Joanne Brookfield June 30, 2012
Some clients choose to join two apartments together, while others simply want to decide on their own colour scheme.
Get in early and talk to the experts if you hanker for a customised pad.
When an apartment project comes on the market, developers might offer a few options - such as a choice of one out of two colour schemes or perhaps a range of floor plans - but, for the most part, buyers get what they're given when they buy off the plan.
Which is a big part of their appeal, says Scott Walker, principal of international design practice Hassell.
''Most people buying apartments accept that they are buying a complete package,'' he says. ''That is, 'It's finished, I take possession and move in. I don't have to do anything and therefore my life isn't disrupted.'''
But a few buyers take a different approach, customising and redesigning apartments to their own specifications. Some keep it relatively simple and make only aesthetic changes, such as changing the timber veneer or tile specification.
Other buyers snap up two apartments to combine into one. ''In this scenario, additional bedrooms may become studies or the additional kitchen deleted or some finishes and materials are amended, but the broader planning and building works are largely kept as originally designed,'' says Walker, who is responsible for the interior design of Michael Yates' Claremont development in South Yarra, where two apartments are being combined at present.
Then there are the buyers who may buy more than two, perhaps half or even a whole floor, to ''create a bespoke apartment interior'', Walker says.
If planning on doing something like this, interior designer Shareen Joel from Shareen Joel Design says ''it's always better to get in early, very early, before the project starts''. She cites Becton's Esplanade development, on which she worked, where one client bought two floors and installed an internal staircase.
''That's a messy job that must be done at the beginning, because it cannot be done at the end,'' she says.
Architect Callum Fraser says the seven levels of Elenberg Fraser's 401 St Kilda Road development went to market offering ''larger apartments that were more like houses'' but, even then, clients were wanting to combine apartments so the original plan for 20 became 17.
Not everyone buys off the plan, though, meaning interior designers and architects are also being engaged to combine and redesign apartments in existing buildings.
The Carr Design Group recently reconfigured the interior for an apartment in the Melburnian on St Kilda Road. It had begun life as two apartments that had been previously amalgamated ''and not done too well'', says interior designer Daniel Stellini, director of Carr Interiors. ''It really was quite a jigsaw.''
So the new owners wanted the two apartments to work as one. ''They engaged us to really ensure we connected both apartments better and really streamlined the whole connection of the spaces,'' Stellini says.
Connecting them on paper is one thing; actualising construction is quite another.
''Obviously, building in a high rise is a very slow process,'' Stellini says. With access via only one goods lift, the apartment had to be designed ''almost like a kit'' because it all had to fit into a lift and go up. So the massive island bench, for instance, was taken up in pieces and welded on site.
Architect Stephen Jolson says: ''We've done several penthouses around Melbourne in different buildings.
''Some of them involved combining five or six apartments and they were also quite challenging but the results amazing.''
Of two recent projects in prominent buildings, with one occupying half a floor and the other taking the whole floor, Jolson says one was 700 metres, the other 950 square metres.
''Typically, these larger penthouses are for clients who don't have children living at home any more,'' he says. Having downsized from large family homes, the lifestyle aspects of apartment living appeal but the desire for some space also remains.
So, while penthouse-size apartments often come with facilities such as media rooms, gyms or cellars, which can conjure up ideas of extravagance, Walkser says sometimes it ''might be something quite simple but quite spacious''.
''A lot of people value space. They just want generous rooms coming off generous halls but at its heart it is a very simple apartment.''