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Upon reflection – apartment makeover by Simone Barr

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This reinvented unit by Simone Barr is light filled

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High priority on any apartment renovation is the need to maximise natural light. However, if there are limited external window options, an innovative design approach may be required.

One of the owners of this now-modern unit was also the architect of its radical transformation. Prior to purchase, Simone Barr, of architecture firm Daarc, had surveyed the 1990s apartment with a tape measure, eyeing up its suitability for reinvention as a spacious family home. When she discovered that only a central support column had to be retained, the sale went ahead.

The three-bedroom unit had limited floor areas and modest ceiling heights, with minimal views and natural light – most rooms had only one external window and the bathroom had no daylight at all, says co-owner Rod Barr.

"Because the design had to respond to our needs alone, and not market trends, we were able to make dramatic improvements."

First, the layout was changed, with the third bedroom repurposed as an open-plan office at the end of the living spaces. A new kitchen was set to the side of the living area – previously, it had jutted into the room. These moves opened up a sightline from the front to the back of the apartment, drawing sunlight right through and optimising cross ventilation, says Simone Barr.

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"To maximise all usable space, we replaced internal walls with storage or lighting units and also removed a central circulation corridor. This gave us more floor space for rooms, and opened up visual connections between areas," she says.

"All units and walls, including the kitchen cabinetry and tray ceiling, have a two-pack gloss finish," says Rod Barr. "These reflective surfaces bounce light through the interior and in some areas, reflect external views."

The architect-owner was also the interior designer on the project. Simone Barr says she introduced the curved bulkhead to define the kitchen and create a vanishing perspective that increases the sense of space. This element also reflects the couple's contemporary tastes.

"Restricting the scheme to just two colours creates a backdrop that accentuates items in the space," says Rod Barr. "The bright white shape of the bulkhead and an echoing form on the wall opposite punch out of the black walls. These snaking lines are accentuated by integrated LED lighting, which features at every opportunity to subtly light the space, reducing lighting energy usage by about 50%.

"Counter-intuitively, the curved tray ceiling increases a sense of height in the living area and also provides space for concealed services."

Rounded corners throughout introduce a softness to an interior that is virtually devoid of soft furnishings.

"The new interior is also eco-friendly," says Simone Barr. "Besides LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances, low-VOC finishes were specified throughout. One switch at the entry ensures all lights are off when we leave home."

First published date: 26 November 2013

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Credit List

Cooktop Induction, Fisher & Paykel
Dishwasher Smeg
Awards House Awards shortlist 2013 Apartment and Unit Interior; Australian Institute of Architects Regional Commendation, Small Project Architect
Architect, interior designer, kitchen designer Simone Barr RAIA, Daarc (Kangaroo Point, Qld)
Window and door hardware Lockwood, Assa Abloy
Flooring Random plank Amtico vinyl; carpet in Tundra by Signature Floors
Paints and varnishes Dulux
Lighting and audiovisual equipment JVG Sound, Lighting and Visual
Furniture Café Culture
Kitchen cabinetry Custom with 2-pack gloss finish
Benchtops Quantum Quartz
Splashback Coloured glass
Oven Electrolux
Refrigeration Whirlpool
Bathroom vanity Caroma Liano
Shower fittings Caroma Dorf
Basin, taps Caroma