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The cosmetic doctor, passionate renovator, and creative meme maestro has converted a run-down Victorian terrace into a pastel-dappled work of art.

| By Alexandra Carlton | Home tours

How Dr Naomi’s Run-Down Sydney Terrace Became a Glamorous Urban Paradise

The cosmetic doctor, passionate renovator, and creative meme maestro has converted a run-down Victorian terrace into a pastel-dappled work of art.

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans, and crafters of all types by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour the glamorous, Victorian-era terrace of cosmetic doctor and founder of The Manse Clinic, Dr Naomi McCullum.

“I love transformation. I love making things look beautiful.” This is the explanation skincare entrepreneur and content creator Dr Naomi McCullum gives for her passion for investing in elegantly boned old buildings and giving them new life – and isn’t a bad description of her business, either. The renowned cosmetic doctor began treating clients in 1999, opened her first clinic in Sydney’s Paddington in 2002, and launched her high-performance skincare line, Dr Naomi Skin, in 2021. And she has been transforming houses – and people – ever since.

Her 150-year-old, four-storey, five-bedroom Victorian-era terrace certainly needed a good dose of TLC when she bought it in 2018. “It was unrenovated and horribly run down but the potential was incredible. I knew it was going to take a lot of love and energy to bring it back but the grandness and heritage features and the challenge was so appealing,” she says. Working with architect Luigi Rosselli and design firm Handelsmann + Khaw, Dr Naomi coaxed the faded sandstone beauty from disrepair into a pastel-dappled work of art, with enormous double-height ceilings, mezzanine and internal Juliet balconies and views to Sydney Harbour that shapeshift as you move through the space.

Visitors get their first sense of the home’s interior treasures when they first make their way past the jasmine-laden driveway and note the pale lilac colouring of the exterior, as well as a gently curved structure above the doorway. Inside, the rounded shapes and subtly feminine colourways continue. Oversized mirrors in sherbet colours rest against the walls. Bubble-shaped light fittings add pops of juicy joy. Soft shades of pink and lilac, from the rose marble in the kitchen to the tiles in the bathrooms, give every room a feeling of playful sophistication. The pink bathrooms are in fact some of Dr Naomi’s favourite spaces. “Maybe I love them because I’ve lived with so many horrible bathrooms over the years with all my renovating,” she muses. “Their functionality is perfection.”

When asked which pieces she’s most attached to sentimentally, Dr Naomi insists that she’s not sentimental in the slightest (“I’m always throwing things out!” she says), but a couple of pieces make her light up. A painting, Cosmic Girl by contemporary Indigenous artist Josh Deane that sits in the living room is one. It features a woman who came to the artist in a vision and includes an Aboriginal flag. “I just love him [Deane] so much. He’s such a creative who brings joy to the world,” she says. Another is the pastel blue boucle sofa by Spanish designer Patricia Uriquola. “She is a creative genius of our time. For this renovation, I also got some outdoor chairs and rugs designed by her. She is a powerhouse of creativity and style.”

But if McCullum could pick a favourite spot in the home, it wouldn’t be under the building’s roof at all. Instead, she cites the pool and spa area as her favourite design feature (“I love the disco lights in the pool – surprise surprise!” she says with a laugh) and the garden space where she likes to hang out with her husband John and two teenage children, eating al fresco meals or drinking tea.

When you look at McCullum’s home in the broader context of her life and business, there’s an energetic synergy to all of it. Her nearby lab space, where she retreats to experiment with formulations for the Dr Naomi Skin range, has a similar look and feel to her home in terms of the décor style, though perhaps with a little more zing. “Commercial interiors are much more fun for me as you can do more wild things with fun materials. I wouldn’t consider a bright blue herringbone timber or pastel lilac vinyl floor for a home project, but for commercial, the creativity can come out with less restraint,” she says.

She also lets her creativity loose on Instagram, where she has amassed a staggering almost 400,000 followers, a devoted community that grew from the blog she began all the way back in 2011. “My blog became really big in readership because in the cosmetic medical field, patients were thirsty for information and especially the type of info I was sharing,” she says of her early days creating content. “It was ‘behind the scenes’ and super-transparent with the good, the bad and the ugly about the industry. This info wasn't available online back then. As patients moved platforms, so did I; we went from blogging to Facebook and then to Instagram.” Like her home, her posting style is playful, colourful and doesn’t take itself too seriously. She also makes a mean meme. “I love laughing at and exposing the stupidity and vices of my industry and myself,” she says. “Also satire is where you can say a lot about deeper issues without making too many enemies.”

The transformation theme runs through her career, not just in the work she does but also in the way her career has progressed, from patient-facing to skincare. “My whole reason for choosing this career in my 20s was because I love transforming people and helping them get the life of their dreams,” she says. Creating skincare, however, unlocks entirely new challenges, from formulations to logistics, marketing and scaling. “I love the creative aspect,” she says. “There are so many fun decisions to make.”

Creative decisions, playfulness and transformation are Dr Naomi’s north stars. She has an alchemist’s touch that allows her to transform something tired and neglected into its final act of true beauty. She does, after all, come from a long line of building lovers, including her great grandfather, industrialist John Britain who built railways, and a great uncle who lives nearby in Sydney and is currently restoring an old rectory. Dr Naomi herself is also onto her next project, finding a heritage bell to install in the bell tower of her ‘Manse’ clinic a few streets away. “I have a lot of building love in my blood,” she says. “I think I was put on this earth to look after things.”

For more from Dr Naomi follow her @drnaomi1 @drnaomiskin @themanseclinic

Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Audrey Won.


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