Hassell is an international design agency that’s been doing some amazing stuff in the region (in both commercial and residential spaces), so when they got in touch and let me know I could choose a property they’ve worked on to feature, I was excited. So here it is – the Ross Street Residence, which is located in one of Melbourne’s most salubrious suburbs, Toorak. Scott Walker, head of interior design at Hassell, takes us through the home’s design features.
As an aside, my favourite elements of the home are the oh-so-cool modernist-abstract living area (and otherworldy feature staircase) and the thin, streamlined pool that fits neatly in the house’s flowing indoor/outdoor space. I have always had a thing for narrow pools – there is something I find inexplicably attractive about them.
What were the principal design elements you sought to include in the home’s interiors?
The critical element in the design of the house was that it felt as though it was a retreat from the outside world. Externally, it is closed off from the street while internally it is largely open. Through using classic proportions and materials, the calm interior reflects the client’s desire that the spaces behave like a haven; a sanctuary from the outside world. In essence, we tried to achieve interiors that appear easy and uncomplicated. Of course, simple is never easy. It often means distilling complex issues down to their most basic elements.
How did the collaboration process with Robert Mills Architects work?
The collaboration with Robert Mills was not extensive as our scope was largely focused on interiors and its connection to the pool, the landscaping and the expression of the interiors externally. For example, the front door is a critical element that defines the interior entry experience. Therefore, we designed the door and its hardware. Of course, integration with architecture is important but what became more important was how the interior defined the architecture.
Of course, simple is never easy.”
How involved was the owner in the process?
The clients were integral to the design process and outcome. Nobody knows more about how they live than the owners of a residence. They add nuance to the entire design from planning arrangements to detailing. We are very happy to work with any clients that want to strive for the very best outcomes for their projects, and are happy to test design in terms of not being limited by their own knowledge but rather learn about design.
Were there any challenges?
The detailing and refinement of the detailing were critical in achieving the overall aesthetic of the various spaces. This commitment to refined detailing meant that we continued to resolve design during the construction process, which of course meant that we needed to work hand in hand with the builder (John Morley – Morcon) to get the best possible results.
Were any cost savings made?
Although there wasn’t an unlimited budget, cost was not a driver for the project. The determiner for all of the design was asking ourselves how this detail, material or element connected to the broader aspiration of the residence. We didn’t spend money for the sake of it, nor did we save money to cut corners.
Do you have any recommendations for people seeking a similar minimalist aesthetic on a budget?
Be clear about your own vision and also be realistic about how you live. This house was designed for our clients, and therefore fits their needs. This house is not for all people but rather people who are committed to a way of living that works within and around the design.
How was the unique spiral staircase decided upon?
Given that the living area is largely open, it was decided that an element was needed to divide up the space – from the lounge, to the kitchen and to the living area. As an open space, the spiral stair worked well as a sculptural element that sits freestanding as an object in the space. It is as much a sculptural element as it is a vertical circulation path.
How were the owners’ lifestyles and habits incorporated into the design?
The owners’ lifestyles were expressed everywhere throughout the design. From a planning perspective, their desire to entertain placed the kitchen centrally, reinforced by an oversized island bench. Spaces are connected but zoned in a way to establish a sense of place between ‘rooms’. Detailing throughout the interiors reflects the clients’ commitment to well-crafted and designed items. This design isn’t about the best for the sake of the best but rather about not being limited by how other people think things should be expressed. The design has been built to last so its detailing and general aesthetics are classic in proportion and materiality.