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

ADA AVENUE REVEAL: WHERE THE GRASS WAS ALWAYS GREENER

There’s no denying the appeal of country living – the wide open spaces dressed in rich gowns of green and bathed in natural light. But there’s also no denying the appeal of city living – easy access to cultural hubs, cutting the commute, and an endless calendar of diverse entertainment and events.

The best of both worlds is what makes our Ada Avenue project extra special – it occupies a rare slice of sprawling green landscape in Sydney’s upper North Shore, affording its’ inhabitants the joys of both a convenient city and charming country lifestyle.

Eager to take advantage of their enviable surroundings, our client approached us with an open mind, ready to also open up his original 1970s home to the indoor-outdoor way of living. The home’s traditional timber joinery, internal red brick walls and myriad vinyl flooring were long overdue a complete design overhaul.

In a bid to better connect the house with the rambling greenery beyond, we created large, French door openings so the living spaces could flow visually and practically to the outside. We also increased the veranda’s footprint outside the family room, and added a large skylight in the kitchen, letting in an abundance of much-needed light and rekindling the home’s relationship with its surrounding garden.

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The original, compartmentalised layout, which separated the kitchen from living and work spaces, was better suited to the lifestyle of another era, so we knocked down a few walls, opening up the cramped kitchen to be part of a larger, open-plan family space.

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To complete the vision of a home that was ready to celebrate the natural world around it, we took cues from the back doorstep and chose a material palette to echo the hues of the country garden. Soft furnishings in cool greys, blues and silver have been warmed with natural tan and rich chocolate accents, whilst velvet and leather accents add textural luxury.

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We introduced natural materials wherever we could, laying a solid timber floor throughout and selecting beautiful Ayfon Grey marble for the kitchen. The effect is a nurturing environment that effortlessly extends from the outside in.

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The original space was home to two beautiful arches and curved mouldings surrounding the doors which we loved, so we introduced two more arched openings and arched decorative mirrors to echo the sculptural shapes of the built elements, and extended the curve feature to include round rugs and tables. The effect is a soft and harmonious environment that welcomes anyone who steps inside.

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The kitchen nook is similarly a play on curves, with its round shape that embraces those who come to pull up a pew. The generous pendant light that hangs above adds a beautiful glow when the evening sun begins to sink behind the trees.

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The end result is a home that honours the tranquillity and privacy of those who live within its walls, whilst appreciating the stunning outdoor space that lies within reach.

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See the full Project Album
All images via © Alexandra Kidd Design

JERSEY ROAD REVEAL: BEAUTIFUL INSIDE AND OUT

We were thrilled to see our Jersey Road project featured in the March issue of Inside Out. It is always a great joy to see months of design and careful planning come to fruition, and to be recognised in the press is a very proud icing on the cake.

Here, we take you through the transformative journey of Jersey Road.

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Set amongst rows of Victorian and Federation homes, our Jersey Road project began its life as a very tired, red-painted brick terrace.

Our lovely clients were in desperate need for a larger, lighter and more efficient home to accommodate their increasingly busy and bigger lives. Tasked with creating a home where our clients could nestle in for the long term, we set out to retain what we loved about the house, while changing the scale of the spaces and introducing details that would feel relevant to a young family.

To this end, we preserved the home’s heritage features, updating the classic exterior with a wash of powdery white and restoring the fireplace. Everything else was gutted, we brought her walls down, letting the house breathe a long-awaited sigh, so as to sit much more comfortably on her new larger foundations and in her now glowing white-rendered skin, optimising the space as well as introducing more natural light and fresh air throughout.

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A calming palette of white and neutrals provides the perfect backdrop for the family’s collection of art and furniture, yet the home remains practical for a young family. Darker-toned carpets and textured, washable wallpapers predict sticky fingers.

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The kitchen was to become the focal point for this family of four, and so we created an inviting all-day zone that caters for breakfast, homework, dining and family time. In keeping with the objective of making the kitchen the home’s central hub, we included both a laundry area and home office in the space, concealed with elegant bespoke joinery for a hide-away effect.

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To house the new dining room, we extended the heritage structure to include an independent glass and steel box. Conservatory-style windows flood the entire ground floor in light, bringing the outside in, and the starkly contrasting architecture adds a dramatic aesthetic without overshadowing the heritage charm of the original build.

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The two children’s rooms were such a joy to work on. Colours are drawn from each child’s favourite, manifesting in whimsical wallcoverings and playful rugs.

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As the months of intensive renovations passed we saw the terrace transform inside and out, where she now stands firmly proud in the middle of her lively street. The home now offers a perfectly balanced combination of traditional and modern details, conveying a timeless and relaxed feel.

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All images via © Alexandra Kidd Design

See the full Project Album