Alongside the Symonds Street off-ramp, a building has delicately slotted itself into what was an ignored parking lot wedged between a boarding house and a fading gallery. Overlooking the motorway, looking down the gully through Grafton Bridge and beyond to the sea, this new building houses two apartments: one owned by husband and wife, Liam Joyce and Sophie Wylie, the other by Liam’s father, Geoff Joyce.
To find to the apartments, you walk down a narrow lane, all exposed pipework and rough concrete. A refined cedar door in amongst this haphazard back-end signals something a bit different has been inserted here. You then enter into the main stairwell divided by an ornamental screen in black steel which reaches right up to the ceiling of the stairwell and ties back to the same motif in the screens and balustrades on the decks.
The plan of both apartments is straightforward; each has a hall leading off to a bedroom either side, (the main bedroom which looks down the gully, has a large ensuite tucked to the back) a study and the main bathroom, before opening out into an L-shaped living, dining and kitchen area with a deck that hover above the zooming traffic. However, within the lofty shell of the first-floor apartment, Sophie and Liam have created an interior melding second-hand finds, family heirlooms and contemporary design.
Sophie is an architectural graduate currently working at RTA Studio while Liam and his father have worked together on construction projects, so this was a marriage made for building. In the evenings, Sophie and Liam would hash out the design to fit into the narrow and noisy site. Once Sophie’s design was ready to go, Liam, with his father and a small team, built the three-storeyed building themselves.
Inside Sophie and Liam’s apartment the simple, lofty space has been anchored by moments of subtle elegance; the bathrooms are spacious with dark mosaic tiles and large expanses of mirrors, while along the back wall of the kitchen, small hexagonal tiles in variations of cream and grey create a tactile background for the long kitchen bench. Oak floors and those bespoke black steel balustrades further add layers of material complexity.
Inside, their eclectic collection of furniture and objects enlivens the simple apartment. “We didn’t want it to feel like a really modern white space… we wanted it to be a bit more relaxed.” Sophie says. In the living area, a set of mid-century modern chairs sits next to a bench seat Sophie made while at university. A collection of ceramics, also made by Sophie, sits on built-in steel shelves on one wall. The dining table is their design made from a simple white laminate top resting on two IKEA trestles, surrounded by a set of chairs purchased for the space from UFL. The pendant above was made by Sophie and her father, and is a focal point in the room. Some of their furniture has special significance. In the main bedroom, the chair was Liam’s mother’s, who passed away a couple of years ago. In the guest bedroom, a quilt made by Sophie’s mother as a wedding present gives this room a humble cosiness.
This is a building and home where the owners have been involved in every decision from the initial design, to the physical building of every element. The interior hasn’t escaped that considered attention either with an uncluttered but cosy mixing of pieces that look beautiful and mean a lot.