For interiors wonder woman Sibella Court, the urge to keep discovering takes her far beyond her immediate neighbourhood and out into the world –though based in Sydney’s Paddington she takes off to “second home” New York City four times a year for projects as well as anywhere else that piques her imagination, the more exotic the better – Azerbaijan and Transylvania are currently top of the travel wishlist. This constant movement and restlessness means no weekend is ever the same. If she’s in Sydney, things are pretty low-key. If she finds herself in Japan it might be a new exhibition. A dream weekend would find her in an exotic, previously unvisited country, checking out hardware stores for unique souvenirs (“Did you know,” she enthuses, “that paintbrushes are different in every country in the world?”)
The perpetual wanderlust cumulates in Sibella’s work, which is everywhere from countless magazine spreads to the interiors of clubs and bars (including The Ivy and The Beresford in Sydney), a paint range, a couple of books and her gloriously muddled and magnificent homewares store, The Society Inc in Sydney’s Paddington.
But no matter how many projects or corporate commitments she makes, Sibella, who counts her late mother, a textiles collector, and builder father as huge inspirations, has a style that remains resolutely lo-fi and personal. She’s the stylist you call on when you want your home or business to look lived-in and loved.
The ultimate showcase for her foraged-and-found style is The Society Inc and her cosy home that consists of a single large bedroom/living area and a walk-in wardrobe, above it. The stone building is a classic two-up two-down from the 1860s, which has always operated as a shop. After purchasing it at auction in 2008, Sibella attacked the interior like a well-dressed whirlwind – sanding back floors, lightening things up and filling it with countless treasures. Collections of pink kelp shells elbow for room beside heavy ornate light fittings, Japanese fabrics and, recently, an old ship rope banister. An old American flag found in a snow-blanketed antiques store in Des Moines serves as a bed backdrop. Market trinkets and knickknacks find their way inside almost every day and begin their rotation between the stylist’s home on the top floor and the store below.
“Absolutely everything I pick up is personal and something that I love and want,” she explains. “So most things that end up in the store have had a little go upstairs and then if I can bring myself to part with them they end up for sale downstairs.” It’s this innate urge to fossick and collect that sees “morning person” Sibella bound out of bed early almost every Saturday morning to get in a round of market-hunting before she opens The Society Inc at midday. First stop is usually the Orange Grove Farmers’ Market market for a coffee and a poke around. Then she’s off to the Surry Hills or Rozelle Markets or a tour of local auction houses to see if anything interesting is on the block. It’s then back to the store, with an average of 10 treasures to find a home for. The shop closes at five and Saturday night is generally a party with her partner Edward and friends – as inspiration floods Sibella’s consciousness from all corners, staying social and connected is both relaxation and necessary. Sundays are about downtime – exhibitions, films and events are generally restricted to weekdays as they count as work – though the fact that they also involve socialising and “the excuse to have a glass of wine” means they’re not exactly an unwelcome part of the job description. Yum cha (Phoenix in Manly is a regular, as is The Regal on Sussex Street in Sydney’s Chinatown) is a general starting point, then afternoon and evenings are devoted to family, often with her younger brother Chris and his three young kids. “We’ll have a barbecue in the evening and just hang out,” Sibella says.