A narrow footprint was no problem for the owners of this colourful Melbourne terrace house

Smart uses of space and open-plan living have given this former brothel a bright future

Melbourne-based property by Fieldwork architects with a smart use of space
Tom Ross

Few new homeowners are required to remove beds, spa baths and Roman columns left by swiftly departing brothel owners, yet Paul Ghaie and Lucy Wallace, who share this Victorian terrace in Melbourne’s lively Fitzroy suburb with their two dogs (Pino and Ollie), were wholly unfazed. ‘It was quite the cleanout,’ laughs Paul. ‘But I loved the whole process.’

Melbourne-based property by Fieldwork architects with a smart use of space
Tom Ross

Though he could see that the period property – which features a 1980s-era outbuilding beyond a small courtyard – had plenty of potential, it was typically narrow and suffered from a lack of natural light. Architect Quino Holland of local firm Fieldwork soon drew up plans for a radical renovation. Factory-style windows separating the staircase from the kitchen, and a sliver of a skylight at the top of the full-height ceiling, now fill this home with brightness, but it’s the living room that has undergone the most surprising transformation. Its wall has been pulled in by one metre, making an already skinny space even more svelte. This may seem counterintuitive, but the benefits – a more dynamic flow and the addition of a window onto a strip of lush foliage – are clear. ‘At the front it’s quite an industrial streetscape, and then you step inside and there’s this beautiful green sanctuary,’ says Paul.

Melbourne-based home by Fieldwork architects with a smart use of space
Tom Ross

The property also features a peppering of references to its former life as Club Rose. Most conspicuous is the salvaged red neon ‘Exquisite Ladies’ sign in the courtyard, but a bespoke olive and pink leather banquette and green velvet curtains were all selected as a nod to the original outfit. A pink neon strip winds up the stairs of the outbuilding, which, as well as a part-time office and painting studio, is also a sometime dance floor, utilised for the couple’s ‘wilder gatherings’. ‘Wine’s obviously not a problem,’ quips Paul, co-founder of boutique booze purveyors Blackhearts & Sparrows. He and hospitality professional Lucy are natural hosts.

Melbourne-based home by Fieldwork architects with a smart use of space
Tom Ross

Inside the main building, the lengthy living area has been divided into three distinct zones, with bold bespoke pieces that belie their space-utilising purpose. The brass-topped kitchen island is a prime example, with its curved ends creating a generous feel while accommodating more storage. ‘Our objective was to give each area a distinct character and atmosphere’, explains Quino. For Paul and Lucy, the most precious of those spaces is the little nook in the front room, where, in their words, they ‘hide from the world’. ‘Fitzroy itself is one of the best areas in Melbourne for eating and drinking, for galleries, for clothes shops,’ he adds. ‘But we’re always inviting people over because we love being here. We just want to be at home.’ fieldworkprojects.com.au

For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration March 2020

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