Penthouse M

Cathy Schusler
CJH Studio

Penthouse M is a stunning beachfront dwelling located on the Gold Coast in Queensland. The home is a renovation of an existing apartment, meticulously designed by CJH Studio. The studio, led by director Cassie James-Herrick, is an Australia-based interior architecture firm to keep on your radar. James-Herrick’s detailed and personalised approach to design ensures we will be seeing more of CJH Studio in the future.

On first review, Penthouse M reveals itself as a curious dwelling. The eye is not quite sure where to settle, drawn to several focal points in the great room, each more alluring than the next. This is the beauty of James-Herrick’s carefully complex design: every detail melds together in a mystifying fashion, leaving one instantly absorbed in the architecture.

Penthouse M is comprised of two levels. The first is overtaken by a great room, with kitchen and dining areas, and an offset living room. The second storey houses the more private areas of the apartment, the bedrooms and baths. A dramatic, gravity-defying staircase connects the two storeys.

The staircase—the most prominent feature of the first floor, breaks any notion of straightforward minimalist design on first glance. The dramatic form takes centre stage in the great room, flowing unapologetically through the middle of the space and landing directly in the middle of the main floor. The entirety of Penthouse M is brimming with curvilinear details, some more apparent and some tucked away. These details tell a story; a story of easy beachside living and the softness that sea and sand can inspire in a design.

Doorways in Penthouse M are framed by arched openings, a style more often seen in classical architecture than modern dwellings. Yet the arched opening makes a comeback here, calling to mind the smooth forms of buildings on islands in Greece and Italy. In the kitchen, the built-in bar feels almost harsh in its strict and boxy placement across the wall of the windows, yet its warm wood and accompanying dining stools soften its nature. Behind the bar, the island is an unusual shape that would feel out of place in any other context, but positioned as it is below the stairs and adjacent to the rounded cabinetry and semi-demising wall, feels as natural as any traditional kitchen.

The interior palette feels as natural as the sand and sea outside. Nothing has been overworked; the various materials gently flow into one another as the eye works its way across the apartment. Light travertine floors meld seamlessly into wooden stair treads which give way to soft beige carpet in the bedroom. White walls cover the entire space, but one’s eye is never far from a glimpse of the bright sea through the many black-framed windows.

A curated selection of furnishings meld gracefully into their surroundings. It is so refreshing when the interior architect also selects the decor, as it solidifies the design story much more than in the reverse scenario. The furniture is artful, yet prioritises comfort with creamy fabrics and plentiful pillows.

Perhaps the most striking room in Penthouse M is the bathroom. With light tan wall tile and a terrazzo floor, the bathroom feels perfectly suited for a beachside dwelling. Large black-framed windows reveal the stunning backdrop of the Coral Sea, while a freestanding bathtub is placed directly in front. The bath, more than any other element in Penthouse M, solidifies James-Herrick’s personalised and attentive design style. The bathtub draws from history and utility (where is the comfort in a rectangular bathtub, after all?) but its oversized nature and position as the centrepiece of the room feels thoroughly modern.

In the shop