by Lara Scolari

You can take the girl out of Balmain… but she’ll eventually find her way back, because the coffee’s so good!

This was the case for contemporary visual artist, Lara Scolari. Balmain born and raised, Lara fell in love with a farmer more than 20 years ago and left the city, had three children, and now she’s back – in a beautiful, rambling 1860 three-storey terrace in the heart of her childhood suburb.

The move back from remote to inner-city Australia came after Lara won a spot on an artist residency program, while she was working on curating exhibitions for other artists at Dubbo’s art and culture centre.

After the sabbatical from her job she found it a little too hard to go back.

“It was so refreshing to work on my own art practice and not somebody else’s for a change,” says Lara.

She’s pursued her passion back in Sydney ever since.

As well as creating her signature, large abstract mixed-media paintings for interior design purposes, Lara has also broken into the fine art world. It’s a feat that’s recently earned her the honour of being asked to exhibit at Paddington’s prestigious Maunsell Wickes Gallery.

Lara paints in layers – sometimes getting up in the middle of the night to paint – dictating that she work close to home.


After living remotely for so long, Lara liked the idea of living in an inner-city hub; where she could be close to everything, including – but not limited to – good coffee!

“I hate driving – I’m so over the k’s! I have my girlfriends over from the country and we can have a whole day of fun without getting in the car.”

The house itself was a huge attraction.

“We were looking and looking, then we found this dilapidated, timber terrace in Balmain. I walked in and thought, this has so much potential. It’s sort of like a TARDIS: You don’t realise what it is from the outside.”

Lara couldn’t believe she’d actually found a home so large, and in the inner city.

It’s big enough for Lara; husband Pete; her three teenage boys, Matt, Nick and Liam; two pugaliers, Barry and Barbie; and Bobby, the Persian cat.

The home has five bedrooms, an office, three bathrooms and a separate, self-contained apartment that Lara has turned into her light-filled, vibrant art studio.


Inside the TARDIS, now, is an artfully curated display of everything ‘Lara’.

“It’s Lara-style: Eclectic, and lots of art of course. I use the walls for storage as well! There are lots of plants, lots of life and energy – with a little bit of an oriental twist.”

Lara’s favourite homewares shops in Sydney are Stone Pony and Orient House, where some of her favourite purchases hail from, including her wood-carved buffet and elephant horn bedroom sconces.

She’s also a lover of found items, second-hand shopping and repurposing through DIY – and would prefer to buy something special for the house rather than shoes or clothes. “Everything has a story, everything has a meaning.”

When Lara and Pete first moved in, they set to work remodeling the upstairs level, which houses the bedrooms and bathrooms, including the master suite.

They opened up as much as they could, inserting skylights and repainting everything a fresh white. Indeed, as you walk up the stairs you’re basically hit by a ball of light.

Now, they’ve had their DA approved to redo the ground and middle levels.


The house has an interesting history, too. It used to be a haberdashery and most recently was converted into separate flats.

Lara has now transformed the middle level into her gallery space and office, while the living area and kitchen sit on the ground floor.

“It’s really higgledy-piggledy, but it’s going to be awesome! The views are amazing. We look directly onto the Anzac Bridge from all levels.”

Because it’s such an old house, Lara says they’re a bit limited with the renovation. When a house dates back to 1860, sometimes a post or beam just needs to stay put.

That’s where some smart and personal interior decorating comes in.

“My house is all pretty simple – timber and white – it’s what you put it in it,” Lara says.


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