Occupying a former cardboard factory on the edge of a tree-lined park in Armadale, an up-and-coming suburb of Melbourne, Australia, Armadale Residence is the entirely bespoke home of architect Rob Mills, founder of Australian practice Rob Mills Architecture & Interiors. Having established a reputation over the course of two decades for their holistic approach, attention to detail, and layered, high-end interiors, it was only natural that Mills’ own house would epitomize his practice’s design ethos by generously providing an unashamedly luxurious and all-sensory experience.
Having lived in the building for 12 years before embarking on its renovation, Mills had established a profound connection with the cavernous space that allowed him to take full advantage of the structure’s spatial characteristics in order to harness natural light, air, sounds and space and create an airy, light-filled and serene five-bedroom home for his family. Lighting and acoustics in particular were pivotal in the design process. The use of concrete slab, masonry walls, effective insulation and engineered glazing ensure the best possible acoustic properties while extensive glazing on the park-facing façade has maximized daylight penetration while also providing passive solar heating during Melbourne’s harsh winters.
The heart of the house beats on the first floor where the communal living areas occupy a tall space of 3.4 metres in height blessed with wide views of the park and ample daylight across its length thanks to the use of lateral skylights. The space also evinces a luxurious ambience thanks to the velvety rendered walls and ceiling, the Fior di Pesco Carnico on the floors, a grey-white veined marble sourced from a sixth generation quarry in Verona, and the gleaming brass kitchen counter and cabinets that take centre stage. The golden sumptuousness of the kitchen is picked up by various details throughout the interiors such as door frames, light fittings and bathroom faucets, as if the kitchen itself is a solar source of glamour.
The sleek and cool vibe of the main living and dining room is contrasted by the rustic refinement of the “winter room”. Enveloped in limed oak panelling, and featuring a deep purple sofa, a minimal fireplace and heavily recessed windows , it was designed as a refuge that alludes to an English manor house. Piercing the house is a black and white spiral staircase crowned by a circular skylight, a signature Rob Mills element, which has been designed as a sculptural axis whose softly swirling rhythm transports occupants both physically and spiritually up and down the building.
On the upper floor, the master bedroom enjoys panoramic views of the park and the use of a private balcony, whereas the two children’s bedrooms share a circular window cut in half but rendered whole when the separating partition is rolled back. Meanwhile, a self-contained two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor is reserved for extended family or, alternatively, can be rented out. The luxuriance established in the main living room permeates all the spaces of the house thanks to the use of plush materials, rich detailing and eclectic furniture pieces, but underneath there is always “the familiar; an understanding and a sense of belonging” as Mills says.
Sustainability was another important consideration in the renovation of Armadale Residence. Natural cross-ventilation and passive methods of cooling and heating have been incorporated into the design, as well as low-e glass and organic and low-VOC paints and glues, which makes for a truly low-energy, healthy building, one more reason why it was justly named Best Residential Interior at the 2017 World Interior News Awards, one of several accolades it has so far received.