Located in Albert Park, a picturesque Melbourne suburb of wide leafy streets and heritage terrace houses, St Vincents Place Residence by local practice B.E architecture is a home of daring contradictions. Fronted by a beautifully restored Victorian façade, the recently renovated residence features a modern extension whose minimalist design is seamlessly interwoven with the historic character of the existing building by espousing a passion for high craftsmanship and art.
Far from trying to emulate the decorative disposition of the house’s Victorian past, the new extension was designed in clearly modernist terms as a block of in-situ concrete. Although minimalist in sensibility, the rich textures of the terrazzo style stone floors, painted timber ceilings and bluestone walling epitomize a hand-made, artisanal sensibility that softens the architecture’s stark modernism. Conversely, while the renovated front section of the house is full of period details such as curved cornices, arched doors, timber skirtings and custom steel fireplaces, their decorative fervour is kept in check by a nonchalant interior décor that eschews the formal for the casual.
Uniting the old and the new spaces is an eclectic selection of furniture, including several bespoke designs and the client’s collection of vintage pieces from Europe and Asia which provided the inspiration for the sophisticated yet relaxed aesthetic of the interiors. This unifying aesthetic is further enhanced by the client’s substantial art collection of large paintings, intimate photographs and unique sculptures, which has been shrewdly integrated into the interior design throughout the house.
Among the most impressive artworks is British artist Nathan Coley’s light installation “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens”, prominently displayed in the sunken yard that connects the ground and first floors with the indoor pool and wet room on the basement level – a minimalist tour de force created out of grey stone and exposed concrete. Smaller but just as eye-catching is “Romeu ‘my deer’”, a wax sculpture by Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere placed in a specially designed niche that makes for a visceral focal point.
Among B.E architecture’s distinct custom designs is a coffee table made out of clear Plexiglass cubes filled with books, and a suspended four-meter ring fashioned like a tree branch, complete with birds perched on it, which is painted all white and used for indirect lighting, all pieces that place this project at the nexus of architecture, design and art, making it more of a patronage than a commission.