It took confidence, credentials and vision to change a fairly routine apartment into something dynamic – and unique. Owners Ben and Kat Edwards masterminded the canny reconfiguration of the space, then topped it off with an unafraid use of OSB sheeting. Oriented Strand Board, as it is more formally known, has never had it so good – taken out from the shadows of ugly-duckling utilitarianism and into the limelight of high design. And architect Ben proved just the person to do it; he doubled the floorspace and then lavished the apartment with built-ins and installations of warm woody-offcut sheeting.
The result is a home that is memorable for its power to unite the hard-working with the handsome. It was the ‘water view’ that first attracted Ben and Kat, although it’s hardly crashing waves or twinkling harbour! “Normally, you would overlook houses across the street,” says Ben.“But we’ve got the pool.We have the feeling of looking out and having a view, even though we’re in the middle of Fitzroy.”
Located in what Ben and Kat believe was once a sewing factory, the flat was about half the size when they bought it 18 months ago. Downstairs, the living area – complete with bathroom positioned awkwardly in the middle of the room – had a spiral staircase, which lead to a tiny mezzanine bedroom space.“The upper level was within the slope of the roof, so it was a really narrow space,” Ben explains.“If you walked too far, you hit your head on the ceiling.” The conversion project was the work of Ben and his business partner, Juliet Moore. Having met while both were working for a larger firm, the pair set up the architectural practice Edwards Moore in October 2009, and this was their first residential project.
This was far more than a simple makeover. The architectural shell was completely altered so that the upper level (originally located in one of the ‘teeth’ of a sawtooth roof) became a complete floor. “We created a new roof and inserted a steel structure inside the shell of the existing brick building,” explains Ben.“We then added a big piece of glass, so that the focus was the pool outside. It gives you this slightly David Hockney-esque view, which is really nice, with the light reflecting off the pale blue.”
While this almost doubled the floor space of the apartment, at 95 square metres, it is still compact. To combat this, the height of the ceiling on the lower level was lifted to make the living area seem bigger and brighter. An oversized glass door pivots open to connect the living space and a small, enclosed balcony. Ben also considered innovative ways to use different materials and to stretch the area. “I liked the idea of making a space that created implied environments, rather than physically defining them,” he says.“So instead of having a wall and a door to the bedroom, it was more about using joinery and furniture elements to create either a sense of space or enclosure.”
An OSB wardrobe, mirrored on one side, is jointed so that it can be moved to create a guest bedroom when necessary. Downstairs, the kitchen is part of the living area, but is also raised on a reclaimed timber platform as part of the staircase.“The change in height and the island bench makes it feel like its own space,” says Ben.“When you’re up there cooking, you actually look out into the space and over the pool, rather than feeling isolated and staring at a back wall.” The living room’s OSB bookshelf has space for the television and and a nook for Jimmi, the French bulldog, to have a nap.
There’s also a storage unit – made from the same recycled material and, again, mirrored on one side – that moves to create a faux lobby.“When we first moved in, we’d be sitting in the living room and staring straight at the door of the flat the whole time,” says Ben.“Now, once you’re inside, you can move the mirrored box across and screen the door.” In the end, though, the finished apartment was about capturing the couple’s personalities.“One of the important things was to create an atmosphere in the space. Privacy was not such a big issue for us. For Kat and me, it was about entertaining and making a home that was sociable – flexible, open and quite transparent.”