Living Plein Air: An Artfully Designed Open-Air Home

With a bamboo-lined courtyard, a dreamy reflecting pool, and the wife’s own massive floral paintings, an Australian couple builds a home that merges inside and out
One of the home's many indoor-outdoor living spaces, the open-air living room includes the dining table and chandelier, two sofas facing each other, and, on the back wall, a large floral painting by Marcella Kaspar.
Dual courtyards flank the main living room in Marcella Kaspar and Mark Cooper’s open-air home. On one side is the pool and lovely gnarly old frangipani. On the other, a pond and garden planted with black bamboo.

When looking for property near Coogee, Australia, Marcella Kaspar and her husband, Mark Cooper, had an advantage—she’s an artist and he’s a designer, so they could look beyond the obvious. “I grew up in Coogee not far from this property,” says Kaspar. “We were really lucky no one else besides us seemed that interested in it. We absolutely loved it and we could see the potential.”

En plein air painting in an open-air home
Artist Marcella Kaspar in her light-filled studio

Working as a team, Kaspar and Cooper created a beautiful, unique new home based on the premise of five-star resort living. “We love the concept of the indoor and outdoor areas merging, so the house was oriented around a central courtyard with a pool,” says Kaspar. “This means the house is always cool in summer, and we enjoy the wonderful play of light as reflections from the water move through the interior spaces.”

Both work from home, so they wanted to create a space that is beautiful and inspirational. Having renovated previously, Kaspar and Cooper knew what they wanted in this house and were no-fuss in their approach.

Clever design incorporates cross-ventilation as well as an open floor plan centered around a courtyard. Walls and floors were treated as canvases for Kaspar’s striking and dramatic artworks and the couple’s collection of eclectic furniture and decorative pieces.

“One of the most important factors in designing the house was to make sure we had large walls to feature my artworks. We wanted to make sure that we could see the flower paintings from all different angles and from different areas,” says Kaspar. “It was important to include the colors of nature that show up in my large-scale flower paintings.”

Kitchen paint color choice and luxury home decor in Marcella Kaspar and Mark Cooper's open-air home.
The charcoal-colored stucco finish was mixed to Kaspar’s specifications. The round marble-topped table was bought many years ago in Indonesia. The artist added green crystal drops to the vintage chandelier.

“I am inspired by the colors and tones of flowers, especially peonies, and the colors of the house were inspired by the large painting I had in mind for the living room.”—Marcella Kaspar

The bedroom paint color is Kaspar's custom-mixed charcoal gray
Kaspar’s “Out of the Darkness” painting hangs above the bed, where Chilli the Burmese cat enjoys the sun that filters through the French doors. The lamps are made from vintage Portuguese wine bottles, and the bedside tables are antique Chinese carved rosewood.

The couple chose rough-hewn granite tiles for the floors throughout the house and granite with a honed finish for the kitchen counter and backsplash. Walls were painted in cocooning charcoal tones, while a wax finish was used on the ceilings. Working with color every day in her work, Kaspar had the paint colors mixed to her specifications and loves the idea that they are unique to the space.

“It’s also a great house for entertaining,” she adds. “I especially love the house at night with candles and dimmed lighting and with the pool lit up.”

luxury bathroom accessories in an open-air home's master suite
The master bath features a freestanding tub, a pendant light by New Zealand designer David Trubridge, and a stunning mother-of-pearl inlay vanity with matching mirrors.

The open-air bedroom leads to the courtyard pool, an example of indoor-outdoor living spaces
A bedroom enjoys close proximity to the prized frangipani tree.

Born in Prague, where she lived until she was 10 before moving to Australia, Kaspar admits to having a passion for vintage crystal and fine glass inspired by her grandparents and their extensive collection. In her own home, colorful vintage glasses, Portuguese wine-bottle lamps, and decorative crystal chandeliers mingle with more contemporary timber-veneer pendant lights by New Zealand designer David Trubridge.

Oversize sofas covered in Belgian linen are filled with throw pillows made by Kaspar from vintage Japanese obi cloth and Varanasi saris found on her travels. Perhaps the most prized possession is the 100-year-old frangipani tree that cost the couple a small fortune to have transported and craned onto the site after Cooper saw it while driving past an abandoned block in the southern suburbs. It took four men to dig it up and a year of tender loving care to see it get through the move and back to full health. Now the tree, like the home’s other inhabitants, enjoys the sublime serenity of courtyard living.

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The pendant light is by New Zealand designer David Trubridge. The kitchen table was originally an old Chinese door.
luxury home decor in an open air living room
Oversize sofas upholstered in Belgian linen are topped with cushions made by Marcella Kaspar from Japanese obi cloth and Indian silk saris. The painting by Kaspar, titled “A Thousand Secrets,” is oil on linen.
Watery reflections create a magical effect against a wall.
With the openness of the spaces, light is reflected back into the house. Neutral tones were used throughout to balance Kaspar’s strong artworks.
“I love every part of the house and the different vignettes you get throughout,” says Kaspar.
Lounging mats receive shade from the abundant black bamboo.
A mother-of-pearl inlay chest of drawers is topped with small paintings by Kaspar in matching frames; the painting behind was a gift.
A mother-of-pearl inlay double-sink vanity with matching mirrors in the bathroom
Etched wineglasses in beautiful hues sit ready for guests.
A piece from Kaspar’s extensive collection of glass
A collection of green vintage glass vessels
Basil in a vintage glass container
Marcella Kaspar's artist brushes
A basket of brushes in Kaspar’s studio
“We love living amongst the courtyard gardens, and the elements of water and privacy are an essential part of the design.”—Marcella Kaspar

By Karen Cotton | Photography by Simon Kenny/Living Inside

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