Set in the heritage listed Bible House building on Flinders Lane, in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, Paul and Dan’s apartment presented a curious challenge when they first purchased the home three years ago. At just 75sqm, the footprint is essentially a small rectangle measuring 7.5 metres x 10 metres, but with huge windows along three of the four walls. When they first purchased it, the apartment was dated, originally fitted with red timber floors, a blue laminate kitchen and bathroom, and just one bedroom – ‘a terrible size’ recalls Dan, ‘with only 50cm on either side of the bed, and a metre at the end, it was just big enough to make a mess in, but not big enough to really enjoy’.
Dan and Paul had a vision to create a much more functional space with two separate sleeping areas – a master ‘sleeping nook’, and a smaller kids bedroom. ‘We spoke to an architect friend, Clare Cousins, who didn’t think we were crazy’ says Dan! Phew, always a good start. ‘It was such an enjoyable experience working with Clare’ recalls Dan. ‘She understood immediately that we didn’t want anything flamboyant. The no-frills outcome was a testament to her experience. It was a collaborative process but we would have completely stuffed it up without her – we were counting millimetres so needed to get the layout right’.
Under Clare’s guidance, the apartment was completely gutted – the internal walls, kitchen and bathroom were removed to make way for a more modern, minimal and flexible space. Simple joinery, incorporating lots of inbuilt storage, was designed to separate Dan and Paul’s sleeping nook from the baby’s room. The kitchen was extended, floorboards sanded and clearcoated, walls painted crisp white, and the bathroom overhauled.
‘It was a pretty low cost fit out, using plywood, common but creatively composed tiles in the bathroom, and basic tapware electroplated gold’ says Dan of the materials used. ‘One of the good things about living in such a small space was that it made it possible to do the entire thing at once’.
Aside from the incredible natural light and enviable ceiling height here, of course there is also a lot to be said for Dan and Paul’s impeccably great taste – and the discipline required to decorate a home so sparingly, especially with a two year old in tow!
‘We aren’t really attached to stuff as a rule’ says Dan of her minimalist aesthetic. ‘Objects come in and out of fashion for us, and the only ones we feel something for are those that are connected to a person or a place’. One particularly treasured piece is the Danish sideboard, a wedding gift from Paul’s mother. Other current favourites are the handcrafted ‘souvenirs’ (seen on the dining room table and sideboard) which Dan and Paul recently brought back from Bali. This playful collection of prototypes were handmade in collaboration with local Balinese craft communities, as part of a current project Paul is working on called Field Experiments. These sweet details, each with a story to tell, punctuate the otherwise sparsely styled space, adding just a touch of quirk and colour.
Despite its central location, this certainly isn’t a typical Melbourne home. There’s something unmistakeably international about this space, with its effortless marriage of old and new, and almost frugally efficient design. ‘Living in a smaller space comes with sacrifices, but one of the benefits is that it needs very little maintenance’ says Dan. ‘It takes us no more than an hour to spring clean the place from top to bottom, which leaves time for more enjoyable things’.
Being based just moments from Flinders street Train Station, Dan and Paul also made the decision to live without a car when moving here. Melbourne’s city parks, gardens and other public spaces have now become their backyard – something they hadn’t thought about before moving here, but which has turned out to be a welcome surprise. ‘We spend entire weekends mooching about in our city’s incredibly well-tended public spaces’ says Dan. ‘There are the Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens, the NGV courtyard, Alexandra and Domain Gardens, Birrarung Marr and the Botanic Gardens. We now know the times and days these spaces are quiet, and sometimes they are so deserted they feel like our own private gardens’.
There’s a lot to learn from the very special home Dan and Paul have created here. There’s something serene and comforting about its perfect balance of form and function, and the lack of excessive ‘stuff’. It really is the most perfect casestudy for small footprint living. Above all else, Dan says the sense of ‘connectedness’ is what her family most enjoys here. ‘Being right in the city means we never feel isolated’ she explains.
Dan and Paul travel often, and you might be interested to know that their beautiful apartment is often listed on Air bnb. ‘We like the idea that when we aren’t using it, it isn’t laying dormant’ says Dan. I must say I can’t imagine a more perfect base for a Melbourne city getaway – well worth bookmarking for anyone planning a trip here in the near future.