When friends John Wares and Peter Papadopoulos began searching for a Melbourne property to call home, they knew exactly what they were looking for. ‘We wanted something with historic charm, good light, and preferably not a terrace house – not easy to find in inner-city Melbourne,’ John says.
One building that came to mind was a 1920s apartment block in St Kilda that John had long admired. Designed by architect Christopher Cowper, the highly distinctive building features a sophisticated mix of inter-war, classical arts and crafts architecture, with large flats built to the street edge, and shops at the ground level in a European manner.
Several renovated flats in the St Kilda building came up during John and Peter’s 12 month search, but none were quite right… except for one that wasn’t on the market. Peter and John managed to track down the owner, and with ‘good timing, Peter’s negotiating skills, and a strong Australian dollar’ they managed to strike a deal.
1920s apartments often feature generous proportions, enabling a potential reconfiguration of the floor plan to include additional bedrooms and bathrooms. When John and Peter took possession in 2015, they set about doing exactly that, with the help of interior designer Tamsin Johnson, architect Fitt De Felice (responsible for the permits and documentation), and builder Mitty & Price. John also has an architecture degree, so he was able to work closely with the design team.
The apartment had previously been renovated, and some redesigned elements called for major jackhammering! While this is typically a nightmare for apartment owners, John says their needs, as well as those of the other 11 home owners in the building, were fantastically managed with patience, consideration and professionalism by their great builder.
Initially a two bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, this property now contains three bedrooms and two bathrooms. A formal dining room was converted to the main bedroom, the former kitchen became an en suite, the main bathroom was relocated, and a new kitchen replaced the former laundry in the enclosed balcony space.
The new kitchen is the crowning jewel of the entire space, where lady onyx Marble, green cabinetry, and garden views harmoniously come together, and Peter and John’s usually at-odds tastes perfectly converge. ‘John can go a little too baroque and Peter a little too brutalist – we hope they balance each other out,’ they explain.
The restrained yet impactful use of colour is also a highlight of this home, and a driving force of the entire interior scheme. ‘Colour came first. We wanted grey walls, a green kitchen and a ‘dipped’ master bedroom,’ says John. The two-tone main bedroom walls are painted with Dulux ‘Harpoon’ – a particularly striking, moody shade of blue.
As the owner of gift and homewares shop Mr Wares in the Block Arcade, and one half of Hall & Wares, John has furnished the apartment in his brand of classic, well designed pieces. There’s a celebration of hardworking materials such as solid timber, brass, leather and stone, alongside a collection of vintage European furniture and lighting sourced over many years.
Today this apartment is now shared by John, housemate Michael Burke, and Peter when he’s in town from Sydney where he works. Together, these three friends have created a wonderful space to be in, combining elements of several architectural styles, and in a rare setting where city, garden and beach meet.