Soft Serve House / YSG.STUDIO
Manufacturers: 1stdibs, A Design Studio, Artedomos, Astra Walker, Bisanna Tiles, Cult, Eco Outdoor, Euro Marble, Gather Co Green, Grazia and Co, Henry Wilson, Jonathan West, Koda Lighting, Loom Rugs, Maiden and Co., Moebel, On Site, Rematerialized, Simple Studio, Spence & Lyda+2-2
Concept – Preserving its historical essence as a purpose-built late 19th- century Victorian Georgian corner shop (The Balmain Supply Store), the three-storey sandstone family abode was revived with an adroit telescoping of eras and artistic influences. Furnishings and fixtures subtly reference Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s delicate Art Nouveau flourishes and the quiet restraint of timber framing devices prevalent in traditional Japanese interiors. Within, bold hues and textures harmoniously mingle with whisper-soft sensuality.
Brief – The challenge was transforming the traditional characteristics of the heritage layout (with its original glass store frontage) into a more pragmatic home for a family of four (plus a large dog). The owners had lived amongst its oddly configured dark and pokey rooms with no coherent navigation (particularly downstairs) and were intent on colonizing open space to create a combined kitchen, dining, and living area in the original shopfront area as they had no formal living room on the ground floor. A nineties renovation tarnished the interiors with an austere, office-like appeal. Resolving this, all joinery was removed and every piece of furniture was replaced. In totality, the project took three years to complete due to councils approvals and meticulous structural alterations to maintain original features.
Key external changes:
- All timber moldings were reinstated to reflect the building’s primary condition and existing timber elements were repainted;
- Mullions were also re-introduced on the glass windows beside the front door, replicating their original state.
Key changes downstairs:
- A sandstone wall clad in plasterboard to the rear of the kitchen was removed to create an open dining room (visible from the front entrance) that connected to a new lounge area and kitchen;
- The kitchen was raised to meet the height of the dining room for seamless connectivity;
- Salvaged granite now articulates the steps leading to the dining area and kitchen (bush hammered to mimic antiquity) and supports the island bench to integrate aged features within;
- The face of the island bench creates an entry corridor wall leading to the dining area without enclosing the space and trapping natural night;
- A cozy ‘sunken’ lounge area evolved to the left of the main entrance due to the kitchen’s elevation. Molded Marmorino seating anchors the space like an original fixture (comprising one of twelve new polished plaster applications to hard surfaces within);
- Underfloor heating was installed on the lower level. Newly laid honed travertine pavers (cut to 400mmx400mm squares with 100mm grouting to tonally enhance the sandstone walls) replace existing floorboards in high tread areas. Only the lounge area’s timber was retained and stained ebony;
- The kitchen’s ceiling was removed as the floor above-required steel reinforcement to support the weight of plumbing within the master bedroom’s newly created en-suite (concealed within a new bulkhead);
- Bi-fold doors now conjoin the rear courtyard (also clad in the travertine pavers) to the newly created salon (small lounge area) and office sparkling light to stream within both.
Key changes upstairs:
- The living room above the kitchen and new lounge area was converted into a master suite with new bathroom facilities (given the house possessed only one bathing area) with a walk-in-robe plus additional wardrobe joinery;
- A rear spare bedroom (formerly the master) was converted into a generously sized bathroom with doors adjoining both the young adult daughters’ rooms;
- The plasterboard walls of the existing small bathroom were removed to transform the corner space into a private library area;
- All existing timber floors were painted a mellow pale eucalyptus gray/green.
Materiality – Just as all monumental stars need a great support act, tactile finishes and textures play to the splendor of the stone walls. They softly intervene to avoid strong contrasts between old and new, enhancing original features instead. Wooden frames are the reassuring embrace, taking inspiration from shōji. A deep threshold of ebony-stained American Oak highlights the theater of the dining room like a proscenium arch (subtly acknowledging the outlines of the removed wall). Hovering inches above the floor, it avoids a weighty enclosure. Two gloss-finished solid timber orbs secure the armature on either side, concealing exposed fixings to the surround. This angled arc concept is gently echoed in a bedroom, aesthetically framing walk-in-robe joinery whilst serving as a hanging apparatus. Within the master suite, timber frames the wardrobe and bed like tatami matting. Emanating a pearlescent glow granted by textured vintage seagrass wallpaper enhances a mood of luxe seclusion. Similarly, the kitchen’s under-bench joinery hovers within a framing device of latticed timber while the island bench is offset by lithe vertical supports under the heft of leathered quartzite.
Exploring the ethereal application of timber further, a rectangular halo of Australian Red Cedar with blunted corners hovers from the void above the dining table (appreciated in detail when descending the stairway). LEDs of this custom-designed piece articulate its underside while carved Poplar Burl cups (inspired by Venetian Barovier and Toso chandeliers) ignite interest towards the upper level. Referencing the supply store’s re-incarnation as a women’s apparel and repairs business prior to its domestic occupancy in the late 1900s, myriad fabrics in nubby wool textures and silky finishes compliment the matte and sheen characteristics of the pitted walls as sun and shadow play upon then . They range from the soft bark-like texture of the framed antique batik fabric of the shōji enabling the television to be hidden from view in the lounge to the shimmer of the frayed oyster gray silk bedhead in the master suite.
Spaces well and expand through pattern integration. The square macro outlines of the floor pavers sync in miniature scale with the master en-suite’s mosaic tiles and the salon’s lilac open-weave linen curtains, enhancing flow. Within the main bathroom, the horizontal bands of alternating tones of rose-tinted limestone tiles grant the illusion of sunlight streaming within. Tactical mirror placements visually amplify dimensions and bounce natural light throughout, most notably within the bed frame of the dark master suite. Hard angles are softened via the inclusion of rounded tables, upholstered furnishings, undulating surfaces, and carved nooks including the live edge timber shelving in the lounge and display ledge running the length of the room above the seating perch. The gentle bulge of the hemp-rendered wall supporting the ledge adds cossetting comfort. Upstairs, minimalist adaptations of traditional wainscoting add visual interest to bare walls in the sleeping quarters, with broken linear arrangements upon doors.
Color – Elegantly radical palette selections for soft furnishings mix grace with attitude. Taking inspiration from striking stained-glass floral reliefs in original leadlight windows in a bedroom and at the base of the staircase, its delicate jewel tones are sprinkled throughout the house. They include:
- Aquamarine in the master suite’s richly patterned rug and salon’s fractured custom Tappeti carpet, the duck egg blue finish framing the read courtyard’s bi-fold doors and the sheen of the master en-suite mother of pearl tiles;
- Citrine and amber in the dip-dyed fringes of the custom Tappeti rug and bolsters in the lounge area, plus the honey hue of the kitchen’s mottled Poplar Burl veneer doors and rusty veining of the floating marble soap shelf in the main bathroom (repurposed stone removed from an original fireplace);
- Rich peridot garnishing the seats of velvet upholstered dining chairs with their exaggerated Mackintosh-like backrests in the study (mingling with rich aquamarine) and delicately appearing in wispy bands in the master en-suite vanity’s Corteccia stone.
Removing the entry space’s false plaster ceiling revealed original V-groove timber struts painted in a pale peach shade. Complimenting the delicate pink blush that emanates from the stone, they were restored and re-painted in a similar shade, tonally integrating the kitchen’s new bulkhead. Upstairs, the main bathroom’s hero, a vaulted fresco ceiling (revealed after removing plasterboard), pops in the same tone. A darker shade pronounces the restored front door and its steel-framed entry screen with decorative Nouveau floral swirls, ushering unexpected color exploration within.