In Conversation With | Leah Rispoli of Hemma Interiors

March 13, 2024

In Conversation With | Leah Rispoli of Hemma Interiors

Radiating the golden warmth of sunbaked sandstone and the freshness of frothy sea spray, Kiama Kin is a newly constructed three-bedroom home in the South Coast town of Kiama, ninety minutes from Sydney, on Dharawal land. 

Its owners are long-term residents of Kiama and lovers of the beachy lifestyle their village affords. Life for the family of four has always skewed toward the ocean, with weekends and afterschool hours filled with surfing, surf lifesaving and other sand-side activities. With their two teenaged sons growing and gaining independence, the homeowners pressed GO on their long-term plan to knock down their existing home and rebuild with a split-level layout that would better accommodate their changing family dynamic. 

The family wanted their finished spaces to reference their love of the beach via warm tones, organic textures, and a sense of casual sophistication. “We decided to depart from a more typical white and blue coastal aesthetic and instead drew inspiration from the sand and cliff colours of the beautiful Kiama coast,” says Leah Rispoli, the founder and director of Hemma Interiors, whose interior design within the home is a perfect complement to the light and airy architectural shell shaped by South Coast Building Design and built by Mansell Building. 

Kiama Kin is a breath of fresh air. Here, your shoulders relax, shoes are kicked off, and the soothing sandy colours and textures combine for a holiday-at-home effect. Engineered timber flooring in a softly whitewashed finish runs through the living area and bedrooms, while the bathrooms and laundry feature natural stone. “It’s all about barefoot living and enjoying the feeling of natural stone underfoot,” says Leah, who repeated natural materials throughout. 

The hero of the main living space is the fireplace finished with blonde sandstone cladding that extends to the peak of the tall cathedral ceiling. The furniture and accessory curation include generous seating upholstered in cream linen, a rustic timber coffee table, and woven storage baskets by The Dharma Door. The palette of warm tones is contrasted and freshened with splashes of white paint, inside and out. “We also used Venetian plaster in the master ensuite and kitchen to add further texture and warmth to these spaces,” Leah shares. 

The only departure from these sunbleached neutrals is the carefully selected hue applied to the kitchen and laundry joinery. Dulux Waltzing is a chameleon-like soft, subtle grey that reads like a dusty sage. It’s a proven crowd favourite on Instagram - whenever Hemma Interiors posts photos of Kiama Kin’s cabinetry, questions about the pretty shade roll in. 

The kitchen is the true heart of this home, where the family come together and guests feel instantly welcome. It’s a hardworking engine room packed with practical storage and a highly functional layout, with no compromises on its visual appeal. “We used Taj Mahal on the benchtops, a natural stone with rich, warm tones and lovely complex veining. It looks like a piece of coastal sandstone,” says Leah, who feels the surface is a hero element in the kitchen’s palette. “The handcrafted timber arch pantry door is also a bit of a scene stealer,” she adds. “It was locally made in Kiama and is a special and unique feature.” 

Leah often sources individually crafted pieces for her many and varied design projects. “They add so much in terms of giving a space its own personality. When an interior is a mix of elements you have seen so many times before, the spaces don’t feel unique to the client,” she explains. At Kiama Kin, every layer of decor is considered through this lens. Handmade storage baskets by The Dharma Door sit comfortably on the custom oak shelves throughout, imbuing a sense of calm and order. “They are the perfect accessory to this relaxed but sophisticated coastal interior. Even your accessories should feel special and be items that you love.” 

Hemma Interiors | Written by Jessica Bellef | Images by The Palm Co

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