Sarah Wolfendale’s Kew Apartment Set Inside a Former Lunatic Asylum.
It was love at first sight when Melbourne designer Sarah Wolfendale and her husband, Tommy, laid eyes on their future 90-square-metre apartment. They were looking for a reasonably priced, centrally located home so they could commute to work on a bike. “We prefer to live centrally in a smaller space than further out in a larger house,” says Sarah.
While the former Kew Lunatic Asylum might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Sarah and Tommy were instantly drawn to the building’s potential. “A lot of local people have negative views of the asylum as the inmates were not treated well. But my husband Tommy is English, and I grew up in Adelaide, so we just saw the space for what it is now and its potential.” I can’t really blame them, because who wouldn’t feel the same way about those 4-metre-high ceilings, arched windows, chevron timber floors and abundant heritage features of the nineteenth-century building?
The couple lived in the apartment for over a year before embarking on the renovation. Although they loved the original bones, the layout needed some serious work. Initially constructed between 1864 and 1872, the building was converted into apartments in 1993 when the bathroom and laundry were placed in front of the arched windows. I know what you’re thinking – #facepalm. Sarah flipped the layout so the kitchen and living area now benefit from all the natural light, while also creating a sense of arrival. Tick. She relocated the bathroom closer to the bedrooms and added an ensuite with a mezzanine above, which serves as a guest room, study and storage. Tick, tick.
The design of the living space, kitchen and bathrooms takes advantage of the apartment’s heritage character while ensuring efficiency is maximised every step of the way. “As this is a 90sqm 2 bedroom apartment and we have two kids, I was determined to make small space work for a young family”, says Sarah. “As we don’t have any off-site storage, I made sure to utilise every millimetre of space. I measured every pot and pan, mascara bottle and deodorant can and then designed shelf heights and drawers around them.” Impressive, no?
The 4.5-metre-long stone kitchen benchtop provides ample space for cooking, preparation and plating-up when guests are over. The Fisher & Paykel Pyrolytic Oven, Gas on Glass Cooktop and Built-in Integrated Rangehood are centred in the joinery, with drawers distributed evenly to either side for a proportioned aesthetic. The Integrated DishDrawer sits between the oven and sink, and the boxed out range hood matches the joinery and wall colour, so the eye is drawn to the artworks and objects on the shelves.
Tall cupboards extend 3 meters along the wall and accommodate fridge, laundry and storage. An Integrated Fridge-Freezer is next to the kitchen bench, and a Washing Machine and Condensing Dryer are stacked to allow space for a sink, drawers and drying rail. A custom sliding ladder moves between all the joinery and provides access to hard-to-reach cupboards sitting on top.
Apart from her love of heritage spaces, Sarah’s design aesthetic is influenced by Scandinavian, French and Belgium design. Over the years she has collected original and modern pieces of mid-century Danish furniture, including the extendable 1960s teak dining table – one of her personal favourites as it can accommodate up to eight people when entertaining guests.