Something old, Something New

by | Jan 22, 2019 | What we’re thinking about

Formerly an antique and bric-a-brac outlet, this much-loved inner sydney warehouse breathes new life as a modern apartment and retail building after a complex revamp.

The dramatic conversion of the old Mitchell Road auction house was truly a labour of love. Despite multiple changes of ownership and builders during the course of the project – this complex transformation was certainly no small feat. 

Although not heritage listed, the building had nostalgic value and a conspicuous presence at a prominent intersection. Conceived as a “sympathetic reinvention” of an iconic local landmark, the design was informed by and responded to the structural grid of the original building. The new dwellings take the form of the surrounding “terrace” style developments, stacked inside the original building. As the concept developed, it became apparent that the original building could give more to the overall design, than merely retention of its facade. The guiding principle behind the design became to allow the original building to be felt in the new, and give back to the residents and surroundings in the way the original did.

From the exterior, the building blends in seamlessly with the vernacular of the city-fringe neighbourhood. The original brick cladding has been cleaned and restored with original window openings now forming balconies that draw abundant natural light inside.

On the interior, there are light-filled volumes that provide unique spaces atypical of terrace homes in the area. Creation of these spaces along with the internal courtyard was achieved through a close collaboration with a design engineer. The one and two storey apartments sit within the perimeter of the original exterior structure creating a cohesive and voluminous internal courtyard space. 

A palette of contemporary materials mix with warehouse remnants, resulting in an understated industrial aesthetic. The majority two-storey, two-bedroom layouts focus on everyday living, creating open spaces quietly divided by the internal staircase. Daylight fills the interior through the new external timber slats and black framed windows. Semi-gloss black kitchens and marble bench tops contrast effortlessly with the white walls and oak floors throughout the homes. In the bathroom solid timber vanity tops provide a contrast of warmth against the concrete style walls, black gloss mosaics and fixtures.

All apartments are accessed via the interior courtyard providing an unexpected secluded oasis. A large open space, it combines the best of all elements: exposed steel trusses and remnant structure, timber accents, beautiful face brickwork, and simple landscaping.

Overall the clean lines and industrial materials combined with an innate understanding of the building’s context have resulted in an understated, stylish, contemporary building that brings back to life an iconic piece of Alexandria’s history.

- Peter Couvaras
Peter started the Couvaras Architects from the dining table in 2005, and has built a reputation for delivering buildings that not only function well, but deliver an element of delight. He is responsible for client engagement and managing the team.

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