With the help of a savvy interior designer and some structural changes, this typical 1960s apartment was transformed into a sleek city dwelling
Untouched and unrenovated since it was built over four decades ago, this apartment was dated and in shabby condition. The kitchen and bathrooms were all but unusable, with the fittings and fixtures corroded and outdated and the joinery falling apart. Both the kitchen and bathroom were ripe for gutting and a complete overhaul was needed.
The layout of the apartment also needed some reworking to maximise usable entertaining spaces and to create a sense of openness and spaciousness. Designer Sionen Thorpe, responsible for this remarkable transformation, explains her creative logic. “I felt that an ensuite was required and this was to be achieved by getting rid of a hallway, which was essentially dead space. This then turned into a large shower and new openings into the master bedroom and then again into the new ensuite were created.
“I wasn’t given a brief by the client, only asked to view the property prior to its purchase to see if it had potential and give my thoughts and an overview of what could be achieved. Because I’d done many projects for my client’s parents, I already had a great relationship with the family so they felt confident giving me free reign and trusted my design sensibility and sense of style. The end result is a very sophisticated and glamorous apartment, probably more so than my client would have initially envisaged. I felt that although she was only in her early 20s she would evolve and grow into the style. I took my cue from her fashion sense — slightly quirky, fresh and playful, not afraid to be different, beautifully detailed and somewhat avant-garde. She adores the end result.
“Apartments are notorious for not having enough storage. Immediately on walking into the entry, I knew it was dead space so I removed a wall between the entry and lounge to create a more open and free-flowing space. It also served to allow me further space to extend the kitchen, incorporate an internal laundry and eat-in breakfast area.
“We gutted the apartment completely, stripped it bare, so I had a clean slate to work with. I love to cook and entertain and something I always hated was being isolated in the kitchen while my friends were having a great time elsewhere — you’d end up missing your own party, so I created an open servery so my client felt like she was participating in the evening and interacting with friends.
“The dining area had a small hallway leading to a small second bathroom and the master bedroom. I wanted to create an ensuite and a larger bathroom space, so I bricked up the doorway of the dining area, created a new opening into the master bedroom and then another into the new ensuite.
“As with all apartments there are strict constraints in place by Body Corporate and vary from building to building, some being more flexible than others. In this case, paperwork and approvals were slow and laborious. There were lots of structural columns that couldn’t be moved, stacks, old plumbing work and wiring that was unsightly and couldn’t be changed, so they had to be cleverly disguised and accommodated in joinery.
“My inspiration comes from everywhere. I travel overseas frequently and can be inspired by almost anything from architecture to great restaurants and food presentation, to colours, textures and details in fashion and colours and light in landscapes. For me, good design is all about attention to detail, lasting quality and interpreting the client’s sense of style, even when they often can’t always articulate it themselves. It’s a very intuitive profession and every project is unique.
“I love all the rooms, especially the lounge/dining room; now that it is opened up it feels huge. It’s bold, dramatic and yet simple and clean at the same time. Each piece was carefully chosen to make a statement in its own right without competing with the other pieces. I love the quirky Bergere chairs, half red half cream set against the dramatic curtains with the strong Greek key detail in black. I also love the ensuite; the feature mosaic wall is really striking. I didn’t have a large space to work with but I still wanted a sense of drama and luxury so I designed the simple black vanity with the organic above-counter bowl, offset by the ornate mirror above. Instant drama, simple yet so effective.
“One of the challenges in the apartment was how to connect plumbing from the new shower area that was once a hallway to the stack. We had low ceiling space to start with and we had to elevate the floor to accommodate new plumbing and run a custom-designed slimline grate across the threshold between the bedroom and ensuite and an overhead bulkhead to accommodate wall fittings to the shower.
“It was really fun to have no design constraints, other than budgetary — you feel privileged to be trusted implicitly and giving such autonomy. It allows a designer to explore different styles and themes, be creative and uninhibited while interpreting the client’s style. We literally had only two or three meetings over the project. I had an initial meeting, came back with a broad overview and concept, then went back with design drawings and documentation. I was trusted to go away and work out the details without the clients getting overly involved — a designers dream.”
COMPANY NAME: Sionen Thorpe Design
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Sionen Thorpe
ADDRESS: PO Box 196 Paddington NSW 2021
PHONE: 0400 809 830
BUILDER: Demac Builders Pty
PHONE: 02 9580 1555
Kitchen: Black granite
Dining and lounge room: Carpet Twyne col Agate from Raines Carpet Ph 9908 5211
Master ensuite: Feature wall tiles Bisazza Summer flowers from Pazotti Ph 9387 4500
Paint colour: Dulux White Swan
Guest bedroom: Wallpaper Osbourne and Little from Mokum Textiles Ph 9357 0555
Floor: Black granite
Benchtop: CaesarStone col
Cabinetry: Dulux White Swan polyurethane
Basin: Cibo from Reece Ph 9698 5433
Fittings and fixtures: Mizu from Reece Ph 9698 5433
Kitchen light fitting: Kartell from Space Furniture
Dining room: Murano chandelier from Mondo Luce