Tom Ross jokes that working as an architectural photographer has ‘mostly created a huge gap between my taste and my budget.’
On the plus side, it’s exposed him to a diverse range of approaches to living well — such as urban housing in small, well-designed spaces.
Equipped with this knowledge, Tom and his wife Emily Shields purchased a two-bedroom apartment in a 1960s brick building in Kew.
These apartments are relatively common in Melbourne, but this one was north facing with a balcony, windows on either side, a great location, and scope for renovation — at a price they could afford. ‘The number of bedrooms wasn’t important, neither was car parking, or the level it was on,’ Tom says.
Tom and Emily worked with Architecture Architecture to renovate the apartment, taking the rather daring approach to remove two load bearing walls to create an open-plan living, kitchen, and dining area adjoining the main bedroom.
These walls were replaced with an open steel framework designed to support the new layout, while also delineating the ‘front of house’ and back (bathroom, second bedroom, storage). This new steel framework is painted Dulux Apricot Fizz, and sits slightly off the existing brick walls, for a lighter appearance.
With the walls gone, replaced by heavy curtains by Lovelight (able to be closed as desired), the defining feature of the apartment is eight metres of north facing glass, that flood light into almost every corner of the house. ‘We turn a couple of floor lamps on in the evening but otherwise never need lights,’ says Tom.
‘The open plan removes the formality of rooms, which, while being interesting with a toddler, really blurs the different stages of Saturday and Sunday.’
In renovating the apartment, Tom and Emily also gutted the original kitchen and bathroom. The couple completed these works themselves as owner-builders, retained the location of plumbing and electrical services, to save money.
Carpet was removed in favour of a polished concrete slab, and IKEA kitchen carcasses were installed with a timber capped marmoleum bench top made by Mood Workshop.
The overall effect of this simple yet deceptively impactful renovation, is a joyous home for Tom, Emily, and their two-year old Linus, enhanced by art, colourful textiles, and plants. ‘The stuff in the house I like to think of as a coral reef of accumulated artefacts of our lives and the people around us,’ says Tom. (Love that!)
‘Rather than three pokey 3 x 4 metre rooms, we now have eight metres of north-facing glass, cross ventilation, and a generous feeling.’