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Restoring A Mid-Century Apartment In Brisbane’s Famous Torbreck Building

Architecture

Torbreck (designed in 1957 and completed in 1960) is a historically significant building in Highgate Hill as Queensland’s first high-rise residential development. 

A recent renovation by Kin Architects honours this history, replacing a ‘90s renovation with a Jetsons’ inspired interior to enhance the property’s view, layout, and original design intent.  

The extensively updated apartment is better suited to the owners, Steph Cooper and Mat Williams, who built the renovation themselves.

16th May, 2022

Torbreck (designed in 1957 and completed in 1960) is a historically significant building in Highgate Hill as Queensland’s first high rise residential development. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

Steph Cooper and Mat Williams weren’t personally aware of Torbreck’s architectural significance when they moved in, but they could immediately tell the building was special. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

Painting ‘Bush Medicine Leaves’ by Caroline Numina. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

Custom timber flooring in the kitchen and dining area crafted by William McMahon Cabinetmaker works to subtly demarcate the open-plan living space. Painting ‘Bush Medicine Leaves’ by Caroline Numina. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

What started as a brief for a new island bench soon grew to include the entire apartment encompassing a ‘Jetsons-inspired’ kitchen, and more functional living spaces. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

Brass details have been thoughtfully incorporated across the legs of the island bench, the finger pulls on cabinetry, and a dining room pendant that catches light to reflect both the interior and view. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

 Several walls were ripped out, the kitchen was moved to the centre of the living spaces, the bathroom was gutted, and one of two bedrooms was sacrificed for a larger living area. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

‘Leah also brought us options for materials we would never have considered (the bright blue carpet is still one of my favourite elements) and incorporated materials that we already had,’ says Steph. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

The new kitchen has the best view in the house. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

The cleverly integrated TV. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

Marble benchtops pulled out of the old kitchen were re-cut and used in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry areas. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

The apartment now feels in keeping with the heritage building’s facade, and makes the most of its expansive outlook across Brisbane. Photography – Christopher Frederick Jones

Amelia Barnes
Monday 16th May 2022

‘Turns out an architect is much better at design than a marine scientist and an engineer!’ 

Steph Cooper and Mat Williams weren’t personally aware of Torbreck’s architectural significance when they moved in, but they could immediately tell the building was special.

Mat bought one of the 1960 apartments in 2009, followed by another years later after meeting his now wife, Steph. This second apartment had more space for the couple, but had fallen victim to a ‘90s renovation comprising multiple small, disconnected spaces. 

Steph and Mat’s initial plan was to complete a DIY renovation, although they soon realised the value of an architect. ‘Before we got too far, we reached out to Leah [of Kin Architects] and some professional trades. We thought we knew what we wanted to do, but as soon as we saw Leah’s first concept sketch we knew that we’d made the correct decision to talk to an architect,’ says Steph.

What started as a brief for a new island bench soon grew to include the entire apartment encompassing a ‘Jetsons-inspired’ kitchen, and more functional living spaces. ‘Turns out an architect is much better at design than a marine scientist and an engineer!’ says Steph.

In reimagining the apartment, Kin Architects changed almost everything. Several walls were ripped out, the kitchen was moved to the centre of the living space, the bathroom was gutted, and one of two bedrooms was sacrificed for a larger living area. 

‘Leah also brought us options for materials we would never have considered (the bright blue carpet is still one of my favourite elements), and incorporated materials that we already had,’ says Steph. ‘The marble benchtops we pulled out of the old kitchen got re-cut and used in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry areas.’ 

Custom timber flooring in the kitchen and dining area crafted by William McMahon Cabinetmaker works to subtly demarcate the open-plan living space, while the difference in floor level creates the desired ‘bar’ atmosphere and opens up visibility.

Brass details have also been thoughtfully incorporated across the legs of the island bench, the finger pulls on cabinetry, and a dining room pendant that catches light to reflect both the interior and view.

The apartment now feels in keeping with the heritage building’s facade, and makes the most of its expansive outlook across Brisbane. 

Steph says, ‘Leah’s design ensured our home is beautiful and functional — a joy to live in!’ 

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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