Both at home and at work, Annie Portelli’s creativity knows no bounds. But after purchasing her first apartment two years ago, her creative spirit really was unleashed in a major way! She wasted no time in making her sweet two-bedroom pad comfortable, cosy and uniquely ‘Annie’.
After taking possession of the apartment, Annie got straight to work on a DIY renovation, with the help of her Dad and a few handy helpers.
‘When I first moved in I gutted the entire place, and then had a mini melt-down when all that was left was a cold box with concrete floor and popcorn ceiling!’ she recalls. Design decisions were made mainly based on cost and efficiency – such as the simple kitchen cabinetry, using robust marine-grade plywood. Annie did get a little carried away on one thing though… *that* kitchen bench top!
‘My kitchen benchtop is my absolute favourite thing in my house!’ Annie enthuses. ‘It’s as heavy in kilograms as it is in sentimental value. This benchtop was the first thing I started fantasizing about when I first started designing this place… It’s my pride and joy!’ With the help and support of her amazing Dad, Annie created this incredible piece using broken shards of stone and marble sourced from all over town, and even off-cuts from her parents’ kitchen – ‘so I will always have a little bit of my family home right here in my house.’
Then, of course, came the styling. ‘You would think that working for The Design Files would make the process of decorating and furnishing a blissful one, but I must say, this was often not the case!’ Annie admits. ‘With all of the beautiful houses, objects, and art we feature every day, my wishlist was a mile long before I even got the keys!’ Annie was quick to realise that she needed to put the blinkers on and work with all the things she had already accumulated over the years, building her style from there.
The apartment is furnished with a mix of affordable pieces from Ikea, Muji, and Gumtree, along with a few treasured items by local makers and friends. ‘I’m super lucky to have a bunch of friends who love a good trade,’ Annie explains. ‘My dining table by Thomas Lentini and desk chair and lovely dresser by Dustin Fritsche of Softer Studio were all based on trades – carpentry skills in exchange for my graphic design skills. Win-win!’
The apartment complex itself is also pretty unique, and another brilliant example of good old-fashioned mid-century design at its best! Described as an ‘Urban Forest’ when it was first built back in 1959, the apartments, known as ‘Hotham Gardens’, were originally designed for the Housing Commission to replace substandard housing. Designed by architects Anne Reynolds and John Mockridge in collaboration with landscape architect Beryl Mann, the development aimed to enhance the wellbeing of the residents through an extremely considered use of space and a deep connection to surrounding gardens.
The complex is made up of a number of small apartment buildings, just three-to-four storeys high, with only one apartment per level, connected via an outdoor spiral staircase. The apartments are essentially stacked one on top of the other, allowing every room to have windows – meaning LOTS of natural light, and in Annie’s case, a small balcony and views out to a leafy shared garden!
‘It’s not every day that you can find an apartment complex buried amongst lush surrounding greenery. You would never guess you’re on the shallow outskirts of the CBD,’ says Annie. ‘I feel so lucky to call this my first home! I have become such a huge advocate for apartment living – yes they are small, but when they’re designed right, they can be mighty!’