Freemans Bay Apartment

Situated within Freemans Bay’s Star Flats, this 72m² apartment renovation is the latest in a string of very small projects we have built in the last few years. The smaller scale of this work affords us an opportunity to atmospherically tune space to very fine increments. In little rooms like these, clarity and subtlety of composition, material and detail are the tools by which we undertake that ‘tuning’.

We conceived the primary intervention – the kitchen – as a series of tectonically discrete pieces that would each have the credenza-like scale of furniture. Referencing the clients’ existing collection of modern furniture, we inherited a palette of rich timber veneers and a reductive approach to detail. In deferring to that existing language, we hoped that the new work would slip quietly into this little home. We wanted the pieces to feel like the gentle occupation of a larger space, extending the Modernist ideal of open-plan living and tacitly reshaping two rooms into one. We hoped we were gently manipulating the space in a way that was sympathetic to the original structure and planning, and that didn’t obscure the building’s own history.

We reintroduced a fragment of the lost hallway wall, offset slightly from its original position and anchoring the dining table alongside. This allowed us to thread shelves between living room and front door, offering a library on one side and a civilised sense of arrival on the other.

In the bedrooms we updated the wardrobes in their original locations. These match the Modern white of the apartment but distinguish themselves from the original fabric with a high gloss finish, creating a respectful conversation between new and old, and a subtle expansion of space in the reflective sheen of the lacquer. A precisely excavated handle is formed from the same walnut timber as the living and kitchen furniture, quietly tying these all together.

The bathroom forms a counterpoint to the rest of the apartment. As an isolated room, it afforded us an opportunity to create a space of atmospheric density, darkness and richness. A little, discrete sanctuary. An unassuming original door reveals this unexpected oasis. Soft pools of light illuminate darkly roasted and roughened timber, un-lacquered brass and soft stone. We sought to form something emotionally similar to the ‘day spa’, and the opposite of Modernism’s white ablution rooms; a psychological retreat in the heart of this little city apartment.

Photography by Samuel Hartnett