There must be few, if any penthouses of this scale. This St Kilda Road penthouse, previously three separate apartments, is approximately 1,200 square metres in area and takes up the entire floor. With 360 degree views that extend from the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanical Gardens to the CBD skyline and Port Phillip Bay, its an enviable place to call ‘home’. For the clients, a couple of empty nesters, the move came from another penthouse apartment, but not on quite such a scale. “Our clients wanted increased wall space to display their art collection. They were also keen to have a separate, self-contained apartment for their adult children or for friends travelling from either interstate or from overseas,” says interior designer Ljiljana Gazevic, Director of SJB Interiors.

Gazevic and her team literally gutted the entire top floor and created a new self-contained apartment, which includes a kitchen, living area, two bedrooms and bathroom (approximately 120 square metres in area). Located near the lift core (with two lifts servicing just the penthouse level), guests can stay without having to traverse through the owner’s abode.

From the moment one steps out of one of the lifts, there’s an expectation that this is far from an ordinary penthouse. The generous foyer, as with the passages and kitchen, features large format limestone tiles, complemented by dark ebonized timber walls. And rather than revealing the spaces all at once, there’s a sense of anticipation beyond the ebony walls. “An apartment of this scale can feel overwhelming. We always look carefully at the floor plan to ensure that there’s a strong sense of connectivity between spaces, as well as providing unique experiences in each,” says Gazevic.

The limestone passage, almost 2.5 metres in width is used not only as a gallery space but also delineates the more public areas, such as the living spaces from the more personal spaces, such as bedrooms. However, rather than using a series of plaster walls, SJB Interiors created a slightly elevated pod-like system of cavities that separates formal from informal. Clad in rich ebony, there’s a series of ‘crevices’ that allow for glimpses into various spaces.

The home office, more akin to a gentleman’s club, features dark ebony built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a dark painted ceiling. Sumptuous leather-covered armchairs and a desk by Poltrona Frau, suggest a sense of timelessness. “The owners have a very sophisticated appreciation when it comes to fine furniture, as well as art and objet d’art,” says Gazevic, who has designed a number of homes for these clients, including their former penthouse apartment and weekender. “They didn’t want anything that was too faddish, ‘of the moment’,” she adds.

The living areas, both the formal, and the adjacent informal spaces have also been finely expressed. Black Italian marble appears on the hearth of the fireplace and in the cocktail bar. Mesh screened cupboard doors in the formal lounge partially conceal mirrors below. “I wanted to create a sense of depth, but also create some reflection,” says Gazevic, who customised all the built-in joinery, whether in the living areas, bedrooms or bathrooms.

Coffered ceilings in the formal living room, with lighting purchased from Belgium, makes the experience of looking at the ceiling as memorable as the impressive views from the 42nd floor. “We’ve combined contemporary furniture, with a few period pieces,” says Gazevic, who enjoys seeing the ‘dialogue’ created by the juxtaposition of the two styles.

The kitchen is as generous in size as the living areas, the type one would normally find in a grand family home. Ebonized timber joinery, with a white stone bench and stainless steel splashbacks, create both a functional and graphic design. The off-white limestone floors soften the palette.

“It’s quite a pared-back kitchen, allowing clutter to be kept to a minimum,” says Gazevic, pointing out the separate butler’s kitchen immediately behind. As the family regularly entertains, both formally and informally, a large steel table was selected for the informal dining/meals area. “Often people tend to gravitate to the kitchen, even though there’s an extensive array of spaces to entertain,” she adds.

The main bedroom and ensuite, located to one side of the apartment, also shares a similar palette of materials with the rest of the house. The ensuite, for example, is slightly elevated, with timber floors and an exquisite customised black marble vanity, complete with two basins. “We worked with a three-metre-long piece of marble so that we could avoid having mismatched ‘veins’,” says Gazevic, who is fastidious when it comes to design elements such as junctions, mitered corners and the continuity of veins in materials, such as marble. And rather than simply one open-plan space in the ensuite, the shower and a separate toilet are discretely placed behind translucent glass and chrome-edged walls.

The same level of detail can be seen in the guest powder room, accessed through one of the panelled doors leading from the main gallery. Featuring a limestone floor and elevated plinth for the vanity unit, designed by Gazevic, it’s a fine example of ‘less is considerably much more’. Mirrored on three sides, with concealed lighting, the vanity, with its shadow lines below, appears to ‘float’ above the limestone floor.

For any project, irrespective of scale, Gazevic needs to understand how her clients want to live and use the space. However, they must be guided as to the possibilities even before schematics are drawn up. In this instance, having worked with these owners before made the task a little easier. “There’s already a sense of trust in what you do. And you know their tastes from the outset,” says Gazevic, who has established a reputation in the industry for creating bespoke interiors where detail is considered to the nth degree. “But a place still has to work on a number of levels, from the minute you walk out of the lift and even see these views,” adds Gazevic.

Text by Stephen Crafti.


SJB Interiors can be contacted on 9686 2122.

Lifestyle & Design

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