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LIFTING THE LID: THE SEVEN VIRTUES OF A “CONVERTIBLE” APARTMENT

LIFTING THE LID: THE SEVEN VIRTUES OF A “CONVERTIBLE” APARTMENT

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WITH A LIVING room ceiling that slides open to the sky, an interior furnished almost entirely with designer pieces shipped direct from New York and a master bedroom featuring 90 metres (yes, 90 metres) of top drawer curtain fabric – all in a compact two-bedroom total package — it’s clear that when this apartment’s design team were instructed by the owner that he was hoping for “something special”, they took him at his word. The shell was designed by architects Lippmann Partnership, with interior designer Darryl Gordon and Archengine’s Justin Quinlan working in concert to complete the interiors. Although only the width of an average Sydney Victorian terrace house (around five metres), the home ranges over four levels. At basement level is the garage; above that the living/dining/kitchen area with two bedrooms on the next floor at either end; and on top of that is a roof terrace. The home has an identical, sister apartment laid out in mirror image next door.

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1. Sky’s the limit

On an immaculate, cloudless day in Sydney there’s no explanation needed for why you would design an entire apartment around a two-storey void topped by a glass ceiling that opens at the touch of a button. “Slide it back and you actually feel like you are outdoors,” says Darryl Gordon. The void is flanked, on the upper floor, by the home’s two bedrooms which are linked by a walkway overlooking the living space. Directly underneath the open sky is the dining room. “Being a narrow lineal area [remembering that the apartment’s breadth is only five metres], the concept was to create an amazing atmosphere for the dining room,” says Darryl. Besides, views to the big blue were the only option because the window directly opposite the dining table looks out to  “ugly sixties brick apartment block wall,” he adds.

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2. Shielding the sun and prying eyes

Boasting expansive sea views from one end of the home this was also a place that had privacy issues on account of being sited so close to neighbours. For the dining room window the solution was solved by a landscaping element. Outside, at the boundary, a timber screen shield views in and views out to an ugly brick wall. Elsewhere there are roman blinds on all other windows, except in the master bedroom. Here the client was “obsessive about light and noise we had to run curtains.” These curtains consist of 90 metres of fabric in all, including lining and inter-lining. “The interlining absorbs a lot of the noise and there’s blackout lining behind it. It’s pretty intense,” explains Darryl. “At the push of a button you can be completely encased in fabric and can’t see or hear anything.”

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3. A compact library

Originally intended to have cupboards supplied by Poliform (as are the kitchen’s), the library’s joinery was custom-made locally in the end because Poliform no longer had a ladder option. The ladder itself is from Hafele. The space is designed to be a library-cum-media centre with printer and fax hidden behind sliding panels. At a pinch the space could easily be coverted into an additional bedroom. Indeed in the original plans the space was designed to be a third bedroom. It was later decided by the client that two bedrooms was all he would require and that the living room floor would work better as one single open space.

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4. A mix of stone and timber

Inspired by the entrance hall in celebrated designer Bill Blass’s home in New York — which has a floor that mixes stone and timber — Darryl Gordon has blended the two materials here. At the study end of the home the floor is limestone and at the sitting room end it is American oak. The materials blend as they meet in the middle at the kitchen and dining zones. “I wanted the floor to be a decorative element, because there wasn’t any colour or pattern [in the rest of the structure],” says Darryl adding that, “there was also an argument between the various people involved whether the floor should be stone or timber.” They simply couldn’t agree. “So I had this idea of meshing the two together in a banded kind of a pattern. When you stand above and look down onto the floor through the void it looks quite beautiful.”

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5. A kitchen as a piece of furniture

Not asked to fashion what Darryl calls a “heavy-duty-three-meals-per-day-kind-of-kitchen” the solution was to design something which would appear as an integral part of the living space with a “wonderful big island as a piece of furniture”. The splashback is a long, thin window which not only admits natural light into the space, but gives an impression of greater width and “addresses the long, lineal nature of the structure,” says Darryl. The kitchen is from Poliform. The cupboards are finished in wenge veneer – with slots instead of door hardware — and the benchtops are Corian, with a solid timber edge. “The kitchen was a key point,” he says. “We knew it was going to be a big player in the finished product so it had to be a bit of a star.”

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6. An open floating staircase

In a space that was relatively narrow it was very important to have an open staircase that didn’t dominate the home. Justin Quinlan’s minimal design appears to “float” off the wall, with solid timber treads supported on one central steel rail. A single sheet of full height glass acts as the balustrading. The staircase leads from the garage to the living zone, up to the bedrooms and then one more floor to the roof.

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7. A bathroom with a view

In the master bedroom, with a window at one end looking out to sea views, the challenge was to include an ensuite bathroom that could benefit from the spectacular vista. More specifically though the idea was that you would be able to take in the full sweep of the Pacific Ocean while you were lying in the bath. Accordingly the bathroom has been designed in a “box” separated from the bed by glass, with a bath elevated to height above the bedhead so that you can both soak and look out to sea. The metres and metres of lined and interlined curtain fabric continue from the window around to in front of the bathroom as well for privacy in the bathroom when required.

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JEREMY KAHN

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