House sized apartments
When apartments were first introduced to Australia in the early to mid 1990s, many were pint-sized. For those looking for something larger, two small apartments were often amalgamated to form one.
“This wasn’t an ideal situation, given there had to be compromises, with the developer having to create one out of a box of several identical apartments within the same building,” says architect Reno Rizzo, a director of Inarc Architects. “Combining two also created considerable work for the purchaser, not dissimilar to building a new home,” he adds.
In the case of four large apartments, built within a church on Northcote Hill, there was no such issue. The architects inherited a red brick church dating back to 1911, and were commissioned by a developer to create four abodes, each one of approximately 350 square metres in area, a size greater than most detached houses. As the floor sloped from the entry to the altar, it was necessary to completely gut the church, transforming some of the large windows to doors in order to allow access to the individual courtyard-style gardens.
Two of the apartments within this church are two levels, while the other two extend over three levels and have vehicular access from a laneway to the rear. The two within the church walls feature spacious open plan kitchen and living areas at ground level, with three bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor. In contrast, the two rear apartments, occupying part of the church and a new build (including a garage), are spread across three levels. In this instance, the living areas, combined with an adjoining terrace, are located on the top level to take advantage of the city views.
For Rizzo, large apartments are becoming more popular with a variety of cohorts; from young professionals to those with small children. ‘Empty nesters’, who formed part of the initial surge towards apartment living, are attracted to large apartments on the fringe of town. “Young couples or those with young children are quite happy to live in an apartment close to the city, but tend to move when the children start school, often to the middle distance suburbs,” says Rizzo.
Carr has also designed a number of large house-sized apartments, the majority being in ‘blue ribbon’ areas such as Toorak, South Yarra and in Brighton. It is currently completing six apartments in Toorak, a stone’s throw from the Toorak Village shopping centre. The low-rise develo0pment includes two and three- bedroom apartments varying in size from 150 to 310 square metres. Features of these apartments, particularly the larger ones, include multiple living zones, generous outdoor terraces that connect to living areas, butler’s kitchens and the desirability of ‘lock up and leave’. “Many of these purchasers regularly travel overseas or have a beach house they spent often half the week at,” says architect Chris McCue, director at Carr.
Unlike the standard apartments, these apartments feature an extensive use of stone, both externally and internally. “There seems to be an affinity with stone, something that was included in the family home left behind,” says McCue. The dimensions of the rooms within these house-sized apartments are also impressive: a main bedroom with the dimensions of five by four metres and a living room in the order of five by 12 metres. The terraces alone are 30 square metres. In the Toorak apartments, there’s a level of customisation rarely found in apartments. Some include Kosher-style kitchens, while others, purchased by Chinese buyers, include both a wet and a dry kitchen, the former where food is prepared without the odour lingering in the living areas.
Although not a rule, Carr’s demographic for these larger-scale apartments is predominantly empty nesters that have scaled down from the large family home nearby. “They come with ‘stuff’, including paintings that require large walls. We often combine the passage with a gallery, making the width of these passages larger than normal,”
says McCue. “And given where they have come from, generous storage areas are a given,” he adds. Some move into these apartments with adult children. In this case, it’s imperative to have a high degree of separation between bedrooms, parents and children. “Flexibility is also a must, with people wanting to stay here for the long term.”