This warehouse-style home in Prahran Melbourne, is tucked away behind Victorian shop fronts and offices. Located in a cul-de-sac, this brick and steel abode speaks of the past, while presenting a strong contemporary statement to the street. Designed by Jolson Architecture for an art collector, the three-level home replaced a red brick mechanic’s workshop. Situated on a generous site, particularly for the inner city (approximately 600 square metres), the warehouse was formerly flanked by two modest Victorian terraces. These terraces (purchased by Jolson’s client) were fairly run down, used for many years by those working in the ‘rag trade’. The homes were renovated by Jolson Architecture and were then sold by the owner.

While these flanking Victorian terraces have been completely reworked, they also form an important link in the streetscape. “We wanted to strengthen this link rather than ignore it,” says architect Stephen Jolson, principal of the practice, pointing out the contemporary interpretation of the picket fence embossed across the steel door of the home’s new garage. The northern façade of the Prahran house also features a rich tapestry of recycled red bricks (not from the original mechanic’s workshop). “Our client loves travelling, particularly through the Middle East and in Asian countries. She’s drawn to the textures of many of the kilim rugs, often found in market places,” says architect Mat Wright, a director of the practice.

So the threads of the ancient kilims have been finely woven into this home, with the exposed brick walls appearing throughout the home. Strategically placed skylights further animate these walls, from the moment one ascends the black steel staircase. “It is quite an enclosed environment, but we wanted to ensure connections to the outdoors as soon as one passes the threshold,” says Jolson, who completed the gentle steel treads of the staircase and balustrade with polished concrete floors on the ground and first floor of the home.

As well as the garage (parking for six cars) and the entrance lobby, the ground floor is loosely divided into two guest bedrooms and a bathroom, together with a breakout lounge. There’s also access to the lift to ensure the owner can remain in the house rather than negotiate stairs in older age. “It’s almost a self-contained suite at ground level, ideal for guests travelling from either interstate or overseas,” says Wright. And on first floor is the main living area with a generous gourmet-style kitchen, dining area and lounge, orientated to the north.

“Colour was another criteria used by our client in the initial briefing,” says Jolson, who included a sumptuous pink lounge in the living area and also vibrant yellow furniture and joinery in the main bedroom on the top floor. These colours not only add character to each space, but also help to delineate each of the open plan spaces. Colour also complements the more sombre materials, such as the black steel used for the kitchen’s island bench and the extraordinary bookshelves that literally pierce the two upper levels. Black steel also defines the open fireplace and provides storage for the wood.

The layout of the kitchen is pivotal to Jolson Architecture’s design. Featuring eucalyptus veneer timber joinery and a porcelain bench, this elongated island unit caters for entertaining on the grand scale. “Our client loves entertaining, whether it’s for a few friends or for larger groups,” says Jolson, who designed the dining table so it could extend according to the numbers on the guest list. “Anywhere from four up to 20 people,” says Wright, caressing the white oak and steel dining table.

In contrast to the lower levels, which have a strong industrial aesthetic, polished concrete floors and exposed brick walls, the top level featuring the main bedroom domain is textured. Broad-timber floorboards and pristine white walls feature throughout, with accents of vibrant yellow in the furniture. The study/home office, featuring part of the overscaled sculptural steel bookshelf, is one of the most intimate and richly adorned nooks. Impeccably stacked books sit alongside sculptural offerings by the likes of artists such as Julia deVille.

The main bedroom, with its walk-in wardrobe and ensuite, also benefits from retractable glass doors to a terrace, the latter including a plunge pool. Orientated to the north, this black steel and glass contemporary pavilion appears to hover over its façade of recycled bricks. “Eventually, the vines will spill over the edges and create a ‘hanging garden’ effect,” says Wright.

The architects also ‘cranked’ the home’s northern glazing, framing the main bedroom, to ensure city skyline views from lying in bed. “It is a complete oasis. But when you look out from these windows, you’re reminded where you actually are, in Prahran,” says Jolson.

The Prahran home is unique. It was designed for a client who not only has a passion for travelling and fine art, but also for an ability to conceptualise architecture and design concepts. Some of the walls, for example, are made in chain mesh wire, ideal for displaying art. Some of these walls can also be reconfigured to change spaces within the home. “From the outset, we were encouraged to explore spaces and materials. It was a very creative process,” adds Jolson.

Text by Stephen Crafti.


Stephen Jolson Architecture can be contacted on 03 8656 7100. Photography by Lucas Allen.

Lifestyle & Design

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