What’s it like to design a home for your close friends? Directors Jean-Paul Ghougassian and Gilad Ritz of Melbourne firm Ritz & Ghougassian are the ones to ask.
Enter the home of Julien and Kristy-Lea Moussi, the faces behind Melbourne’s booming cafe scene and Inglewood Coffee Roastery, designed by friends Jean-Paul Ghougassian and Gilad Ritz. The crew go way back — having designed a number of hospitality projects together, since Julien opened his first cafe and Gilad and Jean-Paul decided to open their own studio. So when Julien visited (and fell in love with) Highbury Grove, Prahran designed by Ritz and Ghougassian, it was only natural that Gilad and Jean-Paul take on his Victorian-era home.
While Julien says there wasn’t a brief, the Ritz and Ghougassian team learned from the past, and took inspiration from Japanese architecture, responding to both the heritage requirements and bordering commercial zone. The result is two built envelopes that encompass volume, light and rich materiality to make a lasting impression.
“Julien loved ‘Ma’ — which in Japanese means ‘pause’ or ‘the space between’. We endeavour in all of our projects to create spaces of isolation and intimacy within larger context. Within Edsall street we have created moments that allow you to pause and reflect as you transition through the house,” Jean-Paul explains. An example of this is within the threshold between the old and the new, which Jean-Paul describes as a purposeful moment of disconnect, keeping the old and new deliberately separate.
“There is a lot of planning involved in capturing the natural light. It’s not necessarily always opening up the architecture to the outside, but curating it in a way that’s considered.”
– Jean-Paul Ghougassian
“The project pays homage to the existing Victorian heritage home by re-establishing both the exterior and interiors as a clean white silhouette,” Jean-Paul outlines.
When taking on the home of Melbourne’s famed entrepreneurial cafe owners, we can only assume there’s some serious consideration to be made in the kitchen. Working closely with Julien and Kristy- Lea, Jean-Paul outlines that the kitchen is tapered to what they prioritised and their routine. As Jean Paul puts it, “Being reductionist we liked the idea of having spaces for everything. There’s infinite space for a coffee machine, but hidden away.”
Ritz and Ghougassian are big on sourcing local materials and finishes, in what Jean-Paul calls an effort to “try and bleed the architecture into its context”. This is best seen in the use of local Blackbutt hardwood for the floors, joinery and dining table.
It’s difficult to look at Edsall Street without mentioning the masonry, because everything in the house works off these Porcelain GB Smooth concrete blocks from Brickworks, chosen for their light quality. “We really enjoy the idea of expressing the materials that we use honestly — in their natural state,” Jean-Paul says. Owner Julien Moussi certainly agrees; “My favourite part of the home is the bricks and how they are consistent inside and outside,” Julien says.
This appreciation for material detail is also reflected in their most recent hospitality collaboration with Julien and Kirsty-Lea Moussi; Bentwood Cafe. Located in Fitzroy — the hipster heart of Melbourne — Bentwood pays homage to the Thonet showroom that stood before and the furniture workshop CF Rojo & Sons that operated out of the landmark red brick and stucco building. Just like in Edsall Street, Ritz and Ghougassian used Blackbutt timber to segment the space together with red-pressed bricks and buttery leather custom seating — a move to keep a consistency of material which Julien emphasises in all of his cafes.
While designing the space Jean-Paul reflects that “once we had stepped back and it was all done it’s like there was this cohesion with the branding, materials and the idea of a cafe; it all blended in with each other.” For Jean-Paul, returning to experience the space and watch it evolve over time is extremely rewarding. “You can actually learn from things, functionally and aesthetically.” In Bentwood he sees this in how light affects the space across the seasons, through the changing of the neighbouring leafy trees.
This piece originally appeared in issue #32 of est magazine.