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Two Best Friends Create A Spacious Contemporary Apartment In A Former Chocolate Factory

Architecture

Lighting designer Jess Perry and Michael Roper of Architecture Architecture go way back. They are each other’s oldest childhood mates, which makes their collaboration on Jess’ apartment in Fitzroy’s iconic MacRobertson building a perfect representation of their lifelong friendship.

This project sees a dated ’90s renovation stripped back, creating a more pared back, contemporary home. A new open-plan layout and clean material palette celebrates the former factory’s industrial bones, all of which is enhanced by Jess’ masterful lighting scheme!

8th September, 2020

This apartment is located in the MacRobertson building, an iconic former confectionary factory in the heart of Fitzroy. Photo – Tom Ross.

With incredible industrial bones to work with, the main focus was opening up the cramped spaces and allowing as much light as possible to flood the space. Photo – Tom Ross.

Owner Jess Perry designed an invisible lighting scheme spare the one paper pendant light hanging above the dining table. Photo – Tom Ross.

Repositioning the kitchen to a discrete enclave in the rear wall allows uninterrupted flow between the living and dining areas. Photo – Tom Ross.

A material palette of concrete sheets and raw timber elevate the building’s industrial ambience while also creating a distinctly contemporary feel. Photo – Tom Ross.

With an open-plan layout that privileges exposure to natural light, the apartment looks completely different! Photo – Tom Ross.

The bathroom is lined with a pink-hued terrazzo, specifically Fibonacci’s Pavlova. Photo – Tom Ross.

Clutter is removed from the main bedroom by installing floor-to-ceiling timber robes. Photo – Tom Ross.

Client Jess Perry (left) and architect Michael Roper (right) of Architecture Architecture. Photo – Tom Ross.

Sasha Gattermayr
Tuesday 8th September 2020

‘Compared with how we found the apartment, the renovations have rendered it almost unrecognisable.’ – Michael Roper

It’s probably many people’s dream to create something of significance with their oldest childhood friend. Michael Roper of Architecture Architecture was overjoyed when he actually got the chance to do it, by redesigning the warehouse apartment of his lifelong buddy, lighting designer Jess Perry. Over a number of in-person design sessions, the pair nutted out how to transform the cramped ‘90s renovation into something more contemporary – down to a precise layout and the perfect combination of construction materials.

Given the small footprint, the most important consideration here was to create a spacious feel. This involved opening up the living rooms and relocating the kitchen and bathroom, in order to make the spaces seem more generous, and to filter in as much natural light as possible. The kitchen was repositioned to the rear wall – where ample bench space could be tucked neatly into a discrete enclave. This also allowed for uninterrupted flow between the dining and living spaces.

‘We were careful to locate walls and joinery to sit comfortably among the exposed structure of beams and columns,’ Michael explains of reorganising the space. ‘We didn’t want to interrupt the bones of the warehouse, or to over-sanitise it.’

For the most part, this meant selecting materials that would enhance the pre-existing industrial ambience, rather than overwhelm them. Raw cement sheets and natural timber was an unbeatable combination for the new open-plan layout, given that it suited all functions of the newly merged zones.

The bathroom contains a burst of unexpected colour owing to the pink-hued terrazzo finish – Fibonacci’s Pavlova. This flourish came from Jess, who wanted some bright moments to relieve the otherwise neutral palette. ‘There’s something about the naked fleshiness of this colour that seems to make sense in a bathroom,’ Michael laughs. Not to mention the similarity to the building’s confectionary roots!

And of course, all is bathed in a considerate lighting scheme carefully designed by Jess. Every globe is invisible spare a single paper-encased pendant light, which hangs above the dining table. Jess’s lighting subtly amplifies the apartment’s forms and finishes, all in celebration of the warehouse’s industrial roots and textural materials palette. Michael explains this effect on the overall ambience: ‘In the evenings, lighting washes across surfaces to enhance textures and define the volumes of the apartment, creating a calm oasis in the heart of bustling Fitzroy.’

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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