A Retro Revival Of A Mid-Century Melbourne Apartment

Pauline Morrissey writes about beautiful homes for a living, so to buy in a significant heritage-protected, architect-designed building was ‘a dream realised.’

The writer and her husband Kieran Morrissey purchased this apartment in 2023 following a stint living in the Northern Rivers on the NSW North Coast.

‘During this time, I successfully reacquired my Philippines citizenship, inspiring future plans to divide our time between Australia and island living in the Philippines. This new goal motivated us to downsize and shift back to the city,’ explains Pauline.

‘Long-term space wasn’t our priority, but location and character were.’

Pauline and Kieran’s Melbourne and Sydney-wide search for a ‘lock-and-leave’-style apartment concluded when discovering a property for sale in Caringal Flats.

Designed in 1948 by architect John William Rivett, Caringal Flats is an early modernist building located in Toorak, Melbourne. The apartment complex has been heritage protected since 1982 and underwent a significant exterior makeover in 2022 to restore its original coral paint colour.

‘We were smitten by the building’s unique and vibrant architecture, iconic sky bridges, lush grounds, and communal gardens. The apartment’s floor-to-ceiling windows, garden views, and curved balcony were especially appealing,’ says Pauline. ‘Comparable offerings in Sydney just couldn’t match this gem’s charisma, location, and price point’.

Pauline and Kieran have made their apartment their own with some cosmetic alterations including painting the previously cool-toned living room walls with creamy Dulux White Swan; replacing vinyl flooring with retro green Supertuft carpet; replacing dated light fittings with HAY pendants; installing floor-to-ceiling sheer linen curtains by Clearview Sun Control; and painting the bedroom Dulux Virtuous.

The latter is a beautiful lilac shade, creating what Pauline calls the ‘ube room’ named after a purple yam, which is a popular ingredient in traditional Filipino desserts.

The divider between the bedroom and living area was also given a significant makeover, resulting in a double-sided custom-designed joinery unit designed and installed by Spaceworks Melbourne.

‘This investment welcomed a collection of display shelves, storage cabinets, a mini bar section, a dresser space, and a built-in full-length mirror,’ says Pauline.

‘We chose a rich Laminex Natural Teak for a mid-century look, with a pop of yellow to the mini bar and dresser bench tops in Laminex Golden Wattle to create a subtle Australiana theme complementing our green carpet.’

With the exception of the new joinery, these DIY updates were completed by Pauline and Kieran in just 10 days.

Pauline recalls, ‘We ran a really tight ship during this short window. First, we removed the old room divider, wardrobe, and vinyl floors. Then, we cleaned the entire place and painted all the walls. Just as the paint had dried, our new carpet was installed, followed by replacing all light fittings.’

The renovations have instilled their home with a 1970s feeling that champions bold colour, relaxed shapes, and Pauline’s desire to not take things too seriously!

Next up, the couple plan to tackle the kitchen and bathroom, with the next round of renovations set for later this year.

‘We take great pride in achieving so much within a tight timeframe and budget, representing those who grind their way through the ‘yourself’ part of the term DIY, without the luxury of architects, interior designers, or nearby families to help tackle jobs or chip in with budgets’ Pauline says.

Pauline and Kieran’s small but mighty home if perfect for their lifestyle, allowing them to be close to the inner-city, whilst enabling them to travel when it suits them.

‘Our home is super comfortable and practical — size limitations be damned,’ Pauline says. ‘I also find it amusing that our one-bedroom apartment is surrounded by all these Toorak mansions. We share the same wide, leafy, and quiet streets as the property directly next door, which sold for $88 million.’

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