Elm Tree Place by Eastop Architects is an extraordinary residential outcome realised through an intuitive balance of tactile and austere design elements.
Elm Tree Place has existed as two distinct archetypes across more than three decades of existence. As the original annex to the gallery space for the Deutsche Fine Art Gallery in Carlton, the building was re-designed by the prolific Nonda Katsalidis in the mid-’80s before recently shifting into a new architectural definition — respectfully resonant of the old — at the hands of Eastop Architects.
The essence of Elm Tree Place can be defined by a single word – elemental. Its architectural aesthetic invokes a primordial ambience through a material dialogue of chrome, glass, and stone. The outcome lends a monastic air softened by deeply tactile accents, engaging colour, and natural foliage. Ultimately,this is a contemporary home that pays homage to form and light, mastering intents reminiscent of sensorial maestro Tadao Ando. The similarity between Ando’s work and those harnessed at Elm Tree Place lies in the practised restraint of designing clean lines to represent the beauty of simplicity.
The Katsalidis language, evident in the home’s finite composition and structural austerity, has been reimagined by Eastop Architects. Working with timeless linear spatial composition alongside iconic 80’s accents Liam Eastop, and fellow architect Lauren Trainor have managed to coax a harmonious and uncomplicated residential resolution from the clinical precision of the building’s commercial heritage.
From the street, Elm Tree Place appears as a black volume rising at the rear of a now subdivided building. It is distinguished from the laneway context of Carlton’s inner-urban density through intentionally juxtaposing materiality. Before the threshold is crossed there is evidence of innovation through the experimental use of black oiled corten steel cladding. A material more commonly regarded for its accelerated patina is here used for its more immediate gloss finish which has been accentuated and sealed for longevity. The dark drama and cool charisma continue inside.
The dining room features Sottsass Planula Chairs, Sergio and Giorgio Saporiti concrete dining table, and Italian floor lamp by Giuliano Cesari & Enrico Panzeri for Nucleo.
Sculptural lighting brings another dimension to the living spaces. The feature floor lamp is ‘Giraffa’ by Sergio Mischeni for Selenova, 1972.
Upon entering, a complex spatial design unfolds. A labyrinthine flow of rooms articulates and master the fall of natural light. What should feel dispassionate – black, gloss, angles, shards, chrome, glass, and hard edges – serves instead to render the space with an air of calm suspension. The stillness and illusion of two-dimensionality, evoked through offset transparent and solid walls, is reflected in reeded glass and glimpses of chrome resulting in a recalibrating and clarifying of the senses. Foliage and bold colour imbue rooms with memorable identity while stucco walls and woodcut flooring muffle treads and create a sanctuary-like experience in the private bedroom spaces.
Elm Tree Place is underpinned by an emphasis on alluring shared spaces that bring people together. The intrigue of burnished concrete, glazed walls whose steel frames mimic ceiling lines and create extensions of interior flow, and Palladiana marble (retained from the original interior) invite tactile responses. Sumptuous qualities distinguish furniture that perfectly complements and balances the homes otherwise ascetic essence. The middle ground between the two has become lighting, wall cutouts, and sculptural pieces that yield to both design sensibilities.
The kitchen merges the home’s two design dialogues with the strength and integrity of steel and Vermont green marble complimented by soft timber veneer and curved walls.
Stucco walls in the bedroom become opportunistic cine screens for the poetic play of natural light.
The spatial layout at Elm Tree Place is unconventional yet inspired. There is a haiku effect across two floors and a mezzanine whereby spatial versus follow one by one, accentuating the natural world through the capturing of reflections and blades of light, and an abundance of greenery. Empty spaces in the form of soaring voids, interior gardens, and geometric silhouettes heighten the physical experience of the residence. This is a home for contemplation and imagination. For slow living in the thick of density. It is a home that inspires logic and reasoning without eschewing luxury and wellbeing.
Ultimately, Elm Tree Place sits apart as an exacting residential sanctuary highly attuned to an undefined, organic liveability. Eastop Architects have harnessed zen-like intents that have seeped into the retro bones of the building’s skeleton. The result is a harmonious unity of private and gathering spaces, interior and exterior, darkness and light, matt and gloss, culminating in an experience of alluring complexity.
Elm Tree Place gives almost equal credence to interior and exterior space with a large terrace garden and interior garden void.
Chair by Giovanni Carini for Planula, 1970, Italy
From the street, Elm Tree Place appears as a black volume rising from the laneway context of Carlton’s urban density.