There is something so personal and unique that occurs when a home is designed by the occupant. This is the case with Highbury Grove—a residence designed by Gilad Ritz of Ritz & Ghougassian. Ritz designed both the architecture and interiors, culminating in an expressive dwelling that is not afraid to break the rules of what a home should look like.
Set on a quiet residential street in Prahran, Australia, Highbury Grove is a renovation and expansion of an existing structure. While most of the home is very modern and minimal, the exterior of the home reveals nothing of this nature. On the street-facing facade the original structure, a traditional A-frame with red tile roof, is left exposed. The juxtaposition between the old and new architecture makes the complete building all the more admirable.
Upon entering the home, one is immediately struck by the amount of concrete on the interior. The floors are grey concrete, as are most of the walls, with blocks stacked atop one another like bricks. The concrete blocks climb all the way to the ceiling, and in some cases extend above it to continue along an exterior wall. At first, the sheer volume of concrete is quite jarring, but after a moment this reaction subsides and one is able to take in the spectacular details of this design. Accented with warm wood tones, plush furnishings, and soft linens, Highbury Grove plays with the concept of hard and soft in refreshingly new ways.
Stacks of concrete combined with paired down furnishings does not immediately call to mind a cozy residence. In Highbury Grove, however, the aesthetic is far from harsh. While concrete is the dominant material, it is supplemented with enough rich walnut to create a warm and luxurious atmosphere. The design is still quite unusual for a residence, but there is nothing uninhabitable about Highbury. The alternative design makes the home all the more desirable in my book.
One of the advantages of using concrete as the wall material is the dwelling naturally has a protective air about it. The walls feel like a mini fortress, guarding the oasis within. Highbury Grove consists of two bedrooms, an open floor plan living area, and a courtyard. Wood cabinetry hides much of the more utilitarian features, allowing for a clean and minimal aesthetic throughout. A few elements from the original structure remain as well, such as the fireplaces in the bedrooms. This subtle design nod to the home's history is something to really appreciate.
In the centre of the home, surrounded by the living areas, sits a simple courtyard. The serene space is softly landscaped with ferns and low grasses, providing a moment of respite from the built environment. Easily accessed from multiple rooms in the dwelling, the courtyard ensures the residents are never more than a step away from the miniature garden.