How Art and Harbour Views Shaped an Apartment Overhaul

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    Born from a collaboration between local design practices Julia English Architects and McGregor Westlake Architects, this reworked harbourfront apartment is a love letter to late Indigenous Australian artist Dorothy Napangardi and the Sydney Opera House.

    Located in Sydney’s waterfront suburb of Kirribilli, this contemporary apartment bows down to views of some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. Like many newly-built apartments, the home presented several design constraints. Despite these limitations, collaborators Julia English Architects and McGregor Westlake Architects saw the potential to make subtle shifts in layout to improve the flow and maximise views, led by the client’s prized collection of Dorothy Napangardi artworks.

    We dive further into how the considered placement of these paintings facilitated the architect’s gallery-like design approach and how the team created tension between straight and curved forms and light and dark tones.

    Produced in partnership with Gaggenau

    The simple rehanging of the most significant Napangardi piece sparked a lightbulb moment in the redesign; a dark spine of joinery that runs along the length of the apartment. “The current placement of this piece was marginal, and its black ground made for a dramatic interface with the existing white walls,” McGregor Westlake Architects director Peter McGregor explains. “By placing the painting on a surface of similar tone, but in a rich umber, the painting could be better understood and appreciated.”

    The team refers to this dark ochre joinery throughout the apartment as the ‘dark core’. From the lobby to the living room, this ‘core’ contains the kitchen fixtures, bathrooms, bar, bedroom and study. Anything outside of the ‘core’ is painted a vivid white, chosen to reflect the colour of the neighbouring Sydney Opera House and accentuate some of Dorothy Napangardi’s more vibrant pieces.

    Aside from creating a backdrop for the clients’ Indigenous art collection, architect Julia English says one of the main priorities was restructuring the ‘undersized kitchen and oversized dining room’ in the centre of the apartment. “The clients are gregarious hosts and often have large parties,” she says. “The kitchen needed to facilitate this with a bar, plenty of storage and circulation that works for caterers and guests to move through and around the kitchen.” At the same time, Julia says the kitchen needed to feel intimate enough that when it’s just the owners at home, they can perch at the end of the kitchen bench.

    “What was most surprising was that in an apartment with iconic harbour views, it was the reframing of a black grounded Napangardi painting that reframed our view of the entire project.”

     

    – McGregor Westlake Architects director Peter McGregor

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    The team specified the Gaggenau 200 series oven, combi-steam oven and the warming drawer in the colour Anthracite for their seamless fit with the dark auburn joinery. The Gaggenau 200 series integrated rangehood and 400 series frameless induction cooktop were also specified.

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    A smoked mirror in the home bar completes the dark joinery and reflects the harbourfront views.

    The architects decided to integrate the kitchen appliances and place the kitchen sink across the back wall, allowing the kitchen to become ‘visually quieter’ and second to the artwork and expansive views. As with any kitchen, McGregor Westlake Architects director Peter McGregor says it needed to be highly functional and tie in with the architecture.

    The team specified the Gaggenau 200 series oven, combi-steam oven and the warming drawer in the colour Anthracite for their seamless fit against the dark auburn joinery. “The glossy-black Anthracite finish complements the dark umber tones of the cabinetry, and the edges of the appliances can be designed into the joinery with minimal 3mm joints,” Peter adds. 

    The Gaggenau 200 series integrated rangehood and 400 series frameless induction cooktop were also specified for their ability to blend into the black porcelain sheets used in the kitchen. “Our clients had a preference to use Gaggenau appliances from the start,” Peter mentions. “It’s important when designing a kitchen to use quality materials and appliances that will last and complement the minimalist design.”

    Peter McGregor and Julia English agree that while the apartment had iconic harbour views, it was repositioning the black grounded Napangardi painting that framed the view of the entire project. “This project is about rooms and views,” they reflect. “Views to Sydney monuments, views to iconic paintings and rooms from which these icons might be viewed.”

    The two architects have brought a minimalist design solution to the Kirribilli apartment, guided closely by Dorothy Napangardi’s distinct paintings and the picture-perfect Sydney outlooks.

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  • design details | a sleek and streamlined apartment

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design details | a sleek and streamlined apartment