July 14, 2024

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An Elegant, Art-filled Apartment Inside A Converted 1861 Mansion

An Elegant, Art-filled Apartment Inside A Converted 1861 Mansion

Kate Cowen’s chic St Kilda West apartment is inside one of two neighbouring Victorian mansions built in 1861. While one of them remains a stately 14-bedroom residence, the other has been transformed into a set of four apartments shrouded in green ivy, with enviable views of St Kilda Beach.

‘The building is loaded with history,’ Kate says. ‘All kinds of interesting people have lived here including several creatives – film maker Bob Weis, gallerist Anna Schwartz, garden designer Rick Eckersly and restaurateur Donlevy Fitzpatrick to name a few.’

She first came across her apartment at a wake hosted there for a friend’s mother, and was ‘gobsmacked’ by the 4-metre high ceilings, arched hallways, and understated grandeur.

‘In an act of supreme bad taste, I mentioned to my friend I’d love to know if it ever came on the market. I was ready to downsize and loved the idea of the ready-make community in this building,’ she says. It was a case of right place right time, as she quickly snapped it up from the owners with no negotiations!

The previous owners had retained the two-level apartment as two enormous rooms both with bifold doors in the middle. But with two daughters and frequent houseguests, Kate enlisted Bower Architecture & Interiors and LBA Construction to create three bedrooms, new bathrooms and replace the kitchen – which was ‘too small’ to even accommodate a full-sized fridge.

‘I wanted something timeless, seamless, and elegant that would be a foil for art, rugs and the eclectic furniture and objects I’d accumulated over time,’ she says.

Walnut timber floors upstairs are paired with white walls and marble accents in the kitchen, providing a perfect canvas for Kate’s unique collections sourced at auction houses, markets, and travels to India and Africa. Indigenous art and playful sculptures bring bold pops of colour and new character to the original period architecture. She says they also ‘had a bit of fun with the bathrooms’, designing an egg-yolk yellow powder room upstairs, and emerald green bathroom with a step-down ‘hammam-style’ bath and shower.

‘I love that I inhabit every inch of this home and there are spaces for all my moods and needs – the squashy couch end for TV in the evenings, a warm entertaining space and the kitchen’s proximity to it all – I don’t miss any juicy conversation at dinner parties.’

The apartment’s glamorous black-and-white tiled balcony is another highlight, giving Kate the ultimate ‘front-row seats’ to every waterfront event all-year round.