Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always the client who dictates the brief to an architect. Oftentimes, it’s the site and space. A large site may afford the client any amount of bedrooms, multiple living zones, a study space and perhaps formal and informal dining areas. A steep or slanted site would encourage multiple levels; a rural site might suggest making a feature of the surrounding environment; while a coastal site would heavily influence material choices and site orientation. For small-scale projects, however, “the brief is often just to make it liveable”. So says architect Brad Swartz. Under the guise of his eponymous architecture and interior design studio, Brad and his team at Brad Swartz Architects, have recently completed the reconfiguration of Boneca Apartment, a 24-square-metre studio apartment in the inner Sydney suburb of Rushcutters Bay.
The resident and client bought the apartment with the idea of engaging an architect to design a make-over. But there was no strict brief per se – simply to take the shell of the apartment and site orientation as the [only] two absolutes and go from there: nothing was off the table.
Previously, to enter the apartment was to enter the kitchen, which had been separated from the rest of the studio by a dividing wall. Through the kitchen was a bedroom that doubled as the living room and the bathroom. No space was dedicated to dining.
What stands out now about this apartment is how the considered assessment of layout and a resulting relocation of interior walls – all of them, in fact – and plumbing has reinvigorated an apartment that was well designed for its time (the middle of last century) but which had since dated.
Brad has propelled the apartment into the 21st century. “There has been a shift in thinking,” he says. “Going home you want the bedroom to be separate now, and the kitchen to be part of your living space so you can entertain.”
The new space is more or less split in two. As you enter, the kitchen lines the left wall before the inbuilt double bed featuring hidden storage care of custom joinery. Between the kitchen and bed is a short corridor leading to the bathroom, in a new, subtler location. A table for dining, studying or socialising sits in front of the door behind a two-seater sofa and the windows that line the facing wall.
The key to the interior layout is a bespoke sliding screen. While the final iteration is slatted timber custom designed by Brad and built by feather edge – a fabrication company that habitually works on art projects and run by Brad’s brother, Mark Swartz – many other designs were explored first. It began as two sliding doors that then morphed into glass panels, followed by a completely solid timber version.
More than creating visual interest, the final version also provides solutions to a number of different design constraints. One of which is the filtration of light: due to the window-to-depth ratio, the apartment can get quite bright in the middle of the day, sliding the door to cover the bed filters the lighting streaming in.
The sliding slatted timber screen not only filters light but also helps to retain a sense of openness; it defines the room without dividing the space; and allows ventilation.
The screen, depending on which side it rests, determines the feel of the space. Concealing the bed affords the resident a space conducive to entertaining: complete with kitchen, dining and living zones. Alternatively, sliding the screen to hide the kitchen affords a bedroom atmosphere, meaning the resident is able to enjoy two large rooms in a studio apartment of just 24-square-metres.
“You still get a sense of openness because it’s not a solid piece, but you can’t really see what is beyond,” notes Brad.
The seamless and hidden nature of lighting likewise characterises the project. There is recessed lighting and backlighting in the living spaces while strip lighting lines the edges within the bathroom and along the kitchen wall. “We like to hide a lot of the lighting, so you don’t have a busyness of downlights on the ceiling,” says Brad. This aligned perfectly with the client’s sensibilities as she had been staying in nice hotels for work and was quite taken with the concept of hidden lighting. “It ends up with really beautiful results, there are all these little light boxes that are almost light features in themselves,” he adds.
There might be a perception in the wider community that architecture is unaffordable and is a luxury rather than necessity – and perhaps in some [read: many] cases that are well-founded. Boneca Apartment, however, makes a strong case for an alternative opinion.
Given the vast improvement of this space and the liveability for its occupant – and knowing that there were numerous conceptual layouts explored architecturally before the final concept was arrived at – there is no denying the value of an architect. “Using a designer or an architect to really go through the design process can add a lot,” says Brad. It will be an added expense, but the value one gets out of using an architect will far outweigh the cost.
Brad Swartz Architects bradswartz.com.auPhotography by Tom Ferguson Dissection Information Vivid White paint from Dulux White laminate from Laminex Cloud burst concrete Caesarstone bench top Dark grey porcelain tiles from Bettertiles CM05 Habibi Tray Table by E15 from Living Edge Zinnia Rug from Armadillo & Co Bench 153 by Artek from Anibou T900 H Curve ceiling track lights from Brightgreen Pure 600 Solid Surface basin from Cibo Titan Range tapware from Caroma We think you might also like Whiting Architects: The Beauty Of Small Footprint Livingabc
Hotel Bocage by Duangrit Bunnag of DBALP Hua Hin, ThailandBreaking the norm by bringing an embodiment of Brutalist architecture to the beachfront, Hotel Bocage is located in Hua Hin, the Gulf of Thailand. Designed with the intention of having strong geometric lines juxtapose organic elements of the beachside, Hotel Bocage is located atop a shopping mall. The neo-brutalist concrete construction and stripped back décor adds a sculptural element to the entire guest experience. The bathroom especially so, utilises floor-to-ceiling glass walls to give guests a dramatic in-tub view of the Gulf while the sanitary-ware underlines a clean and calm setting. Bunnag successfully delivers equal parts brutalist minimalism and refined luxury. [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="85707,85706"] DBALP dbalp.com
Amanemu Resort by Kerry Hill Architects Ise Shima National Park, JapanFound on Japan’s east coast, and part of the luxury hotel brand Aman, Amanemu references the traditional Japanese ryokan. It comprises a series of structures, with 24 suites and four villas, each with its own private hot spring bath. Amanemu is an epitome of the perfect balance between contemporary architecture and Japanese minimalistic traditions and delights visitors with sweeping views of the surrounds from every room. The interiors highlight Japanese hinoki cypress wood, woven bamboo furniture and lighting, as well as a black wood-panelled façade. Each ensuite is fitted with charcoal-coloured basalt stone tub and tiles that elevates luxuriousness and tranquillity with hot and cold mineral-rich water. It is a full-blown private onsen experience on tap, allowing visitors to submerge themselves in a holistic experience that very much focuses on wellness. The hotel bathroom design is completely influenced by natural hot springs and the therapeutic powers of water, centred on Japan’s centuries-old onsen tradition. [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="85700,85701"] Kerry Hill Architects kerryhillarchitects.com
Jackalope Hotel by Carr Mornington Peninsula, VictoriaOne of the most Instagrammed hotels in 2017, Jackalope Hotel opened its doors to the public in April that year and received ample attention for its 46 designer rooms and luxury suites. The boutique hotel, which takes the name of a mythical rabbit-like creature with antlers, is fitted with custom-built furniture, a 30-metre infinity pool, and artworks that also include a seven-metre-tall Jackalope structure. The floor-to-ceiling windows as well as private terraces, consistently seen in every room, allow visitors to connect with the rural surroundings. Clad in zinc, and themed black and gold, Carr Design Group has produced a modern interpretation of agriculture buildings and barn-like structures. This is luxurious theme continues within; where bathrooms feature a black Japanese deep-soak tub, rain showers and double vanities. The holistic design-driven experience is a sensory overload, including copper, silver and gold mosaics. The spa-like interior and exclusive bath products have developed by Melbourne’s Hunter Lab also include a pinot grape skin and seed bath soak and body scrub, made from the hotel’s vineyard. It is definitely a hotel bathroom design deserving a nice glass, or bottle, of local wine. [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="85710,85711"] Carr carr.net.au
Elements of Byron by Shane Thompson Architects Byron Bay, New South WalesWith views of the bush, beach, and the rainforest, Elements of Byron is one of Byron Bay’s most voguish resorts. As Byron Bay is recognised for its laid-back aesthetic and lifestyle, Shane Thompson Architects combined a balanced level of Japanese simplicity with an informal Australian feel for its interiors. The wood stools, ladder towel racks, rattan armchairs and shell chandeliers nods to the bohemian reputation of the entire site, and are also respective to the sensitive surrounding wetlands. The roomy hotel bathroom design boasts an organic and pared-back feel, featuring a generously sized stone stand-alone bathtub. Here, guests are not only seduced into a holiday vibe with musing sounds of native birds, but they are also submerged into a state of relaxation that is rare with busy lifestyles. [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="85703,85704"] Shane Thomspon Architects shanethompson.com.au Though varying in concept and design details, these examples are consistent in that they all capture the spirit and history of their locales, taking the stress out of travelling. Hotel bathrooms have the capacity to showcase significant design statements. In fact, it is more than the sum of sinks and showerheads; conversely, they serve as a sanctuary providing the comforts of a home. Cohesively, these examples of hotel bathroom design balance utility, beauty and connection to its surrounding. We think you might also like this Design-Led Airport Hotel in Mascot, Sydney Photography courtesy of Shane Thompson Architects, Design Hotels, A+ Design Group, Kerry Hill Architects and Carrabc
Ian Moore is an architect known for his black and white palette and glass louvres, but his aesthetic is, as he says, basically about “keeping it as clean and simple as possible”. In the case of the alterations and additions to this inner suburban Sydney house, the interventions are so subtle that it is not immediately apparent that anything has been done at all. But the house quickly reveals that he has achieved a highly refined and understated relationship between old and new, respecting the past without indulging it.
Sydney’s Surry Hills may these days be Trendy Central, but it has a past which its new generation of residents value as much as those who were born and raised there. It has always been a quirky suburb, mixing low-income residential with the rag trade, diverse lifestyles and maintaining itself as a connection with Sydney’s 19th century past as well as being a hub of contemporary innovation and experiment. Ian Moore points out that the shops always tended to be randomly distributed rather than forming strips. This property was a case in point – a butcher’s shop dating from 1898 and the only shop in a street of terrace houses and some low-rise commercial buildings.
As a shop it fronted straight on to the street with no setback. It was one-room deep with a cool room out the back. The butcher lived in the next door terrace with doorways linking the two properties at ground level and on the first floor. Over time, the shop became a self-contained residence with a new façade and windows for the front and rear walls – windows which are still there. The original butcher shop tiles are still on the walls of what is now the living room, while the original floor tiles are also still there, but now hidden beneath a raised timber floor introduced by a previous owner to match the level of the back yard.
This project consisted of two stages – or three if you include the fact that Ian Moore and his wife (who live close by) are friends of the clients and actually found the house and urged them to attend the auction which, says Ian, they won by 11 cents! Otherwise, Stage 1 involved a new kitchen and some work on the rear courtyard.
But Ian Moore had done a master plan which indicated what could be done further down the track. In this, he was helped by the existing height regulations in the street which enabled him to add a new level as part of Stage 2 and still remain lower than the highest buildings in the street.
“It was important to make something that was so simple and contemporary that it didn’t compete with the original building,” says Ian. “So, up there we have put a white aluminium box. You don’t really notice it. And it’s set back from the original parapet with a little roof terrace inside (behind the parapet). That’s the main bedroom.” This discreet, private and light-filled little pavilion on top of the original building – along with a sinuous new spiral stairway like a tower linking all three levels of the house – represents Stage 2. The glass louvres for the rear elevation and the handrail for the stairway to be installed.But, as always with Ian Moore, the magic lies in the details. One enters the house straight from the street with the door on the left. Once inside the circulation continues to range left. A wonderfully luminous – and beautifully proportioned – doorway leads into the kitchen. This luminosity comes from the reflected light of the kitchen tiles, themselves illuminated by an oculus in the kitchen ceiling which, with the passage of the sun during the day, projects constantly changing shapes on to the wall. In turn, the kitchen leads out to the rear courtyard through another superbly scaled glass door.
But there had been circulation issues with the kitchen, the existing bathroom and the tight return of the stairway. These were resolved by Ian with an elegant, long dining and preparation bench in the shape of a hockey stick – which Moore calls “the big gesture” because it is both directional and a sculptural device helping to make the kitchen the “hub” of the home and the link to the rear courtyard. The circularity of the ‘hockey stick’ echoes the round oculus, while the hard-wearing black lino flooring sets up Ian’s typical conversation with the all-white finishes.
The clients’ two young boys have their bedrooms (with some Ian Moore-designed mobile cupboards) on the first floor along with an ingenious study nook on the landing. The master bedroom above continues the black-white conversation. Up here, you are amongst the trees, enjoying dappled sunlight from the west as it makes its way through some handsome established trees. Bathed in light from the little roof terrace, its privacy protected by the restored original parapet, the bedroom is separated from the ensuite by a wardrobe unit with a gap between the top and the ceiling which helps to sustain a sense of space and flow. Meanwhile, the bed features customised, Ian-Moore-designed fitted aluminium side tables in the quest to keep it simple by avoiding additional freestanding furnishings. From the outside, the rooftop addition can scarcely be seen, confirming Ian’s agenda to create a functional contemporary addition without compromising the historic character of the building or the integrity of its neighbours.
Ian Moore Architects ianmoorearchitects.com
Photography by Daniel MayneDissection Information Vivid white paint from Dulux Naoto Fukasawa Deja-vu stools by Magis from CULT Jasper Morrison air folding chair by Magis from CULT Side chair by Knoll from Dedece Sobork 3050 dining chair by Fredericia from Great Dane Tray table by Hay from CULT Eileen Grey light by ClassiCon from Anibou Ceiling light by Bega Bathware from Caroma Stainless steel linear drains from Stormtech 700 wide oven, gas cooktop, and canopy hood from Ilve Fully integrated dishwasher from Smeg Fully integrated freezer and refrigerator from Fisher & Paykel We think you might also like A Compact, Coastal Home by Topology Studioabc
When the residents of Salmon Avenue, Steven and Ainsley, decided their “forever house” was to be a new residence made from concrete, their research led them to the director of FGR Architects, Feras Raffoul, who had designed and built his own concrete and glass house.
Feeling they were on “the same wavelength” kept the brief simple. “We pretty much asked for a concrete home that’s light and bright – then we were happy to let Feras do his thing,” says Ainsley.
“My home is an example of experimenting with concrete and seeing where the whole idea of a peeled back palette takes things. This is a more evolved version – it’s series two,” Feras says. One key design ambition was to give the clients privacy from the street. Set foot inside and the emphasis turns to visual connectivity, light and acoustic privacy for the occupants, explains Feras.
Structurally, 80 per cent of the couple’s new home is concrete and glazing softened by timber cabinetry and greenery, much of which will mature over time. Gallery-like in feel and generosity, FGR Architects designed and built Salmon Avenue around the needs of the family of four.
According to Feras, a house should “mould itself around” the respective living and entertaining requirements of the kids growing up and of the parents. And it does. “The house works perfectly for our family,” says Ainsley. “When the kids are little – being able to see them from wherever you are is important.”
Salmon Avenue exploits the 55-metre long site, running from the north edge to the parklands on the southern boundary. Living quarters are housed in the front square element with a downstairs guest room and three bedrooms upstairs, each with a personal bathroom.
A walkway links the private spaces to a rear linear element, the entertaining quarters. “This is where we live, it’s the heart of the home,” says Steven. For FGR Architects, overcoming the 3-metre drop that is almost one full floor level, from one end of the block to the other, was one of the project’s biggest design challenges. That was in part resolved using a transition space with a second lounge/rumpus room to one side and a laundry with its own service yard tucked away on the other.
The expansive entertaining area, which flows freely between the kitchen (the home’s “epicentre”), meals, living and alfresco areas, opens directly onto the pool and garden. In contrast to the new residence, the family had previously been living in a small house. “The kids were ecstatic and would literally run laps from the front door and down to the dining table,” recalls Ainsley.
“Having 180-degree visual connection from the kitchen to all spaces means I can organise dinner while the kids are in the pool or the rumpus room and take comfort that I can see them.” As the consummate entertaining spaces for hosting large gatherings with extended family, the 4.5-metre long island bench makes a ready grazing station on one half and bar station on the other.
Low maintenance was a must. “I don’t want to be home cooking and cleaning all day, I wanted the house to be easy to live in – so that when people come over, this is the way it is,” says Ainsley. Delivering that aspiration is the self-cleaning oven, an integrated fridge, day-to-day appliances concealed in a galley-style pantry (stage left off the kitchen), copious storage for “bits and bobs” and having all the bedrooms upstairs.
FGR Architects not only ensured that the home is robust and family friendly but also offers many opportunities for sanctuary. Steven loves watching TV from the beanbag by the pool or hanging out by the fire pit of a summer’s evening. For Ainsley, it’s a tie between retreating to the master bedroom’s mesmerising views on a weekend or enjoying the entertaining spaces.
Perceptions around concrete being cold to live with are dismissed here. “Visitors to the house see the concrete façade and they’re not sure what to expect, but with the windows, timber and soft furnishings it’s surprising how warm the house is,” says Ainsley.
Past experience as a fashion retail manager has instilled conviction in her tastes and preferences. “I have a strong sense of knowing what I like and what I don’t like,” she continues. “While some people might be overwhelmed by all of the concrete, for us, it was like, give us a concrete jungle, the more concrete the merrier. I think concrete is very organic – you can pare it back with beautiful more refined elements to balance each other out.”
A printer by trade, Steven is a stickler for quality materials and perfect finishes. The build was a collaboration between AMPM Projects and FGR Architects, with Steven and Ainsley heavily involved in all aspects of the construction and finishes.
Building a concrete home is not for overthinkers, cautions Feras. “Concrete is an unforgiving product, you don’t get to procrastinate – you have to make decisions early, be comfortable about it and move on.”
Four custom made, oversized, precast concrete panels for the passage walls run horizontally, a method that eliminated extraneous lines. “That’s the intention of the alchemist – to allow you to enjoy the surface area and have fewer items intruding on your eye space,” points out Feras.
Another prime example of the fastidious detailing was ensuring all electrical conduit had been allowed for within the precast walls prior to installation which resulted in recessed power points and light switches without visible cables. “It’s a lot of work to get there, but once you execute you get a really clean result,” says Feras.
Synonymous with FGR Architects ethos, the home explores the application of one material like concrete to the nth degree – from a wall, floor and even a ceiling application – and then infilling the gaps in between with glazing, joinery and blinds.
Fundamentally, the occupants are provided with a base palette to create their own tone within the space. “In 10 years time, you could take all the furniture out and put a new infill here for a totally different feel,” says Feras.
While Steven and Ainsley have built houses with a modern slant before, they admit their experiment with concrete has taken their love of minimalist style to the next level.
FGR Architects fgrarchitects.com.auPhotography by Peter Bennetts
Dissection Information Polished concrete flooring by UltraGrind Engineered oak flooring supplied by Woodcut Elba marble benchtops from Artedomus Bathroom Corian benchtops supplied by A Series Charred timber door from EcoTimber Nook sofa, Harvest armchair, Wilfred armchair and Alby ottoman from Jardan Rug from Armadillo & Co Linen from Cultiver, Kip&Co and AdairsWe think you might also like Full Circle by X+O in Ubud, Bali. abc