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A European-Style, Beachside Melbourne Apartment!

Homes

St Kilda is home to numerous 1920s apartments with ornate features, and one of the best belongs to John Wares, owner of Melbourne gift and homeware shop Mr Wares in the Block Arcade, and his friend of 30 years, Peter Papadopoulos.

Since purchasing this property in 2015, John has embarked on a major renovation, reconfiguring almost the entire floor plan in the process. The outcome is a classic and considered space, which remains respectful of the building’s distinct 1920 architecture by Christopher Cowper.

With its urban location, historic details, and generous proportions, this space now feels akin to a European apartment, with the added benefit of bayside Melbourne views!

12th August, 2020

The entrance vestibule is filled with an oil painting from the ’70s bought by Peter at a St Kilda second hand dealer more than 20 years ago. Royal Copenhagen vase from Leonard Joel. Volta ‘Paris’ stabile from Mr Wares. Reproduction of a Tang lady figurine purchased from Shanghai airport. ‘Always say yes to the souvenir – they may feel kitsch at the time but they never fail to transport you back to that happy holiday,’ says John. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

John Wares in his sitting room. Diptych ‘Red Houses’ by Scottish/Australian artist Yvonne Boag. 1940’s Italian button back sofa from Geoffrey Hatty. Jindrich Halbala Model H-269 chairs from Geoffrey Hatty. Belgian Brutalist copper, brass and travertine coffee table from Geoffrey Hatty. Tuareg reed and leather mat Jason Mowen. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Diptych ‘Red Houses’ by Scottish/Australian artist Yvonne Boag. 1940s Italian button back sofa and 1950s sconce from Geoffrey Hatty. Chiavari chair from Angelucci. Tuareg reed and leather mat Jason Mowen. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘Red Houses’ diptych by Scottish/Australian artist Yvonne Boag. 1940s Italian button back sofa and Jindrich Halbala Model H-269 chairs from Geoffrey Hatty. Cesare Lacca drinks trolley from Angelucci. ‘Desert Plant’ tumblers from Mr Wares. Ashanti stool from Leonard Joel. Brass chandelier, sconces and Osvaldo Borsani mirror from Geoffrey Hatty. Custom brutalist fire place by Mitty & Price. Josef Frank brass candlestick from Svenkst Tenn. Royal Copenhagen covered bowl by Leonard Joel. Belgian Brutalist copper, brass and travertine coffee table by Geoffrey Hatty. Tuareg reed and leather mat by Jason Mowen. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘The view to Catani Gardens and Port Phillip Bay is reflected in Osvaldo Borsani mirror from Geoffrey Hatty,’ says John. Covered bowl by Royal Copenhagen from Leonard Joel. Custom brutalist fire place by Mitty & Price. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Custom brutalist fire place by Mitty & Price. Josef Frank brass candlestick from Svenkst Tenn. Osvaldo Borsani mirror from Geoffrey Hatty. Covered bowl by Royal Copenhagen from Leonard Joel. The Chinese cabinet heavily carved with dragons, clouds and flaming pearls is also from Leonard Joel! ‘The Mexican ceramics were smashed on their way back from Tulum but skilfully repaired by the magicians at Tyson.’ Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘We never tire of watching the sunset and experiencing its trek across the horizon from Station Pier to the You Yangs and back again! This is also the scene of our yearly party to celebrate the Pride Parade as it marches down Fitzroy Street,’ says John. French outdoor chairs by Tamsin Johnson. ‘Red Houses’ diptych by Scottish/Australian artist Yvonne Boag. 1940s Italian button back sofa and Jindrich Halbala Model H-269 chairs from Geoffrey Hatty. Belgian brutalist copper, brass and travertine coffee table by Geoffrey Hatty. Tuareg reed and leather mat from Jason Mowen. Norwegian Bunad blanket from Mr Wares. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Belgian Brutalist copper, brass and travertine coffee table by Geoffrey Hatty. Walnut trays from Design House Stockholm. Pots and brass tray from Svenskt Tenn. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Master bedroom is painted with Dulux ‘Harpoon’. Bruno Mathsson ‘Pernilla’ chair from Modern Times. Blanket from Mexico. Custom pendant by Volker Haug. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The master bedroom was originally the formal dining room. Dipped walls painted with Dulux ‘Harpoon’. 1940s French cerused oak wardrobe from Geoffrey Hatty. ‘Tufty-Time’ bed by Patricia Urquiola and Isamu Noguchi pendant from Space Furniture. Mexican blanket from a flea market in Puebla. Bruno Mathsson ‘Pernilla” chair from Modern Times. Custom shutters from Mitty & Price. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lady Onyx green marble bench from Pazstone. Aged brass fittings from Astra Walker. Brass and pink onyx sconce from Christopher Boots. Abbeyhorn beaker from Mr Wares. Loom Towels hand loomed Turkish towel from Mr Wares. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The cabinet was a gift from Peter’s parents on his thirteenth birthday and has found a spot in every one of his homes! Dipped walls painted in Dulux ‘Harpoon’. Carafe and glass by Maison Balzac. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Wallace Sewell throw from Mr Wares. Josef Frank “Mirakel” cushion from Svenskt Tenn. 1940s chinoiserie chest from Nicholas & Alistair. John found the 1960s map at a garage sale. 1970s steel and chrome lamp from Brotherhood of St Laurence. Marshall Stanhope speaker from Marshall. Abbeyhorn shoehorn from Mr Wares. Custom shutters from Mitty & Price. Kokeshi from Journey Japan. No.811 “Hoffmann” armchair from Thonet. Cristal Arte pendant light by Geoffrey Hatty. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Wallace Sewell throw and Abbeyhorn shoehorn from Mr Wares. 1940s chinoiserie chest from Nicholas & Alistair. 1960s map found in a garage sale. 1970s steel and chrome lamp found at Brotherhood of St Laurence. Marshall Stanhope speaker. Pot and brass tray from Svenskt Tenn. No.811 “Hoffmann” armchair by Thonet. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

AGA cooker. No.B9 “Le Corbusier” armchair by Thonet. Vintage Italian dining table base from Nicholas & Alistair. Custom marble table top and 1950s pendant in custom colour by Geoffrey Hatty. Royal Copenhagen candlesticks by Leonard Joel. Raawii Denmark jug from Mr Wares. Glass vase from Marimekko. Lady onyx green marble bench from Pazstone. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lady onyx green marble bench from Pazstone. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘Lady onyx’ green marble bench from Pazstone. Pots and brass trays from Svenskt Tenn. Haws brass mist spray and copper watering can from Mr Wares. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lady onyx green marble bench from Pazstone. Vintage Italian dining table base from Nicholas & Alistair. Murano sconce from Geoffrey Hatty. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

This No.B9 ‘Le Corbusier’ armchair by Thonet is where John sits every morning enjoying the morning sun and treetop views. Vintage Italian dining table base from Nicholas & Alistair. Custom marble table top and 1950s pendant in custom colour from Geoffrey Hatty. Royal Copenhagen candlesticks from Leonard Joel. Raawii Denmark jug from Mr Wares. Glass vase by Marimekko. Lady onyx green marble bench from Pazstone. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lady onyx green marble bench from Pazstone. Glass vase by Marrimekko. Richard Sapper 9090 coffee makers from Alessi. English copper kettle from Mr Wares. AGA cooktop. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The wooden vestibule is a one of the most grand features of the house, and can be viewed from the hall ‘The stairs retain original skylights, arts and crafts-style timber work, hardware and hand painted flat numbers,’ says John. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘There are only 12 flats spread between two buildings. The new kitchen has windows on three sides that overlook a communal garden,’ says John. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 12th August 2020

‘We wanted something with historic charm, good light, and preferably not a terrace house – not easy to find in inner-city Melbourne.’ – John Wares

When friends John Wares and Peter Papadopoulos began searching for a Melbourne property to call home, they knew exactly what they were looking for. ‘We wanted something with historic charm, good light, and preferably not a terrace house – not easy to find in inner-city Melbourne,’ John says. 

One building that came to mind was a 1920s apartment block in St Kilda that John had long admired. Designed by architect Christopher Cowper, the highly distinctive building features a sophisticated mix of inter-war, classical arts and crafts architecture, with large flats built to the street edge, and shops at the ground level in a European manner.

Several renovated flats in the St Kilda building came up during John and Peter’s 12 month search, but none were quite right… except for one that wasn’t on the market. Peter and John managed to track down the owner, and with ‘good timing, Peter’s negotiating skills, and a strong Australian dollar’ they managed to strike a deal. 

1920s apartments often feature generous proportions, enabling a potential reconfiguration of the floor plan to include additional bedrooms and bathrooms. When John and Peter took possession in 2015, they set about doing exactly that, with the help of architect Fitt De Felice (responsible for the permits and documentation), and builder Mitty & Price. John also has an architecture degree, so he was able to work closely with the design team.

The apartment had previously been renovated, and some redesigned elements called for major jackhammering! While this is typically a nightmare for apartment owners, John says their needs, as well as those of the other 11 home owners in the building, were fantastically managed with patience, consideration and professionalism by their great builder.

Initially a two bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, this property now contains three bedrooms and two bathrooms. A formal dining room was converted to the main bedroom, the former kitchen became an en suite, the main bathroom was relocated, and a new kitchen replaced the former laundry in the enclosed balcony space. 

The new kitchen is the crowning jewel of the entire space, where lady onyx Marble, green cabinetry, and garden views harmoniously come together, and Peter and John’s usually at-odds tastes perfectly converge. ‘John can go a little too baroque and Peter a little too brutalist – we hope they balance each other out,’ they explain. 

The restrained yet impactful use of colour is also a highlight of this home, and a driving force of the entire interior scheme. ‘Colour came first. We wanted grey walls, a green kitchen and a ‘dipped’ master bedroom,’ says John. The two-tone main bedroom walls are painted with Dulux ‘Harpoon’ – a particularly striking, moody shade of blue.

As the owner of gift and homewares shop Mr Wares in the Block Arcade, and one half of Hall & Wares, John has furnished the apartment in his brand of classic, well designed pieces. There’s a celebration of hardworking materials such as solid timber, brass, leather and stone, alongside a collection of vintage European furniture and lighting sourced over many years. 

Today this apartment is now shared by John, housemate Michael Burke, and Peter when he’s in town from Sydney where he works. Together, these three friends have created a wonderful space to be in, combining elements of several architectural styles, and in a rare setting where city, garden and beach meet. 

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