At just 36 square metres, this miniscule Darlinghurst studio was the ideal challenge for interior designer (and small footprint living enthusiast) Sarah Jamieson’s first apartment project. Drawing on her background in fine arts and installation, Sarah renovated the studio – housed inside a 1929 art-deco building – with the goal of maximising space while remaining sensitive to its original form.

Compartment Studio

Completed in 1929, the majestically named Versailles building is just one of architect Claud Hamilton’s many art-deco mini-masterpieces in Sydney’s Darlinghurst and Kings Cross area. When interior designer and local resident Sarah Jamieson found the opportunity to buy one of the 36-square-metre studios inside the building, she knew she had to take it. With a background in fine arts and installation design, Sarah – small footprint living enthusiast and director of Sydney design studio Catseye Bay – saw the pocket-sized studio as her ideal first apartment project, giving herself the challenge of dividing up the tiny apartment without compromising on space or natural light. Here, in her own words, Sarah tell us more about the process of converting the studio in a way that’s empathetic to its original form.



Photograph by Kat Lu.

“The small size of the apartment was really the driver and the opportunity for the project, a beautiful constraint. It’s actually the first apartment I’ve worked on – the other projects I’ve done have been in the realm of exhibition design, event spaces and installations. I feel like I have a hybridised kind of practice that draws on my experience across fine arts and design. This apartment is an example of that approach.

I’ve lived in the Darlinghurst and Kings Cross area for 15 years, and I have a dog that I walk twice a day through the streets, so I know the area like it’s my backyard. But even though I live close by, moving into the apartment and going there to work every day really created a different experience of the city for me.


Photograph by Kat Lu.

The apartment was really dilapidated when I first found it – it hadn’t been done up since the 1930s. But what drew me to it is that there was a lot to work with. The building itself is really pretty, and the interiors of the public spaces were renovated in 2015. The renovations are contemporary but draw on a deco language. I liked the idea of contributing to the aesthetic conversation that’s already happening in the main hallway and up the stairway of the building too.


Photograph by Kat Lu.


Photograph by Kat Lu.

Initially the apartment was just one room with a separate kitchen and bathroom. Because Catseye Bay was the client, I wrote a brief where I asked myself how I could accommodate the actions of living – sleeping, eating, lounging, dressing, bathing and studying – and started to think about those actions and how they connect in time. Lounging, sleeping and studying can sensibly coexist quite intimately, so I then had to look at the things that need to be separate, like bathing and maybe dressing.


Photograph by Kat Lu.


Photograph by Kat Lu.


Photograph by Kat Lu.

The curves of the building were also an influence on the design. It’s not even that spectacular, the curved brick on the building’s exterior, but walking past it all the time I started to notice it more and more. It’s such a gentle detail. I really wanted to reference it in the apartment itself. I became interested in approaching this idea through furniture, rather than building more walls. Working with the plan of the apartment, the curves really enabled me to subtly generate different spaces within it.


Photograph by Kat Lu.


Photograph by Kat Lu.

As for the material palette, that unfolded over time. I wanted to tie in the joinery with the paint, and I also wanted to see how to fit that in with the pine of the floorboards we found underneath the carpet. With the finishes, everything was stripped back to its original: the kitchen sink, stove and flooring were all kept and stripped back to their original forms. Similarly, with the bathroom, we didn’t do much except new tiling and a new vanity. I really didn’t want to just add to the space, I wanted to let it exist in its simplicity.”

Thanks to Sarah Jamieson for walking us through the Compartment Studio, and to Kat Lu for her photographs. To see more of Sarah’s work with Catseye Bay, visit


Recent Articles

  • Tokyo Life: David Glaettli

    It’s time for the second instalment of ‘Tokyo Life’ – the special Living Not Decorating series brought to us by R-ESTATE TOKYO. This week, Ben Davis speaks with David Glaettli – creative director of Japanese furniture brand Karimoku New Standard – about nomadic living, the influence of Kyoto on his practice, and life in his Toritsu-Daigaku home
  • 5×4 Hayes Lane

    5x4 Hayes Lane isn't the typical home you'd expect to find tucked in at the end of a narrow laneway in leafy East Melbourne. We step inside this pocket-sized project and speak to its owner, Ralph Alphonso, about his decision to stretch the project's small footprint of 20 square metres over four storeys, and about the challenges that arose during the construction of this extraordinary home
  • What’s in a Map? Greening Bourj Al Shamali

    The Greening Bourj Al Shamali initiative aims to green and improve the living conditions in the Bourj Al Shamali refugee camp in Lebanon, a theoretically temporary Palestinian refugee camp that's now a 60-year-old informal urban environment, densely built and without green spaces. Sara Savage speaks to the team behind the initiative about 'balloon mapping' the camp in the name of self-determination