An architect’s own house is a series of beautiful spaces rendered in brick, concrete, travertine and timber.
The architect owners of this property focused on creating beautiful timeless spaces behind its heritage facade.
This page Simplicity: Wild Bruch 3 & 4 by Victor Bonato hangs above a BassamFellows daybed. Opposite page An Oluce ‘Lyndon’ wall light at the entrance to the property. Tom Dixon door hardware.
This page In the living room an Ar ex ‘Marenco’ armchair and ottoman invite relaxation. Appalling Moment artwork by Brent Harris. Opposite page, from top Untitled #16 and #27 by Bill Henson hang above a Cappellini ‘Sofa with Arms’ by Shiro Kuramata and a Paolo Piva ‘Alanda’ co ee table. Light Works by Jonathan Jones. The facade hints as its origins as an industrial building.
Areally good ‘party house’ has certain requirements: big, open spaces, great acoustics, high ceilings and fabulous hosts that aren’t too precious. Enter architects Kerry Phelan and Stephen Javens who built their home in the ramshackle garage barracks of an old military building in Melbourne. The hardwood oor means no damage control is needed for spilt drinks, all the windows open up for circulation, the sound from speakers travels right through and there are balconies so guests can take a breather.
“It’s a great entertaining house and instantly puts everyone in a good frame of mind,” says Stephen. “We’ve had some sensational parties where I danced for ve hours and people didn’t leave until 4am,” says Kerry. “It was great for us – maybe not so great for the neighbours.”
The property was a labour of love and, in parts, an experiment. Kerry and Stephen built it over seven years while they worked on client projects as co-directors at Kerry Phelan Design Of ce.
While everything behind the heritage facade was built new, Stephen says that by the time they moved in the house already felt old, “but in a really good way! It just never had that new car smell. There’s a feeling of really solid permanence.” Constructed in face brick, left raw on the outside and painted white inside, the building is restrained and honours the simplicity of silver travertine, shuttered concrete and timber as well as brick. Colours are organic and stem from the natural materials. “It’s been designed like an urban fortress because it’s quite tough. It’s a very solid, introspective house,” says Stephen.
Straddling three laneways in a densely populated neighbourhood, the sevenby-seven-metre courtyard is rare, but Stephen says maximising space for the sake of practicality was not prioritised. “This was not designed to be your standard three-car, three-bedroom house. If somebody else had built it they might have used the courtyard as extra parking, but for us, one carspace was ne.”
Despite the block’s size, the relaxed nature of negative space was celebrated. “Rooms that had no particular function were ne,” says Stephen. “We just love beautiful spaces.” Originally planned to be a library, the entry area was transformed into a “room for no reason,” just a space hosting art and some
“RO OMS THAT HAD NO
PA RT I CU L A R
FUN C TI O N WERE F I N E. WE J U S T LOV E B E AU T I F U L S PAC E S.”
This page, clockwise from top le A Jürgen Klauke artwork hangs above a restored pearwood bench. A USM ‘Haller’ sideboard carries Victor Greenaway ceramics. John Nixon artwork. Flos ‘Tab’ light. The kitchen is separated from the living area by a split dark concrete panel. Dinesen soap-washed ooring. Opposite page Dining chairs are a mix of Thonet ‘Bentwood’ and Cassina ‘Cab’ chairs. De Padova ‘Tavolo 95’ table holds a Driade ‘Simon’ candelabra and a Produzione Privata ‘Glacier’ vase. Queen artwork by Polly Borland.
» Architects Kerry Phelan and Stephen Javens, directors of K.P.D.O., created a home out of the ramshackle garage of an old military building in Melbourne.
» Behind its heritage facade a new building was constructed of brick, concrete, travertine and timber – simple materials used in a very graphic way.
» Rooms with no particular function were included, the couple preferring to have gorgeous spaces to house art and a judicious selection of furniture.
» A timeless mood prevails in the design with personality coming from 70s ceramics, 80s furniture, Italian and Scandinavian glassware and vintage textiles from Greece and Morocco.
furniture including an orange Glas Italia side table, graphic Paolo Piva ‘Alanda’ coffee table and sunny Cappellini ‘Sofa with Arms’ by Shiro Kuramata.
Similarly, a small room at the top of the stairs houses nothing aside from a glossy red Poliform chest, Fritz Hansen ‘Swan’ chair and Cassina ‘Cicognino’ side table. Combined with the absence of doors, these “linking spaces” foster a loose footprint where areas ow into one another rather than being strictly con ned. “Of course there are practical concerns for people, but this house was for us so we didn’t care. Every part of the house had to be gorgeous,” says Kerry.
A two-storey void runs through the centre, with the master bedroom overlooking the open-plan dining and living. “We didn’t want to be closed in. The idea of walls kind of horri es me,” says Kerry. To delineate the living area from the kitchen, a split dark concrete panel forms a partition. Throughout the house, glimpses and slivers of light are carefully framed. The enclosed stairwell reaches towards a landing of light while narrow windows splice the brick walls.
Great care was taken to create a timeless home that wouldn’t date. “We’re in an age when furniture and design and lighting often become the hero pieces and add the colour. When you do a residential project you have to be careful not to put too much personality in it so the people who take on the house or the interior can feel con dent to overlay their individuality,” says Kerry.
She and Stephen have injected eclectic bolts of colour with mementos, crafts and furnishings that are sentimental and cherished. The result of a lifetime of collecting, the house is infused with periods and styles that criss-cross 70s ceramics, 80s furniture, Scandinavian and Italian glassware, vintage rugs found in Mykonos, faded Moroccan fabrics and family totem weavings.
Now the couple are embarking on another personal project. So how sad was it to say goodbye? “For the rst six months I was devastated,” says Kerry. “But then I thought, the person who bought this house is beside herself with joy, it’s the house of her dreams. I love this house, but when somebody comes along who loves it as much as we did you get a second wind. I’m looking forward to the next one. I’ve already made up my mind how it’s going to be.”
INSIDE STORY THE ARCHITECT OWNERS OF THIS PROPERTY FOCUSED ON CREATING BEAUTIFUL TIMELESS SPACES BEHIND ITS HERITAGE FACADE.