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Ahead of the curve

Photographer : Marie Homer

Ahead of the curve

Photographer : Marie Homer
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When a designer took on a three-storey renovation, she treated the home’s ground-floor bathroom as a crux. Every material, every tone and every style were carefully considered.

Kerryn Ramsey

Content Writer
Creative and confident, Cate Liedtke launched her interior design business on 23 March, 2020 – the day Australia entered a new era in its history. It was the day when the Coronavirus shutdown began. Widespread closure of businesses was enforced, and people were told to stay at home. For Cate, building a new business over the next few years took determination and imagination to survive but she took on this challenge with gusto.
Winner of the 2023 HIA Australian Bathroom Design award by Catherine de Meur Interiors

‘I thought, “Nobody knows I exist. This isn’t good – what am I going to do?”,’ recalls Cate, Director and Design Principal of Catherine de Meur Interiors in Sydney. ‘That's when I decided to enter HIA competitions. I thought, “What better way to showcase your work?”’ 

This was undoubtedly a good decision. Her first entry won the 2021 HIA NSW Small Bathroom Up To 6sqm gong, followed by being a NSW Large Bathrooms finalist in conjunction with Brickwood Building. After her wins, Cate realised that not only did the awards recognise her creativity and technique, they also put her business in the spotlight.

This success soon inspired her to go again, this time winning the prestigious 2023 HIA Australian Bathroom Design for a glamorous bathroom in the suburb of Oatley in Southern Sydney. The design overcame a unique set of challenges, including a relocation and complete reconfiguration from an awkward position in the centre of the home’s lower ground floor.

This 'Issy Halo' vanity and mirrored wall cabinet in Limed Oak is from Zuster
The heated vertical towel rails utilise brushed brass for extra impact

The winning bathroom renovation was part of a larger concept – it’s the centrepoint of a three-storey, four-bedroom waterfront house that’s being staged over a few years.

‘I stepped into this project after it had already started,’ Cate explains. ‘I was brought in to consult with the architect and builder. I felt like I was constantly playing catch-up until we reached a stage where everyone was on the same page.’

While the original floorplan housed the bathroom in the centre of the room, Cate reconfigured the layout to provide a more effective flowthrough. ‘The architect had already provided the layout for the two bedrooms and kitchenette, so I just moved the bathroom and changed the layout of the kitchenette,’ says Cate. ‘I treated this space as a jumping-off point. The bathroom’s textural elements and natural materials in neutral tones would continue through all floors.’

When she selected a striking Manhattan limestone tile for the floor and walls, its large format style with minimal grout lines created a streamlined look. ‘When it arrived, it was even more dramatic than I expected,’ she says. ‘Since it’s a natural stone, every batch is different, and this provides real personality.’

The oval shape in the mirrored cabinet tied back with the curvaceous shower screen
'We were able to produce effective ventilation, preventing high humidity and minimising bacterial growth'

As a contrast, the Mizu brushed gold tapware adds warmth to the space. Another stand-out element is the light oak cabinetry, with curved protruding detailing. While it’s common to source a cabinetmaker to produce a perfectly fitted vanity, Cate turned to Zuster – a Melbourne-based design firm – which offered an instant solution with its ‘Issy Halo’ vanity and mirrored wall cabinet in Limed Oak.

‘We were on a tight timeframe so buying these units sped up the process,’ she says. ‘Once I showed the client the cabinet’s curved moulding and the oval shape in the mirrored cabinet – which all tied back with the curvaceous shower screen – it was a win-win situation.’

A lack of natural light was countered by cleverly layering light sources to provide illumination from all angles. This includes incorporating LED-strip lighting around the mirrored cabinetry and positioning it opposite the door to reflect light and brighten the space.

‘Although it’s a modest space, it looks much bigger than it actually is. It's all smoke and mirrors.’ 

The heated vertical towel rails are both effective and stylish, utilising brushed brass for extra impact. But it was the building team’s glazer who took on the difficult installation. ‘He mounted them through the mirror on the wall so the top half is placed on the mirror itself, while the bottom half is through the stone,’ Cate explains. ‘It certainly took a steady hand.’

Cleverly layered light sources provide illumination from all angles
The shapely Scoop Gloss stack bond tiles in Sky Blue are from Skheme

As the bathroom is located at a basement level, it has no window for ventilation. The team utilised a compact space between the wall at the back of the shower behind the feature tiles, and the original rock behind. ‘We were able to produce effective ventilation here, preventing high humidity and minimising bacterial growth.’ 

During the full renovation which took nine months years, she had turned to HIA many times for advice. ‘I liked that I could ring up and ask questions about specifications, Australian Standards information, and other handy tips,’ Cate says. ‘As the pandemic dissipated, I started going to HIA conferences, workshops and business lunches. You always get a lot out of these events.’

She also recognised the value of being part of HIA’s regional and national awards. When this Oatley bathroom project won the 2023 HIA Australian Bathroom Design award in May, she was ‘completely shocked’. She wasn’t available to go to the awards night on Hamilton Island but she knew a business colleague – a Sydney cabinetmaker – would be there. 

‘I was joking with him, saying “You can pick up my award for me when I win it!”,’ recalls Cate. ‘Then he texted me that evening to say, “Congratulations, your beautiful bathroom won”. I could hardly believe it!’

After scoring two impressive gongs over the past few years, perhaps Cate won’t be so surprised the next time the national awards are announced.


Innovate Architects


CV Construction

Interior design

Catherine de Meur Interiors


HIA | Business Solution


Oatley, NSW


2023 HIA Australian Bathroom Design


First published on 27 June 2023

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