August 21st, 2019.
Neometro has been delivering apartments for 30 years, a significant milestone in the company’s history. Initially starting with townhouses in back lanes, Neometro realised well before most that inner-city apartment living would gain momentum through the 1990s and into the new millennium.
Although there have been subtle design shifts over the last three decades, Neometro’s mantra of ‘high density happiness’ continues to be supported through the delivery of well-designed apartments. What has changed, given the broader level of offering now available, is a more savvy purchaser, with a more sophisticated palette. “Initially tenants dominated the apartment market. Now it’s professionals, empty nesters and even families who are looking for a home,” says Jeff Provan, co-director of Neometro.
Provan and his colleague Lochlan Sinclair, Manager Design & Development, are succinct in articulating the issues now facing the development of apartments. “Sustainability and the efficient use of energy is critical, whether its keeping power bills low or not doubling up on things that increase the running of a building,” says Sinclair. This requirement has instigated a range of measures by Neometro over recent years, including double glazing of windows, the inclusion of solar panels and importantly, providing a high standard of finish that reduces the need for renovations internally and externally. Other changes in apartment living have been driven by changes in technology. Thirty years ago, for example, there was often an office dedicated to the home computer, complete with its cumbersome screen, hard drive, and a chunky fax machine. Years later, Neometro was replacing a separate and dedicated room with a study nook, often as part of the circulation spine in an apartment. “That’s now disappearing with the laptop and iPhone, with people operating from a dining table or an armchair in the lounge,” says Provan.
To keep up with advancements in portable technology Neometro design apartments with generous living zones and study nooks.
While the home office has faded from the floor plan, areas such as the kitchen have become more of a focal point in apartment living. As more people choose to cook at home (with the advent of television cooking shows), the kitchen has become more sophisticated, treated as a fine piece of joinery that can also be appreciated from the comfort of an armchair. The desire to ‘cocoon’ after a busy day out is only intensifying, with people wanting a sense of nurturing after passing through their front door. While the ‘90s apartment featured sharp edges and reflective surfaces such as glass splashbacks, today the direction is towards warmer and softer materials, with a sense of authenticity. Off formed concrete, and exposed concrete walls and ceilings continue to appear in some of Neometro’s developments, something that emerged years ago. The Wilson Street apartments in South Yarra, for example, beautifully demonstrate what can be achieved with concrete.
49 Wilson Street by NEOMETRO heralded the use of concrete throughout the apartments.
Other changes were predicted by Neometro years ago, including the way people move around the inner city with a diminished dependence on cars. Neometro’s developments at 231 Smith Street and also Number 9 Smith Street have limited or no off-street car parking with 9 Smith Street providing storage for bicycles only. For Neometro’s Jewell Station development in Brunswick, adjacent to the railway line, the second family car has been dispensed with or the car forgone completely. Other changes in apartment living can best be described by well-known hotelier and apartment developer, Ian Schrager, who is based in New York but operates internationally when he declared an ‘amenity glut’ in the offering of apartments, from wine storage facilities to gymnasiums and pools infrequently used. At 17 Union Street, there’s a communal rooftop garden, with vegetable gardens that bring residents together. “We’re trying to create communities, shared spaces and amenities that will be used,” says Provan. Other changes will stem from a greater emphasis on people working from home, either on their own or with others, negating the need for commuting. “The zoning regulations need to adapt in accordance with this trend, with a greater emphasis on mixed- use precincts,” says Provan.
Rooftop at 17 Union Street by NEOMETRO.
With younger people sharing apartments, Neometro has also included more two-bedroom designs with two bathrooms, imperative if the residents are not family. The size of Neometro’s apartments has also been on the increase, in some cases from 67 square metres (for a two-bedroom apartment) to 75 square metres as the demographics for apartment living widen. And given the ever-changing market, creating fixed and immovable items such as swimming pools and saunas is waning in favour of a platform such as a roof garden that can easily ‘morph’ according to the needs of residents. Shared responsibilities, such as cat minding or the sharing of tools and other household equipment, is encouraged, creating a more efficient and sustainable ‘footprint’ in the process.
Words by Stephen Crafti.
Images courtesy of Neometro.