Lawson Apartments is a 1937 art deco building located at 4 Sherwood Court, Perth with a colourful history.
In additional to residential apartment and hospitality venues, the building’s heritage walls and green carpeted floors have previously hosted the private Perth Club, and the women’s-only organisation, Karrakatta Club. Now. the bottom three floors of the Lawson Apartments are home to Lawson Flats; a place where members can work, exercise, and relax across three floors designed by Finespun Architecture and Ohlo Studio.
‘When we were looking for a location, the idea was already there, we were already ruminating on it – and then the Lawson Building came to the fore. We feel like the building found us,’ says Alessio Fini, creative director and principal of Fini Group.
Fini Group founded Lawson Flats in response to the pandemic. ‘Post-COVID, changes to work and life were accelerated, and the spaces in between became ever more important, says Alessio. ‘The idea that you might work from home but need a space away from home a day or two a week, but also a space to enrich your social life on a Tuesday night, drove the inception of Lawson Flats.’
Fini Group engaged Finespun Architecture and Ohlo Studio to design the new spaces within, which include a library, karaoke room, listening room, meeting rooms, gym, movement studio, sauna, restaurant and more across the three floors.
The design was informed by uncovering the building’s architecture. Jen Lowe, director of Ohlo Studio, who designed the interiors says, ‘We aimed to elevate what was existing with the care and stewardship that the heritage venue deserved, while still having some fun.’
There’s a distinct feel to each of the zones with Lawson Flats. Alessio explains the ‘centres’ (lounge, salon, co-working space, and dining room) are ‘appropriate’ though still curious; while the ‘edges’ of the building (karaoke, meeting and music rooms) are experimental.
The ‘gym tower’ (including wellness, workout, yoga and dance spaces) meanwhile evoke an ‘uncomplicated athletics-club nostalgia.’
All are invited to visit the public gallery located on entry to the building. Annika Kristensen (visual arts curator of Perth Festival) curated the inaugural collection of Australian artworks in this space, including commissions from local artists Lance Delary-Simpson, Nathan Beard, Stephen Brameld, and Toni Wilkinson.
‘Unlike traditional members’ clubs, this venue has soft boundaries. Its entrance is a public gallery, and club programming welcomes the wider community,’ explains Alessio.
Lawson Flats also features all-day restaurant and bar, Luis’, named after a restaurant that used to be in the building. ‘It was one of the fanciest, colourful, most notorious restaurants in ‘70s and 80s Perth,’ says Alessio.
Spaces throughout Lawson Flats feature minimal permanent joinery in favour of loose furniture that can be flexibly rearranged and instil a more lived-in feel.
‘By minimising fixed cabinetry, we were freed up to work with vintage and handcrafted loose items that could facilitate a tactile, flexible and evolving environment,’ says Jen. ‘The time and financial cost of secondhand restoration is high and there were a lot of whacky Gumtree encounters, but we feel it paid off in soul.’
Lawson Flats opened its doors to its first members earlier this year. Memberships start at $42 a week, with a one-off $1000 joining fee.