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A Legendary Local Design Writer’s Renovated 1930s Home

Architecture

As one of Australia’s most prominent architecture and design writers, it’s safe to say Stephen Crafti has seen his fair share of stunning homes. So it comes as no surprise his personal home in South Yarra is a sophisticated, architectural haven!

Previously two separate 1930s apartments, Stephen engaged Robert Simeoni Architects to unite the two, forming a cohesive single residence with a private aspect. Insertions crafted from steel and fluted glass draw on the character of the original art deco architecture, while mirroring the ‘quietness’ and muted light of the original dwellings.

30th June, 2020

Prior to this renovation, this home was two separate 1930s apartments! Photo – Derek Swalwell

The exterior of the home has been largely retained. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The rear of the addition adopts a zig-zag form with narrow reeded patterned glass . Photo – Derek Swalwell

Fluted glass was used to create the muted obscure effect to the interior. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Concrete floors in the new kitchen. Photo – Derek Swalwell

A key consideration of this project was retaining its existing quiet interiors and muted light. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Concealed doors open to the property’s rear courtyard. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The home belongs to design writer Stephen Crafti. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Stephen engaged Robert Simeoni Architects to unite the two, forming a cohesive single residence with a private aspect. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The existing fabric has been retained wherever possible, with new elements clearly distinguishable from the property’s original features. Photo – Derek Swalwell

A compact, dark stained timber and raw steel staircase was introduced to connect the two previously separate levels of the building. Photo – Derek Swalwell

New bathrooms integrate a selection of materials evocative of the original 1930s architecture of the house, including basins tiled in-situ. Photo – Derek Swalwell

This is a home that truly rejects current design trends in favour of honouring the original building and the unique desires of its occupants. Photo – Derek Swalwell

 ‘In my mind the rear courtyard and its proportions reminded me instinctively of Bramante’s Tempietto and its reverberating quality – a quality and a sense of suspension I was keen to explore and capture from within the courtyard space,’ says the architect Robert Simeoni. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Original architectural details. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Standing in the rear courtyard, one can see only the zig-zag form of this new addition that shelters the spaces within. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Amelia Barnes
Tuesday 30th June 2020

‘In my mind, the rear courtyard and its proportions reminded me instinctively of Bramante’s Tempietto and its reverberating quality.’ – Robert Simeoni

It’s hard to imagine now, but until recently, this now renovated 1930s property was actually two completely separate apartments. Despite their disjointed state with no internal access, design writer Stephen Crafti had been living across both apartments for years, until finally engaging Robert Simeoni Architects to combine the two.

The objective was to cohesively amalgamate the apartments by retaining the existing fabric wherever possible, while inserting new elements clearly distinguishable from the property’s original features. While the apartments weren’t heritage protected, they were treated as such during the design process. ‘The aim of not trying to do too much, or as the Burra Charter suggests “as much as necessary, as little as possible” informed the thinking behind the design,’ says Robert of Robert Simeoni Architects.

A compact, dark stained timber and raw steel staircase was introduced to connect the two previously separate levels of the building. This staircase is located in the former bathroom of each apartment, minimising the need for costly and potentially unsympathetic internal alterations.

The rear of the property contains a new concrete floored addition where the dining, kitchen and laundry facilities are positioned. This addition forms a double height volume, incorporating a high level window, and ground level steel-framed windows, with combination of clear and opaque glazing. Standing in the rear courtyard, one can see only the zig-zag form of this new addition that shelters the spaces within. ‘In my mind, the rear courtyard and its proportions reminded me instinctively of Bramante’s Tempietto and its reverberating quality – a quality and a sense of suspension I was keen to explore and capture from within the courtyard space,’ says Robert.

A key consideration of this project was retaining the home’s existing quiet interiors and muted light. The use of fluted glass was developed in response to this, as well as the creation of long diagonal views throughout the shallow floor plan. These views expand the feeling of the existing house and its circulation paths, ‘creating a reordering of the duplex while not materially affecting the integrity of the original,’ as Robert describes.

Light fittings and furnishings, including a number of bespoke items created for the project by Suzie Stanford, were selected to inject considered, contemporary details into the space, whilst respecting the original fabric of the building.

This is a home that truly rejects current design trends in favour of honouring the integrity of the original building and the unique desires of its occupants. While undoubtedly impressive and sophisticated in its design, there’s an inherent quietness to the aesthetic that’s wholeheartedly refreshing to observe.

See more of Robert Simeoni Architects’ work here. Information about Stephen Crafti’s writing and architectural tours can be found here. 

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net