A riverside apartment in Brisbane is given a stylish new life with a client/designer collaboration.
The site of this exclusive apartment complex is spectacular – sitting right on the bank of the magnificent Brisbane River at the very axis of Kangaroo Point, it boasts sweeping views of the river and cityscape from Dockside and South Bank to the lush Botanic Gardens directly across the water, stretching to the lights of the Story Bridge and beyond.
This although armed with an explicit brief when contacting interior designer Suzie Beirne of Maison Jardin to assist with an extensive renovation – the goal being a perfectly refurbished luxury apartment for herself and husband Stewart in the heart of Brisbane – the client, Tracey, was certainly not without experience herself. Renovating houses has long been her passion, with this residence fronting up as her tenth project.
“I was fascinated to know why such an obviously experienced and practical person would seek my help,” says Suzie.“Tracey’s response was quite candid – she needed help with the management of the project and with the liaison between the other owners and body corporate requirements. She knew from following articles on my work for quite a considerable number of years that she had the right person to run her project – quite a compliment really, knowing that she was hesitant to proceed without my involvement. It quickly became a total collaboration between the two of us.”
Having just purchased in the building, but wisely having leased the apartment for the previous year, Tracey had gathered a comprehensive amount of knowledge that allowed the design development stage to come together with an astonishing amount of excitement and speed.
The first issue to address was a significant noise problem, with the Riverside Expressway – a link of the M3 that cuts through the heart of the CBD – right on the very doorstep of the apartment. “Solving this problem with the noise was the first item on a well thought-out list that Tracey brought to our first meeting,” recollects Suzie, who began by obtaining a quote for almost all of the verandah to be enclosed with double glazing windows and doors. An acoustic engineer, Mark Enerson from Acousticworks, was also brought in to address the changes to flooring and to advise on the smooth transition from interior to exterior.
The original building engineers were consulted to provide specifications for the access from the main area of the apartment through to the study – an internal and rather stuffy room, with only one small window. Originally designed as a home office with access from a second entry door to the lift lobby, the plan was to transform this area into a spacious butlers pantry, which would also allow much needed cross ventilation from the drying area and laundry. A revised floor plan was drawn up to assimilate the air conditioning, from Shelair Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, into the new enclosed area using strategic bulkheads to link the different zones.
The new floor plan also extended to the main bathroom and adjacent powder rooms. “The decision was quickly made to transpose these, making the new bathroom closer to the bedrooms and the new powder room more accessible from the living areas,” explains Suzie. “As all tiles and fittings were to be replaced, this decision made a great deal of sense at minimal additional cost.”
All of the new bathrooms have been finished in the same polished concrete effect tile, intersected with brushed aluminium – a fabulous look used in combination with the timber and concrete pendant lights in the powder room and as the main feature wall behind the floating vanity and recessed shaving cabinets in the master en suite.
The master bedroom was already spacious and boasted its own en suite bathroom and quite a large vestibule, but with only a tiny one man walk-in robe, the space was totally inadequate and disproportionate. Absorbing the vestibule into the walk-in robe has doubled its size, while the position of fittings in the en suite were reviewed and strategic changes made to the layout. The master suite was also given a new entry point, expanding into part of the newly enclosed verandah.
During some earlier renovations by previous owners, the large verandah had been enclosed with single glazing windows and doors, which were now all replaced with double glazing for extra sound proofing. The original sliding glass doors were completely removed along with tracks, jambs and frames – a logistical challenge, Suzie adds, as they had to be cut up into small pieces to be removed from the third floor of the building. Getting the new full height powder-coated aluminium doors up proved a far easier
challenge, with permission sought from the lift managers to bring them up on top of the lift car.
An existing storeroom on the enclosed verandah was utilised as the new air conditioning room, with powder-coated aluminium louvres installed to allow air fl ow, while the adjacent barbecue was transformed into an inviting fireplace by Real Flame.
The stunning combination of surfaces is one of the apartment’s greatest successes – and one of its most time consuming feats. Preparation of surfaces and re-plastering took some considerable time and it was with some excitement that the solid 19mm French oak flooring was finally able to be installed by Wildwood Aged Timber Flooring. Supplied with a pre-finished limed surface (which meant no sanding mess), it was installed over a combination of 8mm acoustic underlay beneath 19mm sheets of ply board. This was specified by the acoustic engineer and realised by Peter Wilson Soundproofing after extensive tests of the concrete slab, all of which required access to the apartment below… quite the challenge but one that now provides exceptional noise insulation.
The carpet selected for use throughout the bedrooms is superb – “like walking on a cloud,” says Suzie. The colour reflects a rich deeper hue of the walls which have been painted in Dulux White Duck in an excellent quality solution dyed nylon. The finishing touch comes from the ‘Pecan’ plantation shutters from Style Plantation Shutters in Jindalee, stained to match the flooring, which create a break between the fireside sitting area and the window seating of the master bedroom suite. It all perfectly complements the light and airy open plan design.
The kitchen takes centrestage, with its glamorous island bench and chic combination of surfaces. “The kitchen design was conceived as a kind of ‘front of house’, where ultra-stylish finishes combine,” describes Suzie, “and it’s hard to believe that they are not really 2-pac and teak veneer.”
The cabinetmakers from Jason Gannon Cabinetmakers and stone masons from Gold Coast Marble and Granite worked their magic here, with Calacatta stone applied to the lower kitchen bulkhead – essential to creating a seamless interface between the differing ceiling heights of the kitchen and butlers pantry – and also used for the splashback, while the meticulously equipped butlers pantry boasts ravine teak laminate and benchtops of a simple alpine white fabricated stone.
The renovated apartment is a superb reflection of what good team work and open dialogue between designer and client can achieve – a true collaboration that has yielded a sleek and sophisticated, yet utterly comfortable, inner city retreat.
Photography by John Downs.
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