Challis Avenue Apartment Renovation by Retallack Thompson | Yellowtrace

Challis Avenue Apartment Renovation by Retallack Thompson | Yellowtrace


Emerging Sydney architecture practice Retallack Thompson took 6 months to design, and Culbert Constructions took 4 months to build this smart and elegant one bedroom apartment renovation on one of Potts Point’s most coveted streets – Challis Avenue.

It all began with a series of questions. “To what degree can the spaces of our homes feel individual and separated, yet foster interaction across them? How can the inhabitants perform rituals of dwelling in various parts of the home while maintaining a connection?”, pondered Retallack Thompson.

The original inter-war Art Deco apartment was blessed with generous proportions and charming heritage details, but like most builds from the same era, it was much too compartmentalised for modern living. The apartment was purchased by the client as a “nest” in the city for weekend hideouts, and for hosting family and friends during their visits. As a family of five, it was essential the new layout could shift to accommodate anywhere from one to five people at a time.


Challis Avenue Apartment Renovation by Retallack Thompson | Yellowtrace


Retallack Thompson rose to the challenge by creating a multifunctional living and dining nook that could be converted into sleeping quarters, in addition to the apartment’s dedicated bedroom. Fold down beds are concealed within living area walls, while the generous bench seating and retractable Eileen Grey ‘Jean’ table in the dining nook allow for the provision of fifth sleeping space.

However, it is during the daytime that most careful consideration was required to the apartment’s complex functions. The intervention saw the removal of three existing walls to create a greater connection across living, dining and cooking areas. The ground plane is opened up for an increased sense of space, yet thresholds are maintained through the downturns of the ceiling and subtle changes in materials and finishes. The design attempts to strike a balance between the removal of barriers to encourage interactions while still clearly defining zones for service, living and rest.


Related: So Hot Right Now // Living Large in Small Spaces.


Challis Avenue Apartment Renovation by Retallack Thompson | Yellowtrace


And then there are the poetic qualities to this design. Retallack Thompson worked hard at getting the wall and joinery colours to behave just so in the peculiar southern light of the apartment. They were also interested in how the limited city views could be brought further into the space, which they’ve achieved through a cunning use of the mirrors.

Ultimately, these talented young architects have gone above and beyond to push the limits of compact space and restricted access to city views by intelligently maximising both. This little gem of a project truly punches well about its weight by cleverly combining substance with style. I’m sold.

Read on for further insight straight from Jemima Retallack and Mitchell Thompson about this project.


Challis Avenue Apartment Renovation by Retallack Thompson | Yellowtrace


+ What do you love the most about this project?

The existing apartment had a beautiful language of soft rendered curves and southerly aspect onto Challis Avenue. The aspect of the unit brings in particularly dramatic light which had a transformative quality on the colouring of the materials and paints used throughout. The blue grey colour used for the kitchen joinery and hallway was custom mixed on site to achieve the right amount of greyness in this distinctive light.

We were also really interested in how the city itself could be brought further into the space (as you had to crane your head out the window to catch glimpses of the cathedral and domain beyond). The use of the mirrors in the dining nook and angled edge of the kitchen brings this view right into the apartment and we love the reflections of the grand heritage facades over the road which can now be enjoyed from all areas of the living spaces.

+ What was the most challenging aspect you were faced with?

Dealing with the existing services within the apartment; the main building risers ran through the original external wall separating the sun room (now dining nook) to the kitchen. We were able to relocate these to the back wall of the kitchen but still needed to facilitate the junction points at low level. The curved wall capturing the end of the kitchen conceals all these water and waste pipes whilst also providing a niche to the dining nook for glassware.


Challis Avenue Apartment Renovation by Retallack Thompson | Yellowtrace


+ What did you learn during the project?

This project reinforced our belief that nothing is quite as good as getting a sample on site to make decisions. The complexity of the light meant our initial choices for paints were all rethought once we brought the samples onto site. There was a particular level of “green-ness” which we were also trying to counterbalance in the chosen palette.

+ Any other interesting facts you could share with us?

The logistics of working within a small apartment three storeys above street level was not without its challenges for the builder. The new steel beam required to support the brickwork between the kitchen and living rooms, where the original internal walls were removed, had to be craned in from the street (as it was 6m long) and passed through the steel living room windows (ever so gingerly). It was quite a feat, particularly when they realised it had to be turned mid-air so it could be sent through the right way.



[Images courtesy of Retallack Thompson. Photography by Katherine Lu.]


About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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