The World Is Roundtheworldisround.com.au
Willis Sheargoldwillissheargold.com.au Photography by Terence Chin abc
Credit must go to the early designers and builders of Queensland’s quintessential offering to the architectural archives, particularly in its capital, Brisbane, where old city suburbs rise and dip haphazardly on topographically tricky terrain. The archetypal ‘Queenslander’ is essentially a timber and tin box on stumps. It’s an enduring design and dream build on flat ground – but a lesson in ingenuity on a block like this one, where only the entry meets the earth. Securing one of these original inner city centenarians could be considered equal parts privilege and curse. And those tasked with adapting them for modern life without destroying their charms might feel the same way.
Owners Matthew and Caroline, a pair of physicians who work in nearby city hospitals, were drawn to its lofty position and expansive views of the Brisbane skyline to the south. Less appealing was the state of the dilapidated relic when they bought it five years ago. “It had what appeared to be a homemade downstairs area that obviously needed to have something done to it,” says Matthew. “And it was clear that the backyard was not being used at all.”
A year in, they began a working relationship with architect Matt Kennedy, principal of Arcke, a boutique firm familiar with the quirks and restrictions of old Queenslanders, to transform the former share house into a family home that made the most of its lot. “The original Queenslander perched precariously on a ridge and lacked any real connection to the steep ground at the rear of the site,” says Matt. “All of our renovation designs start with an in-depth understanding of the existing site and terrain together with a thorough comprehension of the structure and history of the original home. From there we are able to determine core elements to be retained and restored. There is an honesty and integrity to the way Queenslanders are built and we always try to work with and complement this in our architectural response,” he says.
His clients had made it clear they didn’t want a conventional upstairs/downstairs floorplan. “Essentially all the living gets done on one level and the other level becomes just a dormitory,” says Matthew. “I was cognitive of the fact that if the kitchen was on the top level no one would go downstairs and into the backyard. And it might seem contrived putting it on a lower level, away from the obvious entrance of the house.”
Matt came up with a plan to satisfy the brief in an innovative way – and the kitchen was at its core. “Matthew and Caroline had very fond recollections of family meals, conversations and moments at the dining table and we discussed at length the importance of its position in the house,” he explains. “It was determined by all [involved] that we foster this space for gathering and celebrate its importance. Because of the divide between upstairs and downstairs, we settled on the idea of locating the kitchen and dining at the half level. The benefit of doing this was to create a space that is equally accessible from upper and lower levels and very much the heart of the house.”
Dropping the kitchen down by a half staircase under the existing roofline also resulted in a soaring ceiling – creating a light-drenched space with the help of oversized sliding cavity windows that capitalise on the view. “Matt’s solution works [well] in practice,” says Matthew. “You can easily get to the kitchen from the entry and when you’re in the kitchen you can see and access the downstairs with ease too.” The design ticked another all-important box for the clients who weren’t interested in wasting any real estate on a deck that would be exposed to the elements and sporadically used. “You have to think carefully about how you’re going to use space when you’re renovating an existing house on a small block,” says Matthew. “I wanted the kitchen to be capable of turning into a semi-outdoor area. That’s what led to the arrangement with the very large sliding windows. When they’re open you just have one post in your sightline and can be almost as exposed as if you were on a veranda.”
Down another half staircase is the main living zone. Winding down further a music room and the laundry tuck neatly under the kitchen. The cascade continues to the lower floor with access to the backyard: brick stairs and a series of terraces descend to a fire pit area for abundant balmy evenings.
“A large part of the design response was about attempting to ground the lower rear of the house and establish an improved connection between inside and out,” says Matt, who was on site up to three times a week during the ten-month build, fastidiously monitoring its progress.
There’s no denying the overall visual impact of the end result, but Matt hasn’t neglected the details. Timber floors link old with new, and modern finishes are softened with complementary birch ply features throughout. “We have used it on ceiling linings and cabinetry. We like using it because it offers warmth and texture,” says Matt. The custom ply and recycled timber shelves flanking the top floor library which open out to those glorious views, also double as a privacy screen. “The distinction between the lounge and the library is determined by how many books you have on the shelves,” says Matthew. More minimalist styling means the lounge can also catch the view.
But the test of any design is its livability factor after the clients settle in, and this is where Matt’s attention to detail has future-proofed the re-imagined Queenslander. “Every room is used, no room is arbitrary and they’re all the right size,” says Matthew. “I think that’s a real achievement.”Arcke arcke.com.au Photography by Scott Burrows Dissection Information Birch ply feature ceilings throughout Hexagonal encaustic concrete tiles from Popham Design Exterior timber finish Dulux Intergrain Blue Mottle Bricks from Lincoln Brickworks Joinery finishes and kitchen island finish Dulux Integrain Buch stools from Great Dane Furniture Recovered pink occasional chair and ottoman in library Kav Pendants over kitchen island from Dezion Studio Droplet Pendant over banquette by Viktor Legin Vogue Ceramica backsplash and bathroom tiles from Classic Ceramics Louvres from Breezeway Louvre Windows Duravit bathroom sinks from Bathe We think you might also like Buderim House by Norman Richardsabc
Romance was where it all began for Vince Lim and Elaine Lu. They met while studying architecture at Cornell University, New York, and they’re now partners in work as well as in life, having established multidisciplinary design studio Lim + Lu in Hong Kong in 2015.
“We didn’t know each other’s design aesthetic prior to working together,” says Vince. “We started dating and then down the road, we said. We should do something together. Which could have been risky, but it worked out nicely.”
So nicely, in fact, that in 2017 Maison & Objet named their studio one of five winners of the trade fair’s Rising Asian Talents award.
Their star has risen rapidly, especially so considering they only arrived back in Hong Kong and set up Lim + Lu two years prior. The duo readily admits that one project is responsible for their success: their own home. This 112-square-metre space has attracted plenty of attention from media and prospective clients. And no wonder: it’s fresh and alive with colour – soft, Scandinavian pinks, rich, cobalt blues and cosy emerald greens – and a poster child for the kind of multi-purpose spaces compact home owners need.
The pair used partitions in their flat to create flexible spaces that can be used in a number of ways. Take, for example, the study-slash-dining-room-slash-guest-room. Coming off the living room, this space features a table, chairs and a pullout daybed that’s part of Lim + Lu’s Mass series. Here, sliding doors allow the pair to open up or close off this room, depending on their needs.
“It’s all about versatile and flexible spaces and objects,” says Vince. “An overarching theme for us is designing objects and spaces that encourage interaction and curiosity. Nothing should be static.”
“That’s how our thought process begins,” explains Elaine. Indeed, it’s how they worked when Tai Ping commissioned them to create a carpet for the residential market. “Our first thought was how do we break with the typical, static carpet that never moves?” She continues: “We designed the carpet in geometric shapes, creating three different modules that users can reconfigure for different spaces.”
The result is Reform, a curvaceous carpet made up of overlapping circles in different textures and in shades of pastel pink and blue, and, like many of their other pieces, it has a place in their home – on the floor of their bedroom.
“A lot of the prototypes end up living in our home. We keep refining them and changing them,” says Vince.
There’s the paneled coffee table, the modular sofa and the bathroom mirror – all of these are original Lim + Lu creations, and all of them are designed with flexibility in mind. The Lunar mirror is “a vanity mirror for two”, says Vince; divided into two halves, it’s designed so that Vince can use the mirror on his side while Elaine uses the cabinet on her side.
Then there’s the Mass sofa: it can be configured in multiple ways, with cushions that can be positioned on different parts of the brass base, giving the user a range of options when it comes to table surfaces and seating arrangements.
This piece is now in production, snapped up by Danish brand New Works after they saw it in a story about Vince and Elaine’s home. “They reached out and said they wanted to develop a range of seating based on this concept,” says Elaine.
Furniture was where Elaine and Vince’s working relationship began back in New York. Elaine was working at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and Vince was at Kohn Pedersen Fox. “At large corporate offices, the work can be really interesting, but what you’re handling can be really mundane. So we wanted a creative outlet,” says Vince.
“We started designing pieces of furniture on the side. In 2014 we decided to exhibit at ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in New York. We had positive feedback, but we knew we could go much further with them.”
Their desire to take their furniture to the next level is what led them to Hong Kong. “We were fabricating in China – it’s too expensive in New York – and we realised we needed to be on the ground,” says Vince.
“We also wanted to be part of the first wave,” he continues. “With M+ [the much-talked about visual culture museum, which is being designed by Herzog and de Meuron] opening up here and Art Basel happening over the last couple of years, I think there’s a growing awareness in Hong Kong of art, design and creative industries.”
“China’s design awareness is also growing so fast,” says Elaine. Perhaps that’s why Lim + Lu is getting so much work in China. “Right now we’re working on a food and beverage project in China and a series of stores there too,” she adds.
With so much work on the table, do Elaine and Vince ever take a break?
Apparently not. “We don’t have an off switch,” says Vince. “It’s hard to differentiate when you’re working on the clock and when you’re not working. Even when we go out on a regular date, we’re looking around us and we’re saying, Oh that’s really nice, we should use that in our next project.”
“People always ask us, How are you married and working together? Do you talk about anything other than design? – Not really!” says Elaine. “Design doesn’t just enrich our lives… it is our lives.”
Lim + Lu limandlu.comPhotography by Michelle Proctor and Nirut Benjabanpot We think you might also like Residence HM by Lim + Luabc