Stepping inside the St Ninians project one enters a bold yet peaceful world. A Mim Design project, with architecture by Ben Robertson, St Ninians embraces black, with a thoughtful monochromatic palette that resonates with the clients’ vibrant contemporary art collection.
St Ninians marked the fifth project that Mim Design had designed for their clients, who envisioned the project as the “Melbourne resort home” for their family, which includes two children and a dog. “Over the course of time, we also became very good friends with many common design interests,” says Miriam Fanning, principal of Mim Design.
Designed for family life as well as entertaining, the brief also involved several spaces with strong references to a single specific purpose, such as a music den and pool cabana. The clients’ extensive art collection also informed the design, which carefully considered both artwork and loose furniture from early on in the process.
“Over the course of time, we also became very good friends with many common design interests.”
While the overall approach to both the interiors and the architecture was to create a “timeless holistic aesthetic,” Miriam explains that “a mild sense of whimsy and amplification were essential in creating a home that embodied our clients’ attitude and love for life.” The strong friendship and experience working together previously were, thus, essential to the success of the St Ninians project. “The design process involved celebrating design with our clients; many a gin and tonic established some great design parameters,” she says.
The project does not shy away from engaging with elements of large proportion and scale. The striking central staircase, designed by former Mim Design architect Ben Robertson, is a breathtaking design focal point, sweeping upwards in one fluid movement. While this was always intended as a sculptural statement, it was also conceived of as a ‘folly’ for the children, typical of the project’s combination of playfulness and striking yet elegant design.
The clients’ extensive art collection also informed the design.
The kitchen too embraces generous proportions, spanning the whole of the adjacent living space, while large expanses of wall were designed with artworks in mind. A sense of scale also applies to the material selection and monochromatic palette, with both elements used at volume throughout the project.
Large slabs of striking Carrara marble are used throughout the kitchen and again in the bathrooms, subtly linking these spaces through the material. Black is another linking element that creates a sense of timeless continuity throughout the entire home. “Black was also a strong element our clients loved – the jet-black chevron floors, black zinc internal panelling and black elements throughout the façade, which helped in featuring the amazing garden and pool surrounding the house,” Miriam reflects.
A sense of scale also applies to the material selection and monochromatic palette, with both elements used at volume throughout the project.
From the floor in the living spaces to the panelling on the music den, black is a running thread throughout the project, creating an atmosphere of quiet sophistication. The monochromatic palette also highlights the bright colours of the artwork and key pieces of furniture that inject vibrancy and personality into the space.
Subtle textural elements ensure that, while the palette is restrained, even minimalist, it maintains a sense of warmth. The natural tactility of timber and classic chevron flooring pattern delicately plays against the subdued dark stain, while the vertical lines of the black panelling in the living space incorporates structure and detail. Polished plaster walls in soft grey reflect light in the hallways, master bedroom and powder room, contributing an almost handmade quality that emphasises the clean lines of the rest of the design.
Each of these materials is complemented by the project’s emphasis on natural light. Whether gently dappled light filtered by sheer curtains or a feature skylight above the bath, light enhances each space. “Light was everything when designing St Ninians,” Miriam explains. “Large north-facing windows, skylights and light courts were designed to maximise filtration of light to create a bright and happy home.”
Now, three years after the project’s completion, the design is still as fresh and impactful as it felt then. “I often visit St Ninians and love the feel of the house, the lush surrounding garden, lounging on the terrace, a cocktail in the music room…most importantly, I love seeing how our clients use the space,” Miriam says.