It’s hard to imagine now, but until recently, this now renovated 1930s property was actually two completely separate apartments. Despite their disjointed state with no internal access, design writer Stephen Crafti had been living across both apartments for years, until finally engaging Robert Simeoni Architects to combine the two.
The objective was to cohesively amalgamate the apartments by retaining the existing fabric wherever possible, while inserting new elements clearly distinguishable from the property’s original features. While the apartments weren’t heritage protected, they were treated as such during the design process. ‘The aim of not trying to do too much, or as the Burra Charter suggests “as much as necessary, as little as possible” informed the thinking behind the design,’ says Robert of Robert Simeoni Architects.
A compact, dark stained timber and raw steel staircase was introduced to connect the two previously separate levels of the building. This staircase is located in the former bathroom of each apartment, minimising the need for costly and potentially unsympathetic internal alterations.
The rear of the property contains a new concrete floored addition where the dining, kitchen and laundry facilities are positioned. This addition forms a double height volume, incorporating a high level window, and ground level steel-framed windows, with combination of clear and opaque glazing. Standing in the rear courtyard, one can see only the zig-zag form of this new addition that shelters the spaces within. ‘In my mind, the rear courtyard and its proportions reminded me instinctively of Bramante’s Tempietto and its reverberating quality – a quality and a sense of suspension I was keen to explore and capture from within the courtyard space,’ says Robert.
A key consideration of this project was retaining the home’s existing quiet interiors and muted light. The use of fluted glass was developed in response to this, as well as the creation of long diagonal views throughout the shallow floor plan. These views expand the feeling of the existing house and its circulation paths, ‘creating a reordering of the duplex while not materially affecting the integrity of the original,’ as Robert describes.
Light fittings and furnishings, including a number of bespoke items created for the project by Suzie Stanford, were selected to inject considered, contemporary details into the space, whilst respecting the original fabric of the building.
This is a home that truly rejects current design trends in favour of honouring the integrity of the original building and the unique desires of its occupants. While undoubtedly impressive and sophisticated in its design, there’s an inherent quietness to the aesthetic that’s wholeheartedly refreshing to observe.