This one bedroom apartment at number 3 Russel Avenue, North Perth is located on the third, uppermost floor and has a mere 37.5 square metres of net floor area. It was purchased by architects Marco Vittino and Katherine Ashe after helping a friend of theirs refurbish a similar apartment in the same block. The apartment is relatively central and, being on the top floor, enjoys fantastic views of the city from two large windows.
The simple, tight planning of the small flat was further simplified by the removal of all the internal doors except one between the bedroom and bathroom. The ‘C’ shaped load bearing brick wall that separates the bedroom and living room was re-dressed in plywood to appear more as a piece of floating cabinetwork, rather than a wall, resulting in a much more open and flowing series of spaces. The kitchen, formerly semi enclosed by cabinetry, is now fully open and delineated only by a change of flooring, creating enough space for a small dining table and connecting it to the living room.
The removal of all the floor coverings revealed the original timber parquetry floors in the living areas and bedroom and mosaic tiles in the bathroom, all of which were repaired and maintained in the final design. All of the ceilings and one wall were lined in untreated cedar to unify the spaces, insulate and hide the existing straw bale ceiling and roof structure. The cedar also contributes a nice scent to all the spaces, perceivable even from the balcony from which the unit is entered, and a warm tone that responds well to the light of sunset at dusk.
The living room and bedroom both benefit from the city views and the generous windows are unified by a continuous, curved aluminium curtain track and a linen curtain that filters light and, augmented by dark roll-down blinds, provides more of a sense of enclosure if required.
Fuelled by the frantic resources boom and ever-escalating prices, the focus on contemporary apartment living in Perth has been largely aimed at the more affluent sector of the housing market. In the eyes of the architects however, these blocks of flats have a great deal to offer and are fast becoming a sought after and appreciating asset. They offer a very desirable alternative to the suburban house through their typically central locations, proximity to public services, privacy and security, social characteristics and architectural potential. It would be good to see the owners of more of these older blocks get together and invest some time and money into the exteriors and gardens, in order to keep them alive for many years to come.