Crown St Apartment by Brooke Aitken

  • Brooke Aitken revives a dim inner-city apartment as a retreat for retirement, inspired by a minimalist Japanese aesthetic.

    Here at est we know our homes are one of the most poignant markers of where we find ourselves in life. Entering their retirement, the couple behind this apartment in the Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst knew it was time to downsize from the family home. The pair had decided this ground-floor, inner-city abode was exactly where they wanted to spend their new phase of life, to enjoy the buzz of the city and accessibility of travel. But the dark two-bedroom apartment was in need of some serious intervention, at the hand of local designer Brooke Aitken. Thanks to Brooke and project architect Delphine Hernot, the Crown St Apartment exudes comfortability, durability and the calm atmosphere the owners envisaged their days of retirement would be.

    The Crown St Apartment is located on the ground floor and at the rear of a four-storey old warehouse. With this position, the windows look out to two small internal courtyards that provide no street aspect or views. And according to Brooke Aitken, at times no direct sunlight penetrates the apartment. It is no surprise this became a primary focus for the designer; to open the home up to the light, while making sure it’s easy to maintain with maximum storage.Together with the builder (who happened to be the clients’ son) Brooke Aitken has created a well-lit internalised world, out of consideration for function.

    What the apartment did have on its side was ceiling height, but this had not been realised in the original layout of small rooms and alternate floor levels. Brooke chose to reduce the apartment down to just one bedroom, to give more room to the living area. The kitchen was also relocated and minimised, for compact and maximised storage space. To highlight the ceiling height and provide a soft segmentation,  curved timber screening outlines the interior which Brooke says become giant lanterns of soft light in the absence of direct sunlight. The warming timber screens bring a practical element too, by concealing storage. Just like the screening, timber flooring alludes to the change from shared to private, in the bedroom, study and hallway. The materials selected reflect the client’s natural and minimalist preferences and need for longevity, durability and practical use.

    Stillness is present in the apartment; the shadow of a cloud can be seen to track across the floor. This is an interior decoration of measured balance rather than excess.”

    Instead of filling the apartment with possessions they collected over the decades, the clients filtered what they kept from their family home. This approach was inspired by their travels to Japan,  imagining a minimalist oasis to enjoy their retirement and a calm transition from the city locale. Each object that has entered the home had to meet a criteria of increasing enjoyment, ease of use and comfort. Art was handpicked for its calmness, just as furnishings for their neutral palette, quality of fabrics and materials — all to complement the surrounding timber shell. The ‘mis-en-scene’ of iconic pieces such as the Cassina 412 Cab Chair and Husk Armchair shows a clever mix of eras in a contemporary manner.

    In the bedroom, timber joinery complements the battens in the living space to ‘cocoon’ the bed. Opposite, the white wardrobe and tv unit are designed to disappear into the white walls. Light moves gently into the space through the sheer curtains, filtering the light from the courtyard.

    Together with Delphine Hernot, Brooke Aitken has worked within the confines of an inner-city apartment to design a quiet and contemplative place to return to  – and an exciting vision of what the future of retired living might look like.

2 Responses

  1. A beautiful simplistic design, blending the unique wall design with the rest of the apartment. It would be lovely when light is shone through either in day or night.

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