Architectural bling. That’s what brother-and-sister design team Andrew Bartholomeusz and Sally Anderson, of Saaj Design, crafted when asked in the early 2000s to revamp an existing three-storey, 1950s double-brick house with one of Toorak’s most regal addresses.
On a snug 440-square-metre block – a relative minnow swamped on either side by the whale-sized properties and mansions along tree-lined Lansell Road – the house might be overlooked if not for an alluring frontage studded with hand-slumped faceted glass diamonds and triangular windows set atop metallic silvery glass.
”The idea was to treat the property [in the streetscape] like the jewel in the crown,” says architect Bartholomeusz. He likens his creation to a necklace or bracelet adorning ”the expanse of one’s body”.
Bartholomeusz says the property is at its sparkly best when the diamond-encrusted face – the handiwork of architectural glass artist Christopher John – is backlit at night.
An east-facing charcoal granite quartz render that glistens in the morning sun further reinforces Bartholomeusz’s vision of house as bauble, as does the polished stainless steel trim lining the entrance canopy. A folded white steel fence, referencing the diamond facets, acts as a plinth or ring on which the jewel rests.
But Bartholomeusz and Anderson, an industrial designer, are doing more here than just dressing up the building to seduce the eye. They have created a flow of ideas combining their respective disciplines of architecture and industrial design, which play with form and scale, so everyday household objects become sculptural highlights.
The front is just the beginning of what Bartholomeusz calls a ”journey”. The pivot timber door with its turned handle – reminiscent of sculptor Constantin Brancusi’s endless column paying homage to Romanian war heroes – leads you into an open-plan ground floor with living, dining and kitchen areas encircling a central staircase and lift shaft.
Here, too, is a sculpted woven screen used to hide a bedroom (conceived by the original owners, who had one child, as a playroom). Made from Hi-Macs, a Corian-like natural acrylic stone, the screen picks up the front diamond-triangle weave pattern.
The adjoining Hi-Macs kitchen island bench is like a single strand blown up twentyfold. Three-dimensional wallpaper – laser-cut, Imperite-coated custom-wood – covering a concealed powder room with giant Smartie handle and a scullery, crystal chandelier and marble sideboard-cum-desk all play with this idea of a weave.
”Working with industrial design and architecture sets up an endless investigation of what something could be,” Bartholomeusz says. He cites as a source of inspiration the multi-disciplined approach of English designer Thomas Heatherwick (his studio created the London Olympics cauldron). ”The constant challenging of what is a house, what is a kitchen, what is a screen, a wall, a facade,” he says.
The use of sculptural elements continues upstairs, where three of the four bedrooms are, but it is far subtler. In the main bedroom’s dressing room and en suite, for example, crushed fabric wallpaper and mirrored glass flow into black glass and marble walls, which enclose a floating bench and basin.
Saaj also adopted a controlled palette, using black, silver and white, to contrast with the warmer tones of the surrounding properties – from the front silvery-grey and white striped path, silver glass and charcoal render through to the aluminum-stained timber floors and acrylic, glass and marble surfaces inside.
From the back, gunmetal-grey profiled Colorbond cladding has been used for the top floor, which curves around a palm tree and wedge-shaped pool pavilion, which tapers both in plan and section, on the lower ground. But there are allowances for splashes of colour. The tiled pool, for instance, is a striking watermelon.
Unsurprisingly, the playfulness of the design makes the house feel like a place to have fun. This is particularly true of the basement level, where the garage (partly used as a gym by the current owners, a family of five) and home theatre-retreat, leading to pool and private garden with in-ground trampoline, offers an ideal party setting.
”The [original owners] worked in the hospitality industry,” Bartholomeusz says. ”They were open to more progressive ideas.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.