hero penthouse (2019)
collaboration with adam markowitz from markowitzdesign
NICOLE HENDERSON, george stavrias
PHOTOGRAPHY & styling
martina gemmola with ruth welsby
dgo developments: contractor
evolve interiors: joinery & stonework
g. tsimiklis, grimbos: building surveyor
hero Penthouse is an interior renovation of a two-level penthouse apartment in Melbourne’s Hero Building, the 1954 telephone exchange building originally converted to apartments by Nonda Katsalidis in 2001.
materiality and craftsmanship:
the local furniture used in the apartment holds a special place in the relationship between client and architect. the act of making locally is an inherently environmentally and socially sustainable process.
The project is a collaboration between us and markowitzdesign. The clients originally approached Adam Markowitz of markowitzdesign as an award-winning furniture maker, wanting to lean on his furniture making experience to introduce considered details to the design of their new penthouse apartment.
The clients expressed the desire that this refurbishment met a “Paul Smith Aesthetic”: considered, mature, minimal, displaying an artisan’s understanding of materials, and with an intentional burst of bright detail. Working within the constraints of the original floor plan, the key requirement was opening up the spaces so that they felt more generous. With a tight budget yet the desire to achieve a high level of finish, the architectural moves had to be limited, non-structural, and have maximum spatial, aesthetic and experiential impact.
The entry experience was of primary importance – the brief called for a sense of arrival. The existing deep and dark entry corridor created an opportunity to lift this arrival space: fluted timber moulded panels are lit by recessed soft LED lights triggered by a motion sensor on arrival. An American Walnut bench seat takes the considered timber detailing further, providing a spot to take off shoes, with sliding doors below to receive them. A tall cupboard doubles as storage for jackets and an inconspicuous kitty litter for the client’s cat, Kitty Perry. Similarly, the custom floating television cabinet in the living room cleverly houses Kitty Perry’s day bed.
The new kitchen design achieves the client’s desires: it opens up the space so that it connects to the living room as one, yet it is designed in such a manner that they don’t feel as though they are living ‘in a kitchen’. It achieves a level of finish that makes the kitchen feel like another element of the living room. Centred around a generous island bench, the new layout required a careful replanning of the kitchen so as not to make it feel cluttered or tight. Integrated fridges and open-and-stow pantry doors allow the kitchen to feel appropriately engaged with living spaces. Making use of all the spatial opportunities the existing building allowed, a structural blade wall was converted for use as a study nook – for photo editing by one of the clients, a graphic designer.
The considered timber detailing which confers the apartment its quiet elegance was a collaborative effort between the cabinet makers, the builder and the architects. The design demonstrates the architect’s depth of understanding of the properties of timber and the proper execution of many of the finishes required trips to markowitzdesign’s furniture workshop to hand-make some of the custom details such as the complex corner junctions, cover-plates, and the “Assegai” pendant light which hangs over the island bench. The brass pulls and brackets were custom designed with a semi-circular motif which runs as a refrain throughout the project. The material selection was driven by sustainability, durability and longevity, in addition to aesthetics.
Materiality and hand-crafted detail are critical in the conception of this apartment. The primary Tasmanian Oak tones are broken up with darker, richer timbers such as American Walnut and black stained veneer. Flashes of brass are a call out to the Paul Smith flash of colour: as a corner detail, a shadowline, a floor threshold, or as custom manufactured shelf brackets. A focus on a natural material palette is used to bring a sense of tactility and warmth throughout the penthouse.