When looking to buy their future family home, Dimitrios Tsiokaras (senior lighting designer at Electrolight) and his partner Gemma, prioritised a central location over a house with excess bedrooms (which were out of their price range anyway).
‘We really placed a premium on being super close to the thick of things, and to good public transport, bike paths and parks,’ explains Dimitrios. ‘We wanted somewhere we could happily live for many years, make our own improvements to and make our own, be well built and with good light.
They didn’t need to look far. The couple were renting an apartment in a 1960s Northcote building and discovered their upstairs neighbour was looking to sell. The apartment was solid, with views of the city skyline, and brimming with potential.
‘These 1960s apartments are built so well and have the design principles many new and fancier builds are returning to emulate: cross ventilation; a northerly aspect with overhanging balconies for sun protection; windows in every room; and chunky, noise-proof walls,’ says Dimitrios.
‘We managed to snap it up before it went to market.’
Upon getting the keys, Dimitrios and Gemma took a wall out to open up the kitchen, painted the walls, ripped up the 50-year old original carpet, and installed timber floors.
After living in the new apartment for a couple of years (and getting a better sense of the light and space) they embarked on a more extensive renovation. The couple completely gutted the kitchen and designed a new mid-century inspired version complete with laminate benchtops, timber cabinetry, and bright yellow floors.
The use of colour and light has been carefully considered throughout to create ambience, draw the eye to certain areas as you move across the apartment, and enhance the sense of space.
Last but not least, Dimitrios and Gemma have worked to invite nature into the apartment. They’ve made the balcony ‘as green as we possibly can’ with potted trees, a passionfruit vine, and Virginia creeper growing over the walls.
There’s also an internal courtyard in the block, with natives and birdlife that the family have tended to over the years. ‘In winter it really feels lush as if you’re in Warrandyte,’ says Dimitrios. ‘You’d never know from the stark 1960s exterior outside what an oasis it is through the entrance.’
Dimitrios and Gemma can often be found on their balcony enjoying a G&T as the sun sets over the city in the distance. They love the sense of community and connection to their neighbourhood that apartment living provides.
‘Living here and having the opportunity to fully utilise our apartment’s potential has significantly changed our opinion on how well small families can live in apartments,’ says Dimitrios.