Empty nesters downsizing from the family home have limited options, particularly if their heart is set on the Royal Botanical Garden precinct in South Yarra. However new developments in Domain and Anderson streets, both by the one developer, will provide not only this rare opportunity but as importantly, a direction in apartment living at the ‘top end’. Designed by two of Melbourne’s leading architectural practices, Powell & Glenn and Rob Mills Architecture + Interiors, each of these developments are literally on the doorstep of Melbourne’s most coveted gardens. This development also encapsulates a trend in apartment living, where expectations have increased when leaving a family home.

“People looking to move into an apartment, particularly at the top end of the market, are sophisticated. They know what they’re looking for and can easily see pitfalls,” says architect Ed Glenn, director of Powell & Glenn. “They might not know exactly where each piece of furniture will go, but they appreciate how it will look in their mind, as well as where the light will fall,” says Glenn, who sees a significant move by people leaving large family homes, but who want the space to accommodate family, relatives and friends, visiting from interstate or overseas.

Two bedrooms – or even three- plus a study is now quite a familiar request, with the word ‘flexibility’ often coming into the mix when a move to scale down is contemplated. “If there is a spare room, whether it’s used as a guest bedroom, a second living room, or a study, it ideally needs to be located close to, or adjacent to the kitchen,” says Glenn.

Although a new apartment isn’t the same as the family home left behind, Glenn and his colleagues are finding that people respond strongly to floor plans found in the family home. “The scale is just reduced, and of course there’s no back garden that needs continual maintenance,” he adds.

For the developer of The Botanic Collection, the seed to develop both properties came as a result of not only understanding this changing market but also visiting the precinct over several years and becoming frustrated by not being able to find something he could live in himself. “We wanted to create homes where people don’t feel as though they’re downsizing. We also understand that buyers for these apartments don’t have to rationalise their family possessions and put half their goods into storage,” says developer Butch Sadikay.

With many of the apartments well in excess of 200 square metres and reaching close to 400 square metres for the penthouse apartments (complete with their own swimming pools), those wanting to downsize may in some cases be ‘up-sizing’. “There’s definitely a move to larger apartments, particularly in areas such as South Yarra that attract the empty nesters who previously lived in suburbs such as Toorak, Malvern, Kew or Hawthorn,” he adds.

Although the Anderson Street apartments will be completely new, those on the Domain site will integrate some of the more glamorous elements from the existing 1930s building designed by the renowned architect Marcus Martin, considered to be one of Melbourne’s early modernists. “This Marcus Martin forms an important part of the streetscape. We had to find a way to combine the best of the past with the present,” says Sadikay, who worked with well-known heritage architect Bryce Raworth.

Marcus Martin’s distinctive building, with its pitched roof and welcoming entrances will form part of Martin House. But instead of the pokey rooms and servant’s quarters, purchasers will enjoy one-level living accessed by lifts. Although each interior is entirely new, with state-of-the-art appliances, fixtures and fittings, the inspiration has come from many of the original features that are past their use-by date, including stippled walls, detailed architraves and fireplace surrounds.

The stylised jazz-modern motifs and streamlined light fittings at the entrances will also be retained, as will the established Japanese maple in the front garden. “People are looking for quality and a place that will look as good in 150 years time,” says Sadikay. “But people are also after a low maintenance home, well secured (security cameras will be included) that allows them to travel, both locally and overseas,” he adds.

Kim Hallis, an interior decorator and property stylist and director of Create Expectations, understand what people are looking for when purchasing premium apartments in this locale. “It’s important to create a home not just fill a room with expensive sofas, cushions and rugs. Each item needs to be carefully thought out, right down to the hand towels in the bathroom.”

A trend that goes hand-in-hand with a more eclectic design approach is a move to more adventurous design by empty nesters. “People love to see sentimental things come into their new apartment, but we’re finding that often people want to embrace contemporary furniture, and often art, with the move,” adds Glenn.

Text by Stephen Crafti

Lifestyle & Design

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