Paying homage to iconic architect Harry Seidler and master painter Picasso, it’s little wonder Alicia Holgar’s redesign of a Brisbane apartment won Best of State Residential Design Queensland at the Australian Interior Design Awards 2020.
Located within one of Seidler’s buildings in the River City, the Avian Apartment is a wonderland of curves, cantilevers and a calming colour palette that the talented designer approached with a sense of organic modernism.
“I’m not sure I could characterise the aesthetic other than to say it’s a blend of European aesthetics with Australian ethics, a play on curves and cantilevers, and art as an integrated expression of ingenuity,” Alicia says. “[My clients] wanted me to view the space as a blank canvas and to transform it into an elegant, luxurious and impressive residence with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.”
And Alicia certainly delivered, putting the previous owner’s stark palette of red and black furniture peppered with white gloss joinery to bed, and reimagining a light and bright colour scheme layered with warm textural elements and statement lighting.
Other than the original kitchen and bathrooms, which the clients wanted to remain untouched, the three-bedroom apartment underwent a complete renovation.
A challenge, which Alicia accepted with gusto, was to work with Seidler’s existing 302m2 spatial layout, which included a vast expanse of curved floor and wall space. This meant there was little room to incorporate standard furniture, joinery and artwork. It had to be bespoke.
Within the open-plan lounge area, a curved and cantilevered wall was built with integrated and floating American oak bookshelves; a Samsung Frame TV, which cleverly doubles as an artwork when off-duty, hangs above.
Meanwhile, the magnificent curved sofa, circular coffee table, sculptural entry table, organically shaped desk, beds and bedside tables were custom-designed by Alicia and handmade by an array of local suppliers, craftspeople and artisans to her specifications. These unique pieces were offset with a variety of bespoke artworks chosen to work with the curved walls and cantilevered elements of the space.
“Within the dining area, there was a long wall around two-thirds straight and one-third curved,” says Alicia of the apartment’s biggest challenge. “Due to its scale, a singular artwork would have had to be of a considerable size and would have likely cost a significant amount of money.”
She began researching the work of Seidler and French architect Le Corbusier, whose use of murals and integrated sculptural artworks sparked an idea in Alicia that would become the naming inspiration for the updated apartment.
“One Le Corbusier mural that really struck a chord with me was line-work of primordial, Picasso-esque people in France,” she says.
“It was by pure coincidence that I came across an incredible upcoming artist, Jessalyn Brooks, based in LA. A completely naturally gifted, creatively inspiring being whose line-works were the only ones that I knew of in the world that reflected the essence of the Picasso/Le Corbusier approach.”
Jessalyn became an artist-in-residence at the apartment for a week, creating two breathtakingly beautiful murals – one within the dining space, the other in the entry foyer – titled ‘The Avians’. The name references bird people in Greek mythology and draws a neat parallel with the owners’ everyday lives above the city skyline.
The fluid lines and soothing tones of the Avian Apartment would surely make anyone
feel at home, but most importantly, the clients themselves were ecstatic with the result.
“They were thrilled with the whole process of the renovation and the outcome exceeded their expectations,” Alicia says happily. “I’m so glad that we were able to achieve a wonderful result for them in all aspects.”
Find more of Alicia Holgar’s work at aliholgar.com
words CANDICE GREGOR photography SHANNON MCGRATH