Sustainable Homes

Inside Melbourne's Unconventional 'Evergreen' Apartment Building

In a time where some new apartment builds are prioritising density over design, Nightingale Evergreen is challenging the status quo, with just 27 homes inside the sustainable and leafy complex.

The building was designed and developed by Clare Cousins Architects under the Nightingale Housing model, building socially, financially, and environmentally sustainable homes ‘for people, not for profit’.

True to that statement, Evergreen proves how sometimes less is more, with a minimalistic concrete structure and green accents, leafy balconies, rooftop gardens and shared spaces that have helped create a tight-knit community of residents embracing the best of apartment living, right in the heart of Melbourne’s inner north. Step inside!

Christina Karras

Annie Portelli

Alex and Mike’s apartment inside Nightingale Evergreen. Vintage Featherston Numero IV modular sofa, reupholstered with InStyle Fabrics. Cushions by Weave Home. Cushion by Clumsy. Vintage IKEA Nikolas shelving. Lamp by Lana Launay. Side table from House of Orange. Ceramics on the shelf by Alex. Bird painting by Nyangulya Katie Nalgood. Pandanus Mat by Betty Wandug purchased from Kunwinjku Fine Art. Screen print above shelf by Kieran Karritpul.

Vintage Featherston Numero IV modular sofa, reupholstered with InStyle Fabrics. Cushions by Weave Home. Cushion by Clumsy. Side table from House of Orange.

Vintage IKEA Nikolas shelving. Lamp by Lana Launay. Ceramics on the shelf by Alex. Pandanus Mat by Betty Wandug purchased from Kunwinjku Fine Art. Screen print above shelf by Kieran Karritpul. ‘This little corner is one that brings us lots of joy.’

Dining table from RJ living. Handwoven vintage Drevounia Czech bentwood chairs. Vintage Italian rush bar stools found on marketplace. Hanging pendant shade by Lana Launay. Painting by Kayleigh Hayden. Kettle by Sori Yanagi.

‘One of the reasons why we chose this apartment layout in particular was because it had this big island bench. We love being about to cook whilst looking out to the incredible view through the glass doors. It’s a great entertainers’ kitchen!’

The apartment’s dreamy balcony. Havsten Sofas by IKEA.Vintage yellow stool.

The shared rooftop garden is the best place to watch the sunset! ‘It’s pretty great to be able to open our door and our dog Theo can go have a run around on the grass,’ Alex adds.

Inside Zibby and Jed’s apartment, Artwork to the left by Valda Rubio. Couch by Jardan. Sheepskin, tanned by Caitlin Molloy. Armchair from Grandfathers Axe. Vase by Ella Reweti. Second-hand lamp and lampshade from Emprades. Glass side tables from marketplace. Walls painted in Dulux Unforgettable.

Owner of Soap Club, co-owner of Downtown Studio Zibby sits with her dog Peggy on the couch.

‘The balcony is north facing over a park, it gets really nice sun,’ she says. Table and chairs from Tait. Plants from Lygon St Nursery and Kuranga. Pots from Schotts.

Painting by Valda Rubio. Brass vase by legend Anna Varandorff / ACV Studio. Blue vase by Iittala. Soap Club on the sink. Two ceramic vessels by Simone Karras.

Danish pendant from Angelucci 20th Century. Kettle by Sori Yanagi. Bowl from Mud Australia. Dining table from marketplace. Vintage Hub dining chairs by Mary Featherstone. Ceramic bowl by Dawn Vachon. Another vase by Ella Reweti. Objects from Mr Kitly. Chopping board by TS Makers.

Communications consultant and founder of Alepp Soap, Kate Ryan on her amazing green balcony! The landscaping was designed and installed by Garden Pleasures. Pallisade Table, Stools and Benches by HAY.

‘The brief was to grow a garden that moves with the wind and softens the balcony to bring a little calm and serenity to a busy, urban environment,’ Kate explains.

Rug from Turkey. Togo Fireside Chair from Domo. Various ceramics on the shelves fro The Good Plate, Benna Co and Arcadia Scott.

Pendant lights by Coco Flip. Artwork by Elizabeth Barnett. Vintage Parker dining table. Chairs are from Grandfather’s Axe. Plants from Lady Jane Greenhouse.

The view of Evergreen from the recently built Bulleke-Bek park.

The central atrium between our Evergreen and ParkLife. ‘It visually connects the two building and feels really open and communal,’ Kate says.

Christina Karras

Annie Portelli

21st of July 2023

Evergreen is one of the six new Nightingale buildings in ‘The Village’, a unique community of apartment complexes designed and developed by some Australia’s best architects, in an effort to prove how new apartments can be not only liveable, but sustainable, and desirable.

They are all built under the Nightingale’s housing model, with a shared focus on sustainability and community, but each one also has a distinctive personality in its design. ParkLife by Austin Maynard Architects is sunny and yellow, while Leftfield by Kennedy Nolan features warm terracotta tones, and Evergreen by Clare Cousins Architects’ is similarly striking, yet understated.

Textured concrete walls and balconies are enveloped with leafy greenery, as the upper apartments feature a deep-green steel framing that blends into the surrounding parklands. It’s the smallest of the residential precinct, with just 27 apartments inside, and was carefully designed to offer the same qualities of a single-family home, with the added benefits afforded to multi-residential dwellings.

It’s been just over a year since the building was completed, and the residents inside have no regrets putting their name in the coveted ballot to purchase one of these homes!

Alex and her partner Mike had actually ‘come close’ to purchasing a one-bedroom apartment in one of Nightingale’s previous projects, so they knew their value-driven housing would have ‘everything’ they were looking for in apartment. They bought their peaceful, two-bedroom home in Evergreen off-the-plan in 2019.

‘We just loved Clare’s designs from the get-go, the exterior and interiors are so beautiful and timeless,’ Alex says.

Alongside their apartment’s sunset views, three-metre-high ceilings — ‘you just don’t get that in any other new builds’ — she says living beside the shared rooftop garden is another big advantage. ‘It’s pretty great to be able to open our door and our dog Theo can go have a run around on the grass,’ she adds.

The rooftop also features a communal laundry with eight machines, which is a surprisingly practical favourite feature for many of the residents. ‘It’s the place where the best accidental conversations take place,’ says Kate Ryan, who’s family decided to downsize into a three-bedroom home in the building. She says the addition of these shared spaces, like with the sun-filled, open-air entry and central garden on the ground floor have really fostered a ‘sense of togetherness that is special to apartment-living’, she notes.

Clare Cousins Architecture’s pared-back design hides unconventional green spaces across the building, and Kate’s balcony is particularly serene and shrouded in greenery, making their home even more ‘warm and cosy’ to live in all year round — a far cry from the ‘old, cold, and damp’ apartments they once rented in St Kilda.

‘The apartment is simple; with the things we need and nothing extra or superfluous. There is a real attention to detail and real care about the way the building works,’ Kate adds.

Evergreen’s less is more approach to living is something that really resonated with Zibby Valtenbergs and her partner Jed after visiting Taipei, Taiwan. Seeing the city’s architecture made them realise they liked the idea of living in ‘a smaller, beautiful, well-designed space, with parks, shops and transport within walking distance’. Evergreen ticked all the boxes.

‘When we came back, we found out about Evergreen and entered the ballot a few weeks later,’ Zibby adds.

Having lived in tiny cottages, huge warehouses, and run down sharehouses, she says their current home is her first experience of apartment living. And it’s both the ‘easiest’ and the ‘nicest’ place she’s ever lived.

The tight-knit residents recently got together on the building’s rooftop garden to celebrate the building’s one-year anniversary with a party. Zibby says it’s not lost on them that access to wonderful spaces like that ‘wouldn’t be possible’ for most of them if it wasn’t shared.

‘The options out there for people buying in our price bracket often don’t offer any amount of beauty — we’re very lucky.’

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