Caringal Flats, Melbourne

In the leafy suburb of Toorak, just 10 minutes away from Melbourne CBD, stands a one-of-a-kind heritage listed building that has undergone a remarkable transformation. Originally constructed in 1951, the building consisted of three distinct structures—a crescent, a tower, and a garage—all interconnected by a series of sky bridges. The highlight of this remarkable building is its unconventional layout, with one flat per floor, ensuring privacy and exclusivity for its occupants.

Architect Ben Ellul of Ellul Architecture and his partner decided to make this unique building their home. The couple fell in love with the apartment and decided to reverse years of alterations and neglect, stripping the flat back to its original form and rejuvenating it with a contemporary touch.

The apartment, characterised by white and textured surfaces, underwent a careful renovation process. Ellul introduced a series of new and sleek furniture pieces and joinery, featuring straight lines and monochrome finishes. The aim was to create a modern aesthetic while maintaining the apartment’s spaciousness and openness.

One significant change was the removal of doors that separate the kitchen and bedroom areas. Instead, a freestanding storage unit was installed, serving as both a functional divider and a design element. This elevated piece sits off the floor and away from the ceiling, maintaining the sense of space and allowing for easy movement between the areas. It serves multiple purposes, functioning as a storage unit for party goods, a bar, a bookshelf, and general storage.

The kitchen, composed of two matching freestanding storage units, features a low-level bench with an integrated sink and dishwasher on one side, while the other side accommodates an oven, stove, and fridge. The deeper-than-standard kitchen design allows for a ledge behind each counter, providing additional space for appliances.

To optimise the available space, the bathroom was resized, creating room for a small laundry area and a hot water service. Ben Ellul ensured that the design of the bathroom aligned with the building’s original style, with era-appropriate terrazzo cladding the walls. The bathroom also features a full-sized shower, a toilet, and a vanity, all conveniently placed along one wall. A mirrored cabinet adds depth and storage while reflecting natural light.

Entering the living area, the apartment’s original floor-to-ceiling glazing captivates visitors. To control the amount of sunlight entering the space, Ellul added sheer blinds. The furniture was deliberately kept low to avoid obstructing the breathtaking views. In a clever move, the architect concealed the TV within a joinery piece, allowing it to be completely hidden when not in use. The air conditioner was also discreetly placed and hidden within a sideboard, maintaining clean lines and uncluttered aesthetics.

At the center of the living room, a custom dining table in muted green takes pride of place, referencing the surrounding foliage. All furniture in the apartment is easily movable, providing flexibility and adaptability. The size of the dining table also allows the space to double as a home office, perfect for remote work during the week.

Throughout the apartment, small-format tiles were chosen to align with the building’s original design. Attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the renovation, ensuring a seamless blend of old and new. Ellul also designed a series of benches specifically for the flat, which are strategically placed throughout the living space.

The bedroom boasts a large east-facing window, allowing an abundance of natural light to flood the space. To maintain the focus on the view, low furniture was carefully selected. The reverse side of the room divider serves as wardrobe storage, maximising functionality while preserving the open feel of the room. An additional door leads to a small laundry area and the bathroom, ensuring convenience and easy access to essential amenities.

Designing a small space requires a thorough understanding of the client’s needs and a focus on functionality. Ellul has transformed this unique building into a stylish and practical apartment, making the most of its original features while introducing contemporary elements. The result is a harmonious blend of past and present—a testament to the architect’s skill and vision.

Images by NeverTooSmall