoor sofa with removable, machine washable covers. The oversized table in the home office was to function as both Jodie’s sample table but also a space for all the kids to sit and do homework together. The rugs in the kids’ bedroom were chosen very carefully – soft enough for little knees but flat enough for the boys to build LEGO without losing any tiny pieces.
"The Venice House has become a love letter to our Australian roots."
What unique attributes do you love most about the home?
Jodie: One feature of the exterior which we love is our beautiful big Ficus Tree, who we’ve named Freddy. We draped the tree with wooden swings and rope ladders, and the children play here for hours. It is slightly out of sight from the house which gives them a sense of autonomy, privacy and creativity.
The garden is my pride and joy. I spent many hours researching gardens that I loved and I became infatuated with the work of Dutch landscaper Piet Oudolf, whose work includes the incredible planting of NYC’s Highline. I was excited to work with Californian species of grasses and plants, focusing on purples, dark greens, cool silvery greys and earthy grasses which really worked against the black depth of the house.
Sustainability is very close to your heart. How did you incorporate eco-friendly elements into the home?
Jodie: Greig and I tried to incorporate as many environmentally friendly features as we could, both within the house and in the landscaping. The architecture of the multiple interior roofs creates a natural air circulation which minimises the need for air conditioning during LA’s balmy summers. The skylights open to let the hot air out and there are doors and windows everywhere, which we usually leave open to let in the sea breeze. Outside, our garden is made up mainly of hardy native plants which are low maintenance and drought tolerant.
Did your Australian roots influence the design? If so, how?
Arabella: We tried to pare back the detailing and go with a “less is more” approach with the interiors. We were adamant that we would let the architecture do the talking and not to distract from it. Californian styling tends to be more layered. My personal aesthetic embodies a relaxed luxury with natural tones and organic textures – which is quite an Australian style.
Jodie: The Venice House has become a love letter to our Australian roots. Working with Arabella on the interiors, I got to indulge and support many of my favourite makers. Key lighting pieces were from Melbourne-based Anchor Ceramics, along with all the door and handle hardware from Designer Doorware. In the main bedroom, we have the most sumptuously soft linen bedding from Cultiver. Throughout the home are pieces of art from Australian artists including Belynda Henry, Rachel Castle and Marnie Gilder, just to name a few. And of course, in every room there is an Armadillo rug!
Architecture: Tribe Studio
Interior, furniture and lighting design consultant: Arabella McIntosh
Styling: Gena Sigala
Photography: Sam Frost