by Neometro
 

Looking Outside the Box

Architecture - by Stephen Crafti

This five-level building in Wellington Street, St Kilda, could be anything from the pavement. The stacked glass-walled cubes presented to the street are in fact a single dwelling. Home to builder David McCallum and his family, it has the air of a boutique-style apartment or even a swank office for a creative agency. “We regularly get asked by people passing by if these are apartments,” says McCallum, director of DDB Design Development + Building, who was responsible for its execution. He worked closely with his life and business partner, interior designer Maryanne Quealy and their architect of choice, Matt Gibson, director of Matt Gibson Architecture + Design.

Photo: Shannon McGrath

McCallum and Quealy started the design process with Gibson by presenting him with a folder of tear sheets that they had accumulated over several months. They knew that a relatively modest parcel of just under 200 square metres, would have to be used in a highly efficient manner to accommodate a family with three children, two of whom have partners living with them. “Maryanne and I have worked with several architects over the years, but this one required a considerably different outcome,” says McCallum, who was leaving behind a detached house on a quarter-acre block in nearby Caulfield.

Photo: Shannon McGrath

Access to the St Kilda home is via a steep set of stairs running past a red brick wall, with an unusual silhouette of a chimney. “We wanted to capture the memory of the Edwardian home that formerly existed on the site,” says Gibson, who was given an area not much more in width than a single-fronted terrace (approximately seven metres). “The problem with terrace typologies is that they’re long and narrow and often poorly lit,” says Gibson, whose brief was to create a light-filled home that was generous in its accommodation and level of finish (DDB work in high-end residential bespoke homes).

Photo: Shannon McGrath

Unlike a terrace, with a shotgun-style corridor piercing a home, here one is greeted with a nine-metre-high atrium-style space with a glass roof. “We generally keep the awning open (across the glass ceiling) through the winter months, and only put our finger on the switch (to draw it closed) during the warmer months of the year,” says McCallum. And although fully enclosed, the atrium creates a courtyard-like effect for not only the main living area on the first floor, but also from the levels above.

Photo: Shannon McGrath

Although the various levels feature a level of transparency, each one is clearly articulated. There’s an office and car parking at ground level that ties in with the many mixed-use operations along Wellington Street. And on the first floor are the main living areas, including a separate study at the eastern end used as Quealy’s home office. The upper tiers include the main bedroom suite together with an entire floor given over to the children. The couple’s adult children and their friends accommodate a second living area that’s located on the third level. While the city views sharpen as one moves up the staircase, or alternatively, the lift, the palette of materials at the apex is considerably moodier. “We used quite light and reflective surfaces on the lower levels,” says Gibson, caressing the reflective polished light-grey plaster walls. However, the top level, daubed the ‘nightclub’ could be equally at home on nearby Chapel Street. Guests are greeted with a full cocktail bar upon arrival and traverse to the lounge by a passage with timber floors and also timber on the ceiling. And during the warmer months of the year, there’s direct access to the generous north-facing terrace, with the zigzagging of traffic activating the foreground below.

Photo: Shannon McGrath

Like many cities in the world, such as Tokyo or London, where land is extremely scarce, 190 square metres would be seen as expansive. However, for cities such as Melbourne, where many live in detached homes, this landholding still appears relatively modest. “We were extremely fortunate that most attending the auction that day weren’t developers. It was considered too small a site for apartments, and not really that attractive for those contemplating building a new home,” says McCallum, who, unlike other homebuyers, was attracted to living in a street with so many mixed uses. “We love walking up those stairs and leaving the bustle of the street behind. Once you’re inside, it’s truly a complete oasis,” he adds.

Photo: Shannon McGrath

Photo: Shannon McGrath

Photo: Shannon McGrath

Matt Gibson Architecture + Design can be contacted on 03 9419 6677

 

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