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Image above, master bedroom bespoke bedhead.
Article: Jan Henderson
Photography: Fraser Marsden
Designer: fmd architects
This art deco residence is situated in a leafy Melbourne suburb and located just metres from a busy arterial thoroughfare. From the street there is no hint of the architectural gem that lies behind the high, bagged brick walls, but step inside and all is revealed.
Built in 1930, the house has retained all the historic architectural features of the era, inside and out, and is home for a young and energetic family of five. Outside, new amenities include a tennis court and swimming pool surrounded by garden areas, while inside provides expansive entertaining, family and living areas downstairs, and generous bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. This house is used in its entirety and is much loved by the owners who see the restoration of the architecture and the interior as a work in progress collecting art and furniture pieces from various shopping expeditions and overseas holidays.
There is no doubt that the architectural bones of the house are outstanding and it takes a particular designer to polish the interior and still retain the integrity of its heritage. Fiona Dunin from fmd architects was engaged to translate the needs and desires of the owners – to add a modern touch through fixtures and furnishings in the downstairs areas and completely reinterpret the floor plan upstairs. The transition needed a sympathetic hand and sophisticated eye and, through Dunin’s specifications and the coalescence of her clients, the end result is outstanding.
Every feature of this house is grand but not showy; for example, the large double doors with glass insertions and leadlight that open onto the entry vestibule. This is a grand entrance and the access point to all areas of the house – on the left the original wooden staircase and balustrade lead to the first floor bedrooms and there are doorways to the family and entertaining rooms from all directions. Redolent of the period, dark wood predominates throughout stairs, floors, doors and window frames, but Dunin has cleverly chosen to paint walls and ceilings white to create a certain lightness. In the entry, sconces (custom designed by Mance Design) are positioned around the vestibule walls and a Ping pendant light (Mance Designs), made from white, porcelain leaves, adds more than a touch of drama. Already the interior is at home in the 21st century.
Off to the right side of the vestibule is the study where décor is spare but elegant with an Arana chair and footstool (Jardan) as the feature of the room. Moving through to the front of the house, the enormous entertaining room is loosely divided into three areas that consist of a music room at one end, a grand piano in the middle and a furniture grouping of custom made lounges from Sorrento Furniture, a vintage chair (Fenton and Fenton) and a Moroso Klara coffee table (Hub) that all sit on a circular Fata Morgana rug by Moooi (Space). The inclusion of two Organza pendant lights (Studio Italia), adds a sense of occasion to the space.
Feelgood Design 170 chairs reside at a dining table (client’s own) and an original built-in mirrored cabinet provides storage for glassware and spirits. In every room Dunin has specified exceptional pendant lighting pieces that sit perfectly in their surroundings yet allow the intricate plaster ceilings to ‘breathe’. The bespoke pendant light (Mance Design) above the dining table floats as if transparent bubbles in space; it is modern and quirky but complements the surrounds.
Located at the back of the house are the private family areas. Arched windows frame the garden outside and the view can be enjoyed by all who work in the kitchen or sit at custom made lounges (Sorrento Furniture) in the adjacent family room. The first floor consists of four bedrooms, two en suites and one bathroom. Rearranging the original floor plan, Dunin relocated the master bedroom to the back for privacy, but still with easy access to the children’s bedrooms. Again the rooms are enormous and Dunin says that one of the challenges of the brief was to create a sense of intimacy within these generous spaces; the master bedroom is a case in point. fmd architects is well-known for its innovative cabinet designs and Dunin has employed the speciality in this project to great effect. A bespoke bedhead and storage unit clad with Enviroven (colour Silverline, New Age Veneers) anchors the bed in the middle of the room, but also delineates an area at the back for a walk-in robe. Pendant lighting has been removed so that the detailed plaster ceiling is fully visible and T5 fluorescents have been concealed in the top of the joinery to provide indirect lighting and definition of form. This clever insertion of cabinetry helps contain yet celebrate the generous proportions of the space.
The master en suite features Mercer tiles (Signorino) on walls and Porcelaingres tiles (Artedomus) on the floor with Novolosa stone (Artedomus) for the vanity. The inclusion of a freestanding Inovita Solo bath and two Inovita under mount basins with Astra Walker tapware complete the fitout. The second en suite and bathroom replicate the master, but include Elba marble (CDK Stone) on vanity tops. All bathrooms contain bespoke designed and custom-made cabinetry clad in Enviroven that features an individual ‘deco style’ mirror design.
In the remaining bedrooms design is restrained; however, the addition of a Midsummer pendant from Artecnica (dedece plus) and Butterfly pendant designed by Alex Earl adds a touch of individuality and sophistication. Plush pile carpet (South Island, colour 99 Kauri from Signature Floors) has been laid throughout all bedrooms for warmth, softness and comfort. In all, this project has been, in Dunin’s words, “a rare opportunity” to work and create something special for exceptional clients. It’s a project that ticks all the boxes and through sensitive and stylish inclusions and additions, and a practised eye, Dunin has achieved an eclecticism that works. This is indeed divine.
Article by Jan Henderson, co-editor of (inside) Interior Design Review.