Q&A with Fiona Ericsson & Julia Levitt, Sticks & Stones Landscape Design

There’s a saying that goes something like: what you see in others is a reflection of ourselves. That’s what we felt the moment we met Fiona and Julia of Sticks & Stones, an award-winning landscape design studio.

Creatives after our own heart, Fiona and Julia run a dynamic team, create beautiful work and establish meaningful relationships with clients and collaborators. Perhaps what struck us most about this dynamic duo was their clear and pragmatic approach to design and communication; Fiona and Julia listen to a brief and deliver exactly what a client is looking for. Each and every one of their projects is diverse and original, and importantly for us, always the perfect complement to our interiors.

We love hearing stories of Fiona’s son playing bagpipes in the back yard - she makes creating beautiful gardens and juggling a busy family look as calm as can be.

This month, we reveal our Ada Avenue project, a home we worked on closely with Sticks & Stones. Opening the home’s tired 1970’s interior to the gorgeous greenery beyond it, with the help of Fiona and Julia, was the most rewarding partnership, and we’re excited for you to see the fruits of our joint labour here. In the meantime, get to know the green-fingered pair behind our Ada Avenue garden, as they talk family life, building a business and life lessons.

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WHICH THREE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?

F:  Creative, Curious & Inclusive

J: Vibrant, passionate, honest

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE GROWING UP?

F: An Artist

J: Flight attendant – so I could travel around the world

HOW DID YOU EARN YOUR FIRST PAY PACKET? 

F:  Kitchen hand – making fancy pants gourmet sandwiches!

J:   Working at a juice stand, Jamba Juice

WHAT IS THE BEST LIFE LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNT ALONG THE WAY?  

F:   Surround yourself with people who are positive and laugh at your jokes

J:  Be kind. It doesn’t cost you anything but can improve someone’s day and it will always come back to you.

AKD’s  Ada Avenue  project

AKD’s Ada Avenue project

WHAT'S YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?

F:  Winning the Allan Corey Award for our contribution to our industry and community.

J: Sticks & Stones! Building our business from the ground up and watching it blossom into the successful studio it is today has been amazing. We have learned so much along the way, in particular skills that have nothing to do with our industry; marketing, web design, accounting.

WHO INSPIRES YOU?

F: Women who juggle family, work and life with a smile

J: My sisters. They are both extremely resilient, hardworking people who selflessly strive everyday to help improve the lives of people through their work.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST VICE?

F: Chocolate & books

J: Spritz!

The enviable view from our Ada Avenue master bedroom

The enviable view from our Ada Avenue master bedroom

DO YOU FOLLOW TRENDS OR ARE YOU A TRENDSETTER?

We are constantly searching for new and exciting plants and materials to use in our designs, but generally, try to avoid trends, aiming for a more timeless approach.

WHAT DREAM DO YOU STILL WANT TO FULFILL?

F: Live in New York.

J: Starting a family! I would also love the opportunity to be involved in an international landscape project.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH AKD?

The AKD vision is fresh. A collaborative approach and passion for creative solutions to all projects means working with them is an absolute joy!


The perfect relaxing spot at our Ada Avenue project

The perfect relaxing spot at our Ada Avenue project

Image 1 via Sticks and Stones / Images 2 - 4 via © Alexandra Kidd Design

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: THE ONLY WAY IS UP

Remember that old joke ‘How do you fit a family of elephants into a Mini?’

Take the roof off!

We are currently trying to solve that riddle on our Greenknowe Avenue project and I can tell you, from personal experience, it’s no laughing matter!

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Once a dramatic one bedroom bachelor pad housing fabulous art, a concert grand Steinway piano and a wet bar for a kitchen, our apartment is transforming into a family home for four (well, six if you count the fur babies!). We had literally been bursting at the seams with the once-sleek interior becoming superimposed with Barbie dream homes and finger paintings.

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We absolutely loved everything about the apartment and its location, it simply wasn’t big enough. So we dreamt up the perfect family home in the sky, complete with a rooftop garden and plunge pool. The project would involve adding two levels to an existing apartment building in Sydney’s Potts Point.

But first to persuade neighbours, council and the structural engineer! 

After many, many years of planning and design we have finally commenced work on our dream home in the sky. And indeed, the roof did come off!

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Retaining the original mood and feeling from our much-loved apartment was paramount. The concept is to preserve the black interior for the lower level and introduce a white ribbon into the dark box, whilst inverting this combination upstairs with a white interior swathed by a black ribbon. The apartment enjoys beautiful views and an abundance of natural light. The biggest challenge has been how to best capture the views whilst allowing some privacy from urban eyes.    

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Knee deep in demolition rubble with no roof and severe weather forecasts looming on the horizon have been conjuring the most dramatic of emotions – stress, excitement, denial. Did I mention stress?! To all our clients, past and present, I feel your pain.  

Follow the dramatic images and #GreenknoweAvenue updates on Instagram.

Wish us luck and plenty of sunshine!

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All images via © Alexandra Kidd Design

TIMELESS LUXURY, 15 YEARS ON . . .

This project was my first large-scale commission after I launched the AKD studio in 2002. When my clients called me to invite me to revisit the home I had designed for them, I was beyond delighted!

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The new brief was to re-imagine their family home for the next phase of their life, which now includes a brood of gorgeous grandchildren. There was no need to start from scratch, instead we redesigned the spaces with respect and empathy for the renovation that had gone before.

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We modernised the home by injecting enough new style to ensure cohesion throughout, yet displayed a distinctive contemporary quality that would carry them through the next 15 years.

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We enjoyed exploring a tactile palette, retaining the travertine that we had installed 15 years earlier and using this as the platform and connective base finish throughout.

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To complement the travertine and reinforce the understated luxury, we changed applications and textures of this material whilst also adding a handmade quality to all finishes, such as handpainted wallpapers, brass detailed cabinetry, a new staircase created by artisans, figured sycamore veneer, leather, wool and silk. The home is a complete tactile journey.

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Our client loved the original paint colour of the home and was loathed to touch it, however, we felt strongly that a new paint colour would allow the freshness required to match the renovation.

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The reclaiming of an undercroft area allowed us to create a grandchildren’s oasis, including play room, performance stage, fancy dress wardrobe, ensuite and terrace completely dedicated to the love, fun and inspiration of this growing generation. The playroom has been brought to life with AKD custom-designed furniture and bespoke printed wallpaper and cushions.

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The result is a home full of timeless elegance and understated luxury. What an honour it has been to design two renovations for this wonderful family at different stages of their lives. I am certain that this design will see them through the next 15 years and beyond!

All images via ©Alexandra Kidd Design

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