When Melbourne design practice IOA Studio began work on this Queensberry Street site, they soon discovered that the 150-year-old Kings Arms Hotel ‘didn’t have a straight bone in it,’ as Miles Ritzmann-Williams emphasises.
He and uni pal Amy Bracks started IOA Studio back in 2016 after they’d both gained experience as architectural drafters. Their respective backgrounds in furniture making and design research have so far served them well when working on challenging spaces such as this one – a site with crumbling bricks and downpipes running straight through the future bedrooms!
No longer a pub when they arrived on the scene, IOA enlisted friends and family to help rip everything out of what was a dull, clinical office space to reveal the bare bones… and potential. ‘We found all sorts of surprises that we fell in love with, from old bricks and cracking hardened plaster, to the Oregon rafters and gable roof,’ details Amy. ‘We realised that by exposing as much of the original, the new home would revive aspects of the old pub/hotel it once was.’
After many design iterations, they came up with a concept featuring curved walls to optimise the awkward existing title. ‘The curves were the key when dividing the space, and we found that they also connected perfectly to the existing archway that once connected the old pub to the boarding house,’ details Miles. ‘Removing the ceiling lining and structure from upstairs allowed us to create a double-height space that connects the upper level to the open mezzanine.’
Their clients had unique colour and texture palettes in mind. This pushed the design duo to use the small space to advantage, creating warmer, cosier living spaces and introducing hues reminiscent of the Australian bush to transform, from sterile to exciting. Many small nooks were also created to exhibit the clients’ covetable collection of mid-century furniture and personal relics.
Due to the nature of the old building, their builder was reluctant to sign a fixed contract, yet the chosen contract enabled IOA to be quite hands-on and complete some of the on-site work themselves. ‘As hard as it was, it was the experimenting with materials and colours and learning through building, which was most enjoyable,’ tells Miles. ‘By constantly being on-site, we’ve developed a deeper understanding of space and material behaviour that is impossible to learn through the computer screen,’ adds Amy. This experimental approach led to unexpected inclusions, like the pull-out kitchen island bench and hidden mezzanine reading area.
As is often the case in fulfilling work, Miles concludes, ‘the constraints made us work harder to find interesting solutions, which actually made the most challenging aspects the most enjoyable!’