Converting a Grande Dame of heritage architecture into a family home, the decorative elements are defined through texture and materiality to create a dialogue that flows throughout. Key to our decision making was a determination to retain and enhance what we loved about the house, while changing up the scale of the spaces and introducing materials and details that would feel relevant to the young family who are going to live and grow and make memories here. To this end we developed a strategy to pair lofty and architecturally rich spaces, with heritage detail of ornate cornices and skirting boards, where texture and refinement contrast and enrich the whole.
Monumental in scale, scope and evolution, the conversion of this 9-unit boarding house (9 bedrooms, 9 kitchens and 9 Bathrooms) into a single residence required close collaboration with the client and project architects. Our initial stratagem was to refine the spatial arrangements to direct the flow of family life through two distinct volumes: a traditional front of house area and a lofty more industrial zone. Once this was established we developed an aesthetic of contrasting experiences that visually flowed and connected. The result is a dialogue between the classic period details of the main body, where the rooms are clearly defined, and the open plan kitchen dining and sitting wing, where volumes are exaggerated and expanded. For the traditional portion, the original details such as high ceilings, ornate cornices, skirtings, timber windows, lacework and a grand entry hall were redefined and made elegant through a palette of warm grey and white. Conversely the open portion is lofty and architectural, with white painted brickwork and an abundance of light from skylights and steel framed windows and doors. Softening the rigour of this space, the kitchen makes a decided nod to the clients’ homeland of America, where a restrained palette of midnight blue and figured grey-stone off-sets the strong architectural backdrop of polished concrete, timber trusses, steel and brick.
Cognisant that this vast house must feel very much like a family home, we used elements of texture and materiality to drive a sense of nostalgia, without being cluttered or overtly referential. Through refined and textural surfaces, we heighten the sense of contrast and support a resolve that all parts feel at home in the architectural shell. Furniture and lighting are deliberately sculptural with each bringing a single block of colour to the design. As the construction progressed we also took advantage of a significant room under the house to create the cellar, bar, and a casual lounge, including the pool table. For this room the tones of existing stone walls are referenced with rugs that define space while imparting a textually rich undercurrent.
In keeping with melding 1800s grand living within a contemporary frame, the design celebrates a return of the boudoir. The Master suite, comprising walk in robe, bathroom, bedroom and front balcony, embraces graciousness and grandeur that resonates with the scale of the house. Rich in materiality, with painted walls, timber floors, tiles and the freestanding sculptural bath, the deliberately strong and masculine language of steel framing is balanced by the romance of floor to ceiling curtains in soft white linen, while a large black timber door visually ties this suite to the whole.
Photography by Tom Ferguson