Stanmore Apartment, Sydney

“I believe it is important to allow the variations of life, which include a diversity of colour, largeness and smallness, straight lines and curves, to permeate through the design”. To breathe life into a once-dark and cramped space, Benjamin Chan of Sam Crawford Architects used this as his guiding principle when redesigning Stanmore Apartment, the small home he shares with his partner Rafaella.

In the 42sqm/452sqft apartment’s design, simple materials and colours are deliberately repeated throughout, evoking a sense of cohesiveness. A mixture of curves and pastel colours complements minimalist white surfaces, creating soft transitions between spaces and a relaxing, tranquil space.

Set in a traditional enclosed 1970s layout, the apartment had several immutable features that defined how Chan approached the renovations. Low ceilings and south-facing living spaces meant that there was a lack of natural light and spaciousness throughout, as well as the awkward placement of the ensuite bathroom door in the middle of a bedroom wall. Despite these small disadvantages, he took these features as a challenge to create a space better suited for contemporary living.

As part of the original layout, the front door did not open directly into the living room; instead, a narrow hallway was formed by storage cabinets. Chan kept this feature for the amplifying effect the hallway had on the larger living space it led into and simply updated the storage fronts to blend into the white walls.

Incorporated into the cabinets, a small niche allows a glimpse into the living space and a touch of natural light to shine through. Finished in a calming blue-green laminate and grey terrazzo, the niche matches the kitchen bench and splashback, linking two disparate areas at opposite ends of the apartment.

To create an open-plan living, kitchen and dining space, Chan removed an existing kitchen wall, which required the installation of a steel beam to structurally support the unit above. A lowered curved ceiling now gently delineates the kitchen/dining room whilst cleverly concealing the steel beam running overhead.

“The curve of the ceiling is reflected in other subtle gestures, including the open shelving and curved joinery handles, as well as the selection of the dining pendant,” Chan explains. These soft curves visually guide the transition between the living room, delicately creating zones within the open-plan layout.

The kitchen bench and matching overhead cupboards span across a full wall in the merged kitchen and dining room, with the repeated colours and materials creating continuity within. The combination of open and closed shelving allows personal items to be displayed, which, coupled with the pastel colour scheme, lends the space a fun and playful feel.

Bookended by the hallway joinery’s wall and the balcony, the living room is kept simple in a crisp white palette, contrasted with warm blackbutt timber flooring and wooden second-hand vintage furniture. Light fixtures are wall-mounted to illuminate the ceiling, creating visual height and softening the ambience in the evenings.

Accessed through a sliding door directly ahead of the hallway, the minimalist bedroom echoes the same white palette as the rest of the apartment. New floor-to-ceiling wardrobe storage conceals a hidden bathroom door, presenting as a seamless piece of joinery when closed.

The original ensuite door opened directly into the bathroom, leaving barely enough room for a bathtub and other amenities. By repositioning the door within the new bedroom joinery, there is now more space in the bathroom for an additional laundry area.

White floor-to-ceiling finger tiles and terrazzo tiles lining the floor immediately visually separate the bathroom from the laundry, which is splashed in a bright yellow laminate. For a small home filled with this cheerful colour, check out Casa Gialla in Madrid.

“The bold pop of yellow in the afternoon is bathed in beautiful sunlight and provides a sense of joy whilst doing the otherwise mundane task of laundry”.

Benjamin CHan

To further enhance the cohesiveness of the bedroom Chan added details like white recessed finger pulls in place of handles and an almost invisible rounded ledge that hides the overhead steel beam running from the kitchen.

With such attention to detail, the room is transformed into a serene space, something Chan and his partner put emphasis on when considering the design. “Both my partner and I lead busy work lives, so it was important that the bedroom create a sense of calm.”

“Ensuring that every aspect of daily domesticity is enhanced by the design, is fundamentally important to show how mundane, dark spaces can provide delight to their occupants”.

Benjamin Chan

With such considerations in mind, it is no wonder all the small details of Stanmore Apartment harmoniously meld together to form a thoughtful, well-designed home.

Benjamin Chan (architect and owner), his partner Raffaella (owner and talent), and the NTS team

If you’re interested in more renovated 1970s apartments in Australia, check out Park Street in Brunswick, or another minimalistic Sydney Apartment, Mark II.

Images by NeverTooSmall & Kat Lu