St Huberts is an ornate embodiment of the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda’s rich history. Awash with an elegant charm bestowed over many decades, Robson Rak blew away the cobwebs of time, resurrecting the home as the mansion it was conceived to be, albeit with a considered vision for the future.
St Kilda Hill was first established by the wealthy elite in the late 1880s. Elegant Victorian mansions, surrounded by humble homes for the staff required to maintain life’s daily rhythms, were built to echo England’s distant parlour rooms and gilded etiquette. Today, this stately ambience still resonates from one such grand residence, St Huberts.
In the 1910s, the grand residence was reconfigured as four apartments. External staircases and a haphazard collection of porches, balconies, and terraces were added, lending the home an eclecticism reflective of the locale’s growing identity as a bohemian artists haven.
In 2017 St Huberts was purchased by a local family who engaged Robson Rak to renovate what would become their forever home. Through a sensitive process balancing respectful restoration of the home’s period features with the integration of design and technology to ensure the home’s longevity, St Huberts has embraced a return to its identity as a charming single-family home.
Central to the client brief was that the house “must be great to live in and great to entertain in.”As a home for a family of six, the new aesthetic and schematic outcome was imperative to support liveability for the next 20-30 years, evolving to accommodate adult children and their partners comfortably.
Space planning was critical to achieving balance and flow through the house. Robson Rak reinstated an internal staircase and removed the two external staircases that originally provided access to the apartments.The redesigned entrance creates a new heart to the home, an anchor point from which all other spaces flow.
A traditional and highly considered approach has seen the home’s period details elevated and infused with enduring aesthetic clarity. Coupled with soaring ceiling heights, expansive room proportions and a consistent connection with the front and rear gardens, the home achieves a resonant timelessness.
Technology has been seamlessly integrated into every aspect of the home. A television is discreetly hidden behind artwork, a projector integrated into a custom coffee table with a screen that drops from the ceiling when in use, and all other services fully automated.
The design detailing and material selections honour the richly layered history of the building. Robson Rak selected natural timber veneers, patterned and textured marble and stone, hard plaster, and steel.These will serve as a reference to the significance of St Huberts as an integral part of St Kilda’s evolution allowing the building to move forward with grace, style and comfort for the next 100 years.
It is through the lens of liveability that St Huberts has stepped into its new identity. Robson Rak’s commitment to refining the building’s period features is matched by the respectful and highly intentional curation of novel design. Their approach is especially evident in the open plan kitchen and living space which is highly contemporary yet tempered by a palette reminiscent of the muted textiles of yesteryear and the hues contained in stained glass throughout.
The existing features of the house were mostly retained and restored, such as the grand marble fireplaces, ornate Victorian cornices, arches, and decorative ceilings.Where the architecture and interior design was inserted, Robson Rak aimed to create a new language that complimented the heritage detailing yet was distinctly new, creating an interesting harmony between old and new. One example of this is the new marble mosaic flooring in the entrance, which flows up onto the flooring of the new staircase.This creates a grand statement upon arrival, an indication of exciting things to come.Another example is the new fireplace in the living room which references the ornate detailing of the existing fireplaces but in a contemporary application.
St Huberts draws upon the abiding relationship between new and old, past and present, innovative and long proven to settle on a tangible equilibrium. Whole-heartedly embracing the sentiment that walls perhaps do have ears, the newly polished residence pays homage to the intricate beauty in ornate plasterwork, mosaic tiles, lead lighting, and nostalgic patterns in brick and timberwork. By intentionally balancing the aesthetic scales with austerity and design clarity, Robson Rak demonstrate how period architecture can successfully support 21st-century living.