City chic

City chic


by Danielle Townsend

An inner-city warehouse conversion packs a lot of punch despite its tiny proportions.

home renovations 

There’s something quite quirky and special about living in a converted warehouse; an old building that has been worked on and adapted to become a comfortable home, or several homes. As part of an original 1916 warehouse in the heart of Perth’s CBD, this apartment left a lot to be desired in its previous condition, with a dated colour scheme of purple carpet and walls, green and white tiles and blue and brown cabinetwork.

Even though the warehouse building had been converted into apartments just 10 years earlier, an inappropriate choice of materials and bad design had aged it considerably and created a dark interior and claustrophobic space. But the new owner saw beyond this and recognised its potential to be transformed into something spectacular in an ideal location. “The rationale for purchasing and improving an inner-city apartment was highly influenced by the social, economic and environmentally sustainable benefits of inner-city living; ideas ingrained in the philosophies of urban living, city safety, vibrancy and transportation,” says designer Kerry Chong of Kerry Chong Design.

The client brief Kerry received encapsulated an over-arching desire to create an exciting, unique and comfortable inner-city apartment that celebrated its beautiful heritage and combined it seamlessly with contemporary living. “The design was a direct response to the brief; a unique solution to work with the existing fabric and its associated constraints to create a contemporary apartment that had all the modcons of any luxury residence in a cutting-edge design,” says Kerry.

This home, part of the Durham House Apartments complex, is located off Perth’s bustling King Street, but is set back enough to be totally secluded, offering both convenience and privacy. At a modest 51 square metres, it was designed to cater for a single working professional or couple who work close to home, with the aim of creating a generous feeling of space and light, despite its deep interior and small footprint.

The renovation involved gutting the interior of the apartment, salvaging the old timber joist ceiling, brick walls and concrete floor, framing a beautiful four-metre volume; all qualities rare in new apartment developments today. The design process was a challenge in accommodating all aspects of living in a manner that maximised the available space while maintaining a feeling of openness and sophistication. The result is a sculpted space with no distinct rooms or doors, but utilises materials, form and changes in level to define the spaces. The renovated apartment achieves a deception of space that creates a feeling of expansiveness.

The concealment of many fixtures and fittings and cleverly detailed cabinetry have worked to reduce visual clutter and maintain the feeling of openness. The bedroom and bathroom are open to each other, with a change in level and materiality defining the bathroom space. An impressive full-height mirror captures attention, with a floating vanity unit proportionally balanced from it, while providing privacy to the shower and toilet recesses behind. The generous built-in robe and European laundry feature black acrylic sliding doors.

The kitchen and living areas are seamlessly detailed, with reflective black gloss cabinetry weaving its way around to frame the stainlesssteel kitchen workspaces and underline the living room entertainment area. Miele appliances feature throughout, all carefully integrated to maintain the clean lines of the cabinetry, reduce clutter and further promote a seemingly larger space. A generous opening and Juliet balcony face the back of King Street and ensure air and light permeate the space. The material palette was also painstakingly deliberated over to produce a scheme that was warm, clean and sophisticated and that wouldn’t date.

The result is a strong and striking palette of stainless-steel and black-and-white against platinum-coloured furniture contrasted with the original painted brickwork walls, ornate timber ceiling and raw exposed concrete. The use of these reflective finishes helps bounce light around the interior to make the apartment feel larger than it is. It’s one of only a few apartments in the building with such high ceilings, and the quality of its fitout is unprecedented in Perth; no corners have been cut in executing this carefully crafted gem of a space. Quality fixtures and materials arranged in such a sophisticated manner ensure a timeless classic.

It is fundamentally a grafting of new and old, smooth and rough, dark and light, the eclectic and the bespoke. This has been achieved so well that the project was the winner of 2010 Best of State WA in residential design at the Interior Design Awards. “It is hard to pinpoint an individual characteristic of the space that I appreciate most, but one quality I always appreciated was the large volume with its 3.5m ceilings, which are very rare in new inner-city apartment developments,” says Kerry, who was responsible for both the design and build. “The great thing as a designer about being involved so heavily in the construction process is that you can respond to situations arising on site and make appropriate decisions and resolutions.

There may have been certain elements that were not constructed as originally planned, but understanding the parameters we had to work within and coming up with resolutions that addressed these and still created a desirable outcome meant there was nothing I would have done differently. “The challenges of the project are also the factors that have made the end result so rich. For example, in reconfiguring the location of all the plumbing fixtures in the bathroom on the second storey of an existing apartment building with a concrete slab led to the strategy of raising the floor by a single step, which also helped to frame the space. “The wholesale approach to sustainability has meant utilising an existing structural fabric, with improvements only to the interior, enabling a lifestyle of work/life within the city without dependency on a car, which is very uncommon in Perth.”

How space was maximised:

  • A simple floating vanity bathroom unit that actually extends out as a fulldepth drawer for storage with no other fixtures visible.
  • A combination vanity tap and spout fitting that flows out from the mirror.
  • A built-in shower shelf to eradicate the need for any shelves proud of the walls.
  • Combination Miele washer/dryer to add valuable storage space.
  • Relocation of the hot-water system at a high level from its previous location on the floor to provide more accessible storage below.
  • Fully concealed fridge, dishwasher, rangehood and oven behind ergonomically designed cabinetry to reduce visual clutter.
  • Fully welded kitchen sinks that form part of the seamless stainless-steel kitchen benchtop.
  • A clean glass cooktop without any knobs or dials visible. • Carefully designed cabinetwork to cater for a full audio and visual home theatre without any cables visible.

Photography by Robert Frith, Kerry Chong and Sal Abubakar 

Project Particulars:
Designed and built by: Kerry Chong Design
32 Brisbane Terrace, Perth WA 6000
0421 378 225

Kitchen: Sealed concrete
Living: Rug from Barri’s Rugs
Bathroom: Large-format rectified tiles from Original Ceramics

Bathroom: 200mmx600mm white gloss rectified tiles from Original Ceramics

Benchtop: Stainless steel
Splashback: OptiWhite glass splashback
Cabinetry: High-gloss black-and-white lacquer, with Blum hardware built by Domain Interiors

Teknobili wall-mounted spout and tap in one, Alape above-counter vessel (all from Reece)

Dark ‘La Cage’ kitchen light fitting with pink flex from Inlite

Windows + external doors:
Commercial section sliding door to match existing by Avanti Glass

All Metro Plumbing & Gas Services

Dynamic Group

Blinds by Derrick Sambrook

Spencer Ceilings

Ryland Blakeney Painting

Magic Metals

Sofa + bedside table:
Baker & Shuhandler