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The Spirit of Old Melbourne in Brew Apartment

The Spirit of Old Melbourne in Brew Apartment

A beautiful renovation of an inner-city Melbourne apartment is all that it should be and more….

There is a certain style that speaks of living in Melbourne – perhaps it is the weather that informs the design of homes where the cold winters or crisp autumn and spring days make inside the place to be. Whatever the catalyst for Melbourne design, in essence it is about good taste and comfort that is appropriate for its place. With this in mind, Brew Apartment captures the feeling of Melbourne with a renovation and interior redesign that incorporates the best of heritage and modern to perfection.

Brew Apartment has a history. Located within the Second French Empire Mansard Roof of a heritage-listed building, the Yorkshire Brewery Brew Tower, the situation is indeed unique. The brew tower was constructed in 1876 and at the time was the tallest building in Melbourne – oh how things have changed. As the only substantially intact example of 19th century brew towers in Victoria and with deference to this history, there was a sensitive restoration by SMA Projects with assistance from Hayball Architecture and Lovell Chen Architecture + Heritage in 2015. However, it wasn’t until 2020, when Kate Roach Architecture and Design was approached to redesign the interior.

Photo by Peter Clarke


Now the apartment is a fusion of elegance and contemporary form and function that emulates a new grandeur all of its own. Roach explained, “Working with heritage buildings always presents challenges – but of course this is what makes delivering a project like this so special. Embracing the building’s history, we wanted the spaces to take full advantage of the exposed brickwork, structural beams and mansard roof, rather than seeing them as challenges. We saw it necessary to preserve the impact of place and the spirit of ‘old Melbourne’ but maintain residential scale.”

Historical features in the heritage brickwork and bracing complement modern custom-made joinery, while marble benchtops and tiles sit comfortably beside European oak timber floors. To access the three levels of the apartment a spiral staircase has been installed and this becomes a design feature, definitely 21st century, but in sync with the spirit of the original building.

The materiality provides gravitas to the design while the colour palette of browns, white and black add definition and warmth to the space and Roach commented, “We were inspired by the brewery’s natural charm and Collingwood’s district character. Shades of caramel and muted grey counter the industrial elements – we wanted to deliver a residence that was both warm and striking.”

The open plan entertaining area is punctuated by carefully placed cabinetry and furniture groupings and there is ample natural light from the many windows, both original and new. The interior is sophisticated and luxurious but not overwhelmingly so, and there are lounge chairs and a leather couch that provide just the place to relax. Lighting is minimal and unobtrusive save for the beautiful pendant above the dining table that echoes the form of the circular staircase and appears to simply float overhead.

This is an apartment that while respecting heritage has created a new and contemporary home for the resident. Beautifully crafted, Brew Apartment exudes a Melbourne sensibility where refined design and the old and the new reside together perfectly.

Kate Roach

Project team

Developer and Builder: SMA Projects
Architect: Hayball Architects
Heritage Architect: Lovell Chen Architecture + Heritage
Project Architect: Alberto Contreras Flores
Photography: Dianna Snape Photography

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Jan Henderson

Jan Henderson is currently an Editor and Program Director of the INDE.Awards at Indesign Media Asia Pacific. Her previous roles have included Acting-editor of Indesign magazine, Associate Publisher at Architecture Media, Editor and Co-editor of inside magazine and Interiors Editor of Architel.tv. As Principal of Henderson Media Consultants she contributes to various architecture and design magazines, is a regular speaker at events and has participated as a juror for industry awards. Jan is passionate about design and through her different roles supports and contributes to design in Australia.