Blurring the line between art and design, Gertrude Street Residence by Kate Challis Interiors is a highly resolved yet wonderfully personable family home, stepped in history and reimagined as a seductive sanctuary for the modern day.
Originally conceived as a turn of the century shop front with adjoining dwelling, by the early 1970s the site was home to Melbourne’s first feminist bookshop, the ‘Shrew Women’s Bookshop’. Today the home delights in its transformation as an inner city family home, honouring its radical past by retaining a distinctly individualistic spirit throughout.
Like all projects by Kate Challis Interiors, the home is heavily influenced by Challis’ PhD in art history and is demonstrative of what can be achieved when collaborating with skilled artists and makers. Numerous commissions and bespoke works by local artisans are exemplar of this commitment and the exceptional level of consideration throughout.
Today the home delights in its transformation as an inner city family home.
By cleverly blanketing the former shop window with double-glazed frosted glass, Challis and her team have ensured a sense of privacy whilst remaining sympathetic to neighbouring commercial buildings. Collaborating with Ridolfi Architects, the studioupended the ground floor, moving the kitchen and dining to the street-facing entry and the formal lounge to the rear.
Upon entering the home through this newly configured layout, visitors are immediately transported by an immersive photographic installation by Melbourne artist Valerie Sparks; a customisation of her ‘Le Vol’ series’ that depicts a mythical landscape featuring taxidermied birds across all walls. Working in and around custom joinery and a banquette to one side of the welcoming dining table, the mural is complemented with a bespoke lighting commission by Melbourne designer Christopher Boots. Resplendently perched above the dining table, the installation comprises over 300 kilograms of semi-precious quartz stone and has since inspired the designer’s acclaimed ‘Petra’ series. Prior to their meeting, Sparks learned that Challis’ grandfather was acclaimed historian, Bernard Smith. Coincidentally, his work and the aesthetics of the 18th and 19th century had influenced her Le Vol series. In tribute to this connection, Sparks placed an owl in one corner of the room; a wistful reference to Challis’ grandfather and his legacy.
The home is heavily influenced by Challis’ PhD in art history and is demonstrative of what can be achieved when collaborating with skilled artists and makers.
Beyond the kitchen and dining lies a romantic formal lounge enhanced by an internal courtyard with sculptural spiral staircase, concealed powder room and services, and original Victorian staircase to the first floor. A sense of refined yet welcoming comfort is achieved with a considered layering of vintage, antique, bespoke and customised furnishings, finishes and fittings. From a duet of Frigerio Armchairs (1970) reupholstered in beckoning hot pink velvet, to a custom made lacquer table by Marianna Kennedy, Fratelli Toso Murano chandelier, and a sofa by Ochre specified in bespoke linen and braid, each piece is truly unique; adding to the story of this evolving home.
Challis and her team have ensured a sense of privacy whilst remaining sympathetic to neighbouring commercial buildings.
Colour is employed to dramatic effect throughout the project with the studio defining a series of tailored colours in collaboration with Porter’s Paints. A deep sea green in the formal lounge was inspired by Margaret Preston’s oil on canvas, ‘Western Australian Gum Blossom’ (1928) and painted in a distemper finish, popular in the nineteenth century.
Artful and inspired execution is evident throughout. Ascending to the first floor via a staircase dramatically draped in Fornasetti for Cole & Son cloud wallpaper, the journey continues with a stunning nineteenth century vintage chandelier overhead. Arriving at the landing, custom pendants by local lighting studio Volker Haug lead to a street-facing children’s bedroom, a bathroom featuring hand-made Moroccan tiles by Popham, and a yoga room complete with 1950s Venetian chandelier.
Colour is employed to dramatic effect throughout the project.
To the rear awaits a master suite of generous proportions. An expansive ensuite marks your arrival, with floor to ceiling coverings in Tadelakt, an entirely organic product from Morocco that creates natural waterproofing. Handmade Italian plumage tiles from boutique producer BottegaNove complete the serene escape. Venturing into the master bedroom, a seductive palette contrasts with vast swathes of northern afternoon light and an evergreen terrace, expertly completing this home’s balance of the effortless and the resolved.