Interior designer Ljiljana Gazevic, director of SJB Interiors, has just returned from Paris. Visiting Maison & Objet, she ‘soaked’ up the new furniture, products and appliances that will most likely appear in homes Down Under in the coming months. Staying in an apartment, with high ceilings, parquetry floors and floor-to-ceiling French-style doors, also proved uplifting. “You can’t recreate the French sensibility, but you can certainly get inspired by it,” says Gazevic, who works across a number of design arenas, from high-end domestic work to commercial and hospitality. “There’s always a crossover between these areas,” she adds.

While not obvious from the outset, there are a number of French-inspired ideas found in a spacious penthouse apartment designed by Gazevic on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD. Originally two separate apartments, SJB virtually gutted the top floor to create the one apartment. The external walls were retained, with new sliding glass doors leading to the large outdoor terrace (approximately 200 square metres in area). Unimpeded views of the Dandenong Ranges and Melbourne’s skyline form the backdrop.

Gazevic’s clients didn’t utter the word ‘France’ when they initially briefed her. Rather, they simply requested large open plan living areas to entertain their friends, together with a generous home office that allowed for glimpses through these areas, while being discretely placed to one side. “One of the main criteria was to include sufficient wall space to display art,” says Gazevic.

Although the penthouse apartment has been ‘joined at the hip’, the history of the two previous apartments can still be ‘read’. The smaller apartment is now a self-contained guest wing with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry and a separate gymnasium. The larger of the two is now the open plan kitchen, living and dining areas, together with a generous study. The spacious main bedroom, complete with ensuite, is comparable in size to those found in a large home in the leafy suburbs.

While there aren’t any French flags to be seen, there are certain Parisian elements that appear in this abode. The kitchen, for example, features a striking marble central island bench, almost four metres in length. Framing a charcoal black two-pack painted bench, the marble, with its finely chamfered edge, appears to ‘float’. Smoked mirror splashbacks give the kitchen a French bistro feel, as does the customised steel and glass wine fridge.

“This unit (for wine) was engineered to allow for wine storage. But it also conceals a structural steel column,” says Gazevic, who included LED lights on the edges of each shelf to create ‘theatre’ during the evening. Pendant lighting suspended over the island bench could easily be mistaken for wine buckets. “I was inspired by Paris, but I’m also continually looking at old furniture, such as cabinets from the early 20th century,” she adds.

Rather than floor to ceiling walls to carve up the spaces, Gazevic and her team created blade walls that loosely define spaces. A partial wall, with a built-in fireplace, for example, delineates the lounge from the dining area. As with the Parisian apartment she recently stayed in, this fireplace surround features a similar black marble to anchor it into the space.

The main bedroom, as with many French suites, is cool and minimal, understated. Cool greys, whites, oyster and charcoal sit quietly against the padded metallic grey bedhead. Complementing the bedroom is a quilted armchair designed by Patricia Urquiola, slightly reminiscent of a Chanel handbag. Curtains add to the sense of luxury. Unlike most bedroom suites designed today, in this penthouse there’s an open fireplace.

“When you visit apartments in Paris, you often see open fireplaces, not just in living areas, but also in bedrooms,” says Gazevic, who also appreciates the fine detailing in many European abodes. Here, rather than blank doors, there are a series of fine steel and fluted glass doors that allow natural light to penetrate all nooks within the penthouse.

Gazevic is still thinking about the 19th century apartment she left behind, in particular the lovely timber floors that made a slight squeak when she moved across the room. “I love having timber underfoot,” says Gazevic, who used oak flooring throughout this Melbourne apartment. Seeing some of the new products on show at Maison & Object was also on her mind flying back home. “I loved seeing all the new outdoor furniture that’s coming through. We’re in different climates, but you can imagine some of these designs on large terraces, such as this one,” adds Gazevic.

Words by Stephen Crafti.


SJB Interiors can be contacted on 03 9686 2122.

Lifestyle & Design

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