An ornate heritage Victorian terrace in Melbourne’s ALBERT PARK gets a contemporary makeover with a stylish, playful edge.
STAY GOLDEN’ is the warm entreaty issuing from the website of Kylie Dorotic and Alicia McKimm, two interior designers formerly of We Are Huntly, who have rebranded their studio with the tint of success. According to McKimm, Golden, their auspicious new mark, is more a portent of what they do and the excellence of its execution than their indeterminate old name. It is also more suggestive of the sentiment they seek to spark in their immersive work; one made manifest on the firm’s website with an evocative slideshow of sun on flaxen hair, peach on a woven placemat and afternoon light hitting a linen curtain.
If it all sounds like spin, feast your peeps on this Victorian house, given the Golden touch by Dorotic and McKimm. Nestling amid an architecturally significant row of like-historic houses in seaside Melbourne, the two-storey terrace was coursing for full alterations and an addition when its owner came to the firm for their signature layering. McKimm, who describes herself as the nerdy numbers person in the practice, explains that their prospective client was a referral from Fido Projects, the Mornington Peninsula builders with a hand in high-end residential design and a good relationship with Golden. He was also a successful businessman with a main residence in Ballarat and plans for a city pad with the barest of necessities. “He didn’t realise that he needed us,” says McKimm. “Once we started to work with him, he understood the value inherent in what we do and really started to enjoy the process.” The process for instating 21st-century smarts and swagger to one of Melbourne’s finest examples of the Victorian Filigree style — replete with cast-iron decoration, encaustic tiles, faceted bay windows and stuccoed ornamentation — was a seven-stage pathway. It begins with ‘discovery’ (the client’s inclinations and daily conduct mined by questionnaire) then tracks through the dry procedure of site measurement, schematics, design development, contract documentation and administration to end in “the fun” of furniture selection. Spelling out such methodology may seem overwrought, but McKimm says most people have the mistaken perception (amplified by reality television) that one person does everything over a few days. “He came to us with renderings of a slick and shiny scheme that didn’t quite gel with the home’s heritage aspects,” she says. “We told him we would challenge everything he had shown us; take it all to the next level. He was willing to take the risk.” Citing the strict heritage overlays on stuccoed ornamentations, which required months of restoration, original cabinetwork and the staircase’s turned timber balustrading and treads, Dorotic describes their approach to the in-fill archetype — a light tunnel with two front formal rooms flanking a hallway spine that splays into an open-plan addition — as the pursuit of balance.
“This house had to be comfortable,” she says of the three-bedroom structure that is the client’s pied-à-terre, a base for entertaining and eating out when he came to Melbourne. “But as a second house, it could afford to be playful.”
Pushing past the pragmatics of the scheme — such as a master bedroom planned and propped with the amenity of a presidential suite, and a kitchen island bench sited, scaled and surfaced with the rugged monumentality of a small granite mountain — Dorotic and McKimm made sure that the final ‘fun’ stage was inclusive. “I took the client shopping,” says Dorotic, recalling the day they did the retail rounds, road-testing sofas and selecting fabrics. “We ended up with a mixture of things he loved — [in the formal living room] that Rietveld lounge in Prussian blue, a cuddly The Tired Man chair by Flemming Lassen and a sweet, shaggy Baxter chair. He genuinely responded to each piece on the spot and I think the room is suffused with his character because of it.” This trip was a smart conduit to client ownership of the scheme and further emboldened his confidence with context and colour. It resulted in the rear living room’s ramping of Edra’s Standard sofa from black to chartreuse and its positioning on a pink rug. Dorotic and McKimm deftly mediated heritage detail and contemporary design with a darkness of material — stain imperceptibly flowing a new oak floor into old Baltic pine — and an unexpected play with period lighting. In the master suite, Moooi’s skeletal white Coppélia light mimicks multi-armed Victorian chandeliers, while in the formal living rooms, Apparatus Studio’s Cloud pendants allude to gaslights.
The sum of the parts is rich but reductive, demonstrative but quiet, unified but effervescing with unique expressions. These dichotomies evince a design that digs beneath the dominance of the visual to a place of deeper perception. “All that is golden does not always glitter,” says McKimm about her studio’s reach for the soulful. “It can glow from within.”
“The owner came to us with renderings of a slick and shiny scheme… We told him we would challenge everything he had shown us; take it all to the next level. He was willing to take the risk” alicia mckimm, golden