Apartment living: another level

Apartment living: another level


by Ruth Welsby 

In the bustling heart of central Melbourne, this modern, three-storey townhouse has all the space needed for a growing family 


City living often conjures up visions of high-rise tower blocks, pokey flats with dark corners and little outdoor space. But when the clients of Allison King bought a disused single-storey 1930s warehouse, their vision was to create a flexible family home, a tranquil oasis in the middle of the metropolis infused with glamour and luxury. To help them realise this dream they called upon Allison’s talents as one half of the boutique architect and interior design firm Jessup and King.

“It is not a typical warehouse conversion, as we completely gutted the space and built two new levels on top. We wanted to maintain the lofty feel of big open spaces and high ceilings, so we used the original proportions as reference points,” Allison says.

A compact lobby greets visitors on entrance, while a staircase to the right lead up into the house proper, wrapping itself around a central column and coming to rest on the first level. Two bedrooms, an ensuite bathroom and the home’s library and office are housed here, offering private guest facilities tucked away from the rest of the house above.

Placing the generous family kitchen, dining and living room on the second level of the property seemed an obvious choice from the outset. Sweeping city views are framed by a bank of glazed doors that open onto a bluestone terrace. “It’s the perfect spot for riding a tricycle round,” laughs Allison. “When we started the project the clients became pregnant with their first child, so we had to design fluid spaces that could accommodate different possibilities as the family grew.”

The couple was keen for the different rooms to be connected into one large open-plan space to act as the central hub of the home. However, they were less keen on the casual nature that these spaces can sometimes take on, especially as theirs contained the only dining area in the house. To combat this they injected a dose of old-fashioned glamour and sophistication into the room. A bold yet simple palette of warm woods, subtle creams, soft whites and vibrant reds imbue the space with refined elegance. An opulent glass chandelier hangs above the dining table, introducing a sense of occasion to the space, while a low hanging red pendant light adds a touch of unexpected glamour to the sleek, minimalist kitchen.

“I used low-level pendant lighting in the kitchen and dining areas to create a more intimate atmosphere, perfect for dinner parties,” says Allison. Further lighting arrangements in the large, open-plan space have given it a more dramatic ambience, with spot lighting introduced to the dark walnut storage pockets of the kitchen wall unit and additional lighting recessed underneath drawers in the living area. Multiple layers of soft diffused light bounce around the room, seamlessly linking the three different zones with ease.

Not wanting to compromise aesthetics over practicality in the kitchen area of the space, Allison was keen to blend its design with the rest of the room, wanting it to appear as part of the furniture yet also as a functional elegant statement. She managed to keep the area visually uncluttered by cleverly integrating and hiding appliances and accessories in deep-set cupboards and drawers, which helps to accentuate its streamlined, glossy appearance. As keen cooks and entertainers, Allison’s clients requested a flexible and social kitchen space, so she decided to extend the Quantum Quartz work surface to the terrace beyond, maximising the use of the outdoor area by incorporating a barbecue in the counter top. “As all the doors and windows fully retract the work top becomes one. You get a nice transition between the internal and external space, boundaries begin to blur and inside slides into outside,” she notes.

Back inside, Allison introduced a vibrant red wall to the sculptural staircase installation, running alongside the dining room zone. “We wanted to make the staircase feel like a large-scale artwork for the dining room, so we painted it red to complement the glass chandelier that the clients had already bought,” says Allison. Concerned that the dining room zone would get lost in such a large and exposed space, Alison also included the dramatic wall to bring a sense of intimacy and warmth to the area. “The intense colour manages to ground the dining zone and pull it together, creating the sense that it is a contained room, not just a transitional space,” she explains.

Moving up the stairs flanked by the striking red wall, the serene master suite wraps around the central staircase and occupies the whole of the third level. Ceiling-height sliding doors separate the rooms. Those currently housing the children’s bedroom were designed to provide flexible usage for the couple, with the option of opening the space up into one large interconnected area by concealing the doors within the wall cavities. The master bedroom and ensuite have been designed with total relaxation in mind, reminiscent of boutique hotels. The open and spacious bedroom’s main function is sleep, as a generous walk-in dressing room leading off the bathroom negates the need for any storage. The tranquil smudgy brown tones of the feature wall bring warmth to the minimalist room, while silk cord wall lights and glitzy scatter cushions add a touch of understated glamour.

An opulent freestanding bath, oversized mirror, pendant lighting and luxurious quartz slabs all speak of indulgence in the ensuite bathroom, something Allison was keen to invoke. “We were looking at elements of 1930s glamour, the idea that there was more time for bathing and relaxation. My clients wanted a sensuous and elegant bathroom, somewhere they could unwind after a long day, somewhere that had a sense of occasion about it,” she says. Echoing ideas seen in the design of the space below, Allison wanted to create a bathroom that looked like an extension of the bedroom, where the two rooms would blur into one, maximising space yet still remaining intimate. To help maintain this seamless flow, timber flooring was used throughout the entire level, connecting one space to the next. Joining the rich, warming tones of spotted gum flooring in the bathroom are the cooling and tranquil hues of Calacatta quartz. Large-format floor slabs were introduced around the theatrical freestanding bath to act as a practical, tiled bath mat. Continuing along the floor and wrapping up the wall, the Calacatta quartz forms a sophisticated vanity unit, coming complete with double basins, mirrored drawers and pull-out side racks, all included to maintain the bathroom’s sleek look and clean lines by hiding away any unwanted clutter. Allison choose a soft and inviting colour palette for the relaxing bathroom, wooden touches warm the space, while a hushed brown feature wall echoes colours used in the bedroom, further helping to link and join the two rooms.

Layered lighting was again favoured in the bathroom to convey different ambiences dependant on mood. Sparkling pendant lights flank the oversized statement mirror, twinkling and reflecting pools of light around the room, while downlights directly above the bath provide more practical task light. Two glass pods house the WC and shower for extra privacy in the open bathroom. Exuding diaphanous light, they act as a grand entrance to the dark-brown dressing room beyond.

“It was a delightful project to work on, as my clients were so interested and excited in the whole process,” Allison recalls. In creating a spacious, luxurious and flexible house, Jessup and King have ensured that this family home will be enjoyed for years to come. 

Photography by Dianna Snape  

Architecture and Interior Design: Allison King 
Jessup and King Level 8, 180 Russell Street, Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: 03 9654 0033
Website: www.jessupandking.com.au