23 Mar Elià House, the beautiful Stanmore home of two award winning architects
What happens when two award-winning Architects with a burning desire to make bold choices and test their designs in real time take on a personal project without the usual boundaries and limitations?
This is the story of Elià House; an 1890’s Victorian Italianate terrace nestled in one of Stanmore’s wide, tree-lined streets. It is a home that is layered with texture and interest, where the past narrative has been respectfully honoured. A stunning transformation by it’s Architect owners has seen it re-imagined into an up-lifting, contemporary family home that oozes style and sophistication.
When we think about architecture it can often come at a cost for practicality and liveability, but not in this home. Here the daily needs of family life are effortlessly facilitated within well considered and resolved architecture and interiors.
Elià House is a result of a very personal collaboration by two award-winning and creative minds, Architects Eva-Marie Prineas, Principal and Owner of Studio Prineas and Peter Titmuss, Principal at BVN.
Named after the single olive tree that greets you on arrival, a subtle nod to Eva-Marie’s Greek heritage and a place special to the couple, this home envelops you and plays to the five senses. It truly is somewhere special.
Photo: Chris Warne
As fellow Inner Westies, Blake and I have been lucky enough to know Eva-Marie and Pete for some time now and they are architects we have always admired. Here we share with you their story of transforming their own home, Elià House into what you see today, Eva-Marie’s insight into architecture in the Inner West and why they love living in Stanmore as much as we do.
Tell us about your vision for Elià House and how it has come to be the home it is today: “When we purchased this home in 2011 every room was layered with lino and carpet and a series of small dilapidated partitions filled the grand rooms you see today. Despite the clutter, we could see that it had a strong and authentic character as well as room for us to add our own layers. Our first mission was to strip it right back to the original envelope and structure. The grand rooms with high ceilings at the front of the house were always key spaces for us. We restored the archways and their connection to reinstate their former glory.”
“The empathetic layers we’ve added over the past nine years gently blend the classical and the contemporary in a way that celebrates the history of the building and we’ve opened up the rear of the home where there is now a strong connection to the outdoors. We wanted to make sure this space, where we spend a lot of our time, was full of light and could adapt equally as a space for family and a space to entertain.”
A furniture like island bench-top is elevated on steel legs while the bull-nosed carrara benchtops subtly reference the original marble thresholds throughout the home.
Studio Prineas has embraced recessive finishes and a light approach to form, allowing the cherished character of the home to sing. Junctions are thoughtfully considered, giving breathing space between the home’s original cornicing, architraves, ceiling roses and mouldings, and the expression of new design interventions.
What do you think Elià House delivers for a family? “Elià House has evolved over a gestation of 9 years and we know it’s a home that works for a family at all different life stages because we’ve lived in it during our children’s formative years. When we purchased Elià House, our boys were young and it was essential for us that this home would offer flexibility to suit our family’s changing needs over time. Our boys are now teenagers and the home still works for us, for example, what used to be the lego room our boys now use as a gym and we’ve changed how we use the lower level from where the grandparents would stay to what is now a teenager’s retreat.”
The master suite embraces the home’s original character and opens to a private balcony. A perfect place to rejuvenate the soul.
What is family life like in Elià House? “Family was always at the front of mind with our design. Being over three levels means we each can have our own space when we need it, the boys don’t feel we’re cramping their style, but we have also created spaces for us to be together. Our favourite place to be on a Saturday afternoon is on the rear deck extension by the out door fire. We’ve had so many great family discussions around the fireplace.”
“We also wanted a home that felt like home. It had to be a space that allowed us to relax while being robust enough for daily life. Our backyard is full of interest; we purposely avoided the standard lawn and instead created a sunken garden, which is particularly lush and cool to be in on the hottest days in summer. Our kids wanted chickens and we wanted an oasis to relax in.”
“Being organised was also important to us. There is a place for everything with large amounts of storage areas and built-in joinery that also highlights the heritage character of the original house. “
A gentle fall towards rear of the home gave scope for a new indoor/outdoor space connected to the garden. An outdoor deck is cleverly contained within the shell of the old home while the rear façade is repurposed as an outdoor fireplace, allowing the family to utilise this outdoor area throughout the seasons. Beyond, a sunken walled garden provides a quiet retreat with wild landscaping, a pebbled courtyard and chicken coop.
Your home is full of refined architecture and interiors yet it feels relaxed and comfortable to be in, how have you achieved this? “We think a lot about place and layers. Retaining as much of the original features as possible was important to us both historically and from a sustainable perspective. When this is done with a considered approach the outcome appears effortless. Keeping original features retains the history and the patina reveals past stories, which creates a feeling that the house is robust and we’re not scared to live in it.”
Oversized glass doors completely open up and the continuation of the exposed slender tallow wood timber floorboards to the outdoor area creates a natural extension of the kitchen / dining area to an oversized deck.
What inspires you about the architecture of the Inner West? “The majority of homes that stand today in the Inner West were built in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Every place has a story, a past narrative, which you can see parts of through their architecture. It’s important to understand that and to find ways to adapt them into beautiful spaces for the way we live now whilst being respectful of their past.”
What challenges are often faced with Inner West architecture and what should be considered when homeowners decide to take on a renovation for themselves? “Homes with narrow footprints and orientations that make them dark and cold are common in the Inner West. Whilst you generally can’t change a narrow footprint into a double fronted home, clever design can make the smallest of spaces feel incredibly generous and there are creative and beautiful ways of turning a dark home into one that is full of sun, even if it’s not the ideal orientation to begin with.”
Dotted throughout Eva-Marie and Pete’s home are quintessential reminders of life in the Inner West, from Continental Deli’s fun cocktails in a tin, delicious pantry staples from Cornersmith to stunning guavas curated from award winning florist, Jodie McGregor Flowers in Annandale.
Tell me what you love about living in the Inner West “It’s denser than most suburban places and I love this. We have an incredibly strong sense of community here.”
“Not only are we within walking or riding distance to places like the Glebe foreshore and the city, we have fantastic green spaces and amazing lane-ways that more and more we’re using as an extension of our own backyard. This presents opportunities for neighbours to connect in an informal way. A testament to this is what happens in our own back lane behind Elià House. It’s not just a place to take your bins out on a Sunday, it’s a cricket pitch for the kids, a place where we wander out and have an impromptu wine with a neighbour. During Covid we were lucky enough to be just steps away from Chef Gavin Carfax-Foster’s pop up home dining service that became a place for the community to connect as they collected their beautifully prepared meals (socially distanced of course) during a particularly isolating time. At Christmas our rear lane hosts a fantastic party. It’s lovely to be a part of.”
Nearby Weekley Park provides essential green space for urban density. From their rear garage opening up to Westbourne Lane, just steps from Elià House, Chef Gavin-Carfax Foster and his family provided the Stanmore community with gourmet home dining and a special place to connect during the Covid lockdown.
What do you think Stanmore offers as a place to live? “Stanmore is an urban village with a great sense of community. It’s a place where the locals really get to know each other. We’ll often spend Sunday afternoons soaking in the live music sessions at the Salisbury Hotel and grabbing a morning coffee at Mrs Underwood’s always entails a chat with a neighbour.”
“We also love that we’re so close to great bars and restaurants in Newtown, Enmore and even the Tramsheds. Sundays are our days for taking our dog George for a morning walk to Black Star in nearby Newtown for an almond chai latte and when we can, we’ll sneak in a long lunch at Continental Deli, I love that it’s always creative and fresh but it never feels over complicated or stuffy.“
Stanmore is an urban village where neighbours chat, lane-way parties are common practice and it’s location means you’re only a walk or short ride away from several lifestyle hubs including Newtown, Enmore and the Glebe foreshore.
We want to hear about the businesses you think are special in the community. What are some you particularly love? “My home is full of Mud Ceramics from their warehouse in Marrickville. They are so beautifully crafted. I anticipate their sales day as much as any other Inner Westie and will spend the two hours in the line having a chat and grabbing a bargain. It’s always worth it.”
“My favourite local artist is Marcela Restrepo who is also from Stanmore and you can see a couple of her pieces in our home. Her work is inspired by her journeys through life and it’s so unique and quirky.”
“The Selvedge Society is known for their slow fashion and textiles, they source amazing patterns and fabrics.”
“I purchase lots of furniture through Metro Road trading in Enmore. They have an extensive collection of 2nd hand designer furniture that’s in immaculate condition. We got our Eames office chairs from there at an incredible price.”
“As for food and wine, we love to entertain and my Greek heritage doesn’t let me go past Lamia Super Deli in Marrickville, as soon as I walk in it looks and smells like I’m in Greece. We source our wine through a local wine concierge service called The Right Drop, run by a local dad we met at the Glebe Greyhounds where our kid’s play AFL – he knows exactly what we like and always finds us that something special.”
You’ll discover Eva-Marie’s love of beautifully crafted ceramics by Marrickville’s Mud Australia in Elià House and find several artworks by one of her favourite artists Marcela Restrepo, also from Stanmore.
How do you feel about selling your home? “We’ve had mixed emotions about leaving not just the physical space, but the emotional connections and memories we’ve made but we know that the next family will create a whole new story within Elià House.”
“We’re staying in Stanmore and our next project is very close by so we’re also excited by the opportunities to design our next home and continue our creative and experimental collaboration.”
Hear Eva-Marie speak about the beautiful elements of this very special home.
Elià House is currently for sale through Blake Lowry, Belle Property and will be going to Auction on Saturday 10th April 2021 at 9:00am. We hope to see you there. Click here for the full listing information including the address, floorplan and open times.
Annika and Blake
Architect and Interiors: Studio Prineas in collaboration with Peter Titmuss.