As is often the case, the owners of this apartment overlooking Manly Wharf were repeat customers for Matt Michel. He’d worked on their previous four-bedroom house and they brought him back when they decided to downsize in their semi-retirement. And these before and afters speak for themselves!
“We went back to bare concrete in this full apartment reno,” says Matt, who had worked on three other apartments in the building previously. “Every surface was touched.”
The 14th floor Fairlight pad was originally three beds, two baths and a separate toilet, and is now two beds, two baths, a media room and a powder room. “Darren and Fiona live here with their dog Charlie and they have the occasional visitor. “We were told not to make the guest room too comfortable that they stay too long,” joked Matt. “We frequently hear this in our briefs!”
The pair always knew they would end up here, in their low maintenance investment apartment with the amazing view. “It was dire though,” says Matt. “Worn carpet, metallic red splashback, enough said! The before and after photos are epic.”
They opted for a Neo Classical style. “This can include classical floor to ceiling wainscoting often mixed with white walls framing colourful abstract art,” Matt says. “We use modern furniture for comfort and contrast.”
Matt and his team set about changing the floorplan to create master and guest bedrooms with ensuites, turning the third bedroom into a media room with concealed giant TV, making the kitchen and dining room open plan, and adding all the mod cons like air con, programmable lights and electric blinds throughout.
“I was pretty familiar with the floorplan, but each client has their own preferences. It started with the kitchen, which had too many entrances, and was separate from the dining and living area.
“First, we removed the wall partitioning the kitchen from dining. With the engineer stating we needed two steel beams supporting the roof, we needed to cover them up or distract you from looking at them. The number one rule of design is if you can’t hide something, make a feature of it.
“So we coffered the ceilings and repeated the look throughout the apartment adding over 200 lineal metres of LED strip light to the perimeter. This made the ceiling look taller and brighter, creating a skylight effect. We have never been accused of not having enough light in a house, whether functional or decorative!”
Next, by blocking the previous door into the kitchen with floor to ceiling cupboards, they were able to poke the new fully integrated fridge through the old door into part of the adjoining entry hall, covered with floor to ceiling cupboards behind. All the adjacent cupboards like drawers and pantry were only 400 deep, then repeated at the same width to blend in.
“By installing the same wainscoting bead to the joinery, it matched the walls and receded, making the space look larger and tricking the eye,” Matt says. “We inverted the new island bench with black stained oak, continuing throughout with similar themed black aluminium framed glass doors and bespoke freestanding display cabinets and furniture. We added American Oak accents and a splash of navy, especially on the window seat with the sunniest and best view in the apartment.”
The trickiest room was the combined powder room and laundry. “The hot water hides behind a false L-shaped cupboard in the corner that is still accessible. We added a solid timber vanity and finished it off with a flourish of wallpaper whimsy with busy navy palm trees.”
Havwoods herringbone Bronzo Oak flooring throughout, which was acoustically tested, gave the apartment a cohesive flow and a sense of sophistication and luxury. The herringbone was reflected back in the herringbone black marble on the bathroom floors, and the carrara mosaic splashbacks.
The drama and height of the new coffered ceiling (which ironically was created by lowering it) made the biggest impact of all the changes, Matt thinks. The flooring was the biggest splurge, and a favourite item is the EcoSmart bioethanol burning fireplace that heats up the apartment quite effectively, without having to flue, all on the 14th floor of an apartment building.
“I like the hidden surprises in the new space,” Matt adds. “The black framed sliding doors disappearing into the walls, the concealed fridge, the time spent utilising every millimetre in the apartment. But most of all I like the smiles on our clients’ faces.”
Matt Michel Design is a small boutique interior design studio on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Operating for over 15 years, they can do one space or a whole house.
Builders and suppliers: A Whitlock Constructions, Rivergum Joinery, All Stone and Glass, Winning Appliances, Bathroom Collective, TileArte, Mr Carpet, Pedulla Bespoke furniture, Diamond Plumbing Solutions, Abbotts Electrical, Havwoods, Blackett Acoustics, Mondoluce Lighting, Intrim wainscoting, skirtings, cornice and architraves, and Surround by Laminex batten wall panels.
Photography: Burrough Photography