At the helm of a hospitality empire, Justin Hemmes knows how to create entertaining spaceÂ â€“ even in the most unlikely places. How does his own home reflect his business vision?
â€œI remember Dad laying in bed with lots of pillows behind him and holding one of those old phones talking business,â€ smiles Justin. â€œDad spent his life on the phone and dinner was consumed with business too. When my sister and I were younger we werenâ€™t involved in the conversation, but youâ€™d hear the same thing over and over. Nothing in my fatherâ€™s life was half-hearted, which is a trait Iâ€™m grateful to have inherited from him.â€
Passion is not the only attribute the 44-year-old entrepreneur has inherited. The building weâ€™re sitting in â€“ a heritage-listed mansion in Sydneyâ€™s prestigious area of Vaucluse â€“ was bought by Justinâ€™s parents in 1974. With multiple wings and a Sydney harbour view, itâ€™s a symbol of their rags-to-riches success story: how Justinâ€™s father, an Indonesian immigrant, survived a WWII war camp, moved to Australia and built a small hat business into a chain of iconic retail stores.
Today, Justin lives here with his partner, Kate Fowler, and their 11-month-old daughter, Alexa Merivale. His father, John Hemmes â€“ or â€˜Mr Johnâ€™ as everyone affectionately knew him â€“ died of cancer in 2015. Since then the mansion has been gradually renovated (the brief was â€˜contemporary gothicâ€™), with the addition of a palatial swimming pool and a marble open-plan kitchen, where family photos hang amongst brass saucepans.
The house has eight bedrooms, but no office â€“ a decision Justin consciously made as a means of separating work and play. â€œI donâ€™t like to bring my work home,â€ he says. â€œIt was different for Mum and Dad. They were both in the same business at the same time so it just flowed on.
â€œWhen Iâ€™m at home Iâ€™d rather be focused on my family and friends. Itâ€™s why I donâ€™t go into detail about the business with Kate. Iâ€™m dealing with problems 24/7 and, if I try to explain them from the beginning, itâ€™s like rehashing the whole thing.â€
â€œThe space embodies both a nod to the past and a sense of renewal. â€œWeâ€™ve changed the house enough to make it ours,â€ says Justin. â€œItâ€™s not about reliving memories from my childhood. Itâ€™s about making new ones with the next generation, whilst respecting everything that has come before us.â€
Read the full interview with JustinÂ in our current issue, Issue 38.Â All photos by Kat Parker.