Steve Graves is one of High Country Victoria’s most respected and awarded builders. His company Bright Alpine Builders has a long history of working with select-grade Australian hardwood timbers, crafting beautiful buildings which combine a carefully chosen range of structural components such as local granite, steel, concrete block, brick and other modern composites.
The commercial accommodation and retail development, Art House Townhouses, situated in the CBD heart of Bright, Victoria, is a recently completed project which enlists Melbourne architect Peter Sandow of FMSA Architecture to design the highly modernist and appealing complex. It has further elevated Bright Alpine Builders’ reputation as leaders in commercial and residential alpine construction.
Bringing together a group of creative minds, each in support of Steve’s wife Kath – whose love of fine Australian contemporary art had initiated the project’s conception – Art House Townhouses is as much about Australian art as it is about its scenic surrounds. Along with Peter, Steve and Kath’s input, hospitality professionals, interior designers and town planners have each contributed their expertise to help strengthen the project. The design ingeniously pays homage to Bright’s historic semi-industrial-era buildings while incorporating visual design cues that marry the complex to its mountainous surrounds. Internally, Kath’s concept of interior colour schemes that mirror the limited edition prints by Australian artists including John Olsen and Joy Hester and others, presents a class-leading art-themed accommodation option that’s a visual feast. As a positive sign of things to come, this expertly crafted new development is a welcome addition to one of Australia’s most visited and progressive tourist towns.
Featuring modern architecture that sits harmoniously in its regional setting, Art House Townhouses encompass a long list of attractions that set them apart from other commercial properties. Boasting a 7 star energy rating and luxuriously appointed premium fittings throughout, their generous floor plans provide space for large designer kitchens with butler pantries and premium appliances, sun-drenched private balconies with mountain views, and designer furniture which present a truly refreshing new take on Australian alpine-inspired interior design.
We spoke to master builder Steve Graves about how the project got off the ground, and how decisions were formed to enable such a successful outcome.
What’s your connection to FMSA Architecture and why were they chosen to work on the design?
‘I’ve been working with architect Peter Sandow of FMSA now for 23 years, and I have a good personal and working relationship with him,’ says Steve. ‘We’ve worked on numerous projects together including Mount Hotham’s Karoondah Apartments, Koomerang Ski Club and Police Station – all fantastic contemporary developments that have proven both highly successful and creatively inspiring projects,’
What were some of the initial considerations made in regard to the relatively narrow but long, back-sloping parcel of land?
‘The block is zoned commercial and the Alpine Shire were very keen to further develop commercial projects in the area to help extend Bright’s CBD. So it was a no brainer to make the decision to incorporate a commercial aspect which included several ground floor shops facing Wills Street, with penthouse apartment above, as a key part of the project. As the block is quite considerable in size as it slopes down behind, it allowed for several townhouses to be built. Another reason for choosing the block was for the lovely northern aspect allowing ample sunlight to flood into the buildings. The penthouse and townhouses are designed expressly with tourism accommodation rental in mind.’
Each of the four townhouses features large entries, generously wide hallways, rather grand well-lit staircases, plus a host of premium features which combine to make an extremely appealing first impression. There’s an understated feeling of luxury that’s a result of the precise and well-thought-out floorplan, meticulous building design and finely achieved construction.
The Penthouse is accessed by a ground floor entrance and central staircase on Wills Street, positioned between two immaculately presented retail and office premises either side. Steve explains how these have been quickly filled with tenants – the larger shopfront with an accountant and lawyer utilising the space, and a massage aromatherapy business leasing the smaller commercial space.
What point of difference does the development bring to the Bright region?
‘Obviously it’s a very modern and contemporary fit-out, but what it also brings to Bright is a new level of architecture – to me the lines of the building are quite strong; the design blends in well with the surrounding mountains and also the materials chosen allow the complex to fit well within the historic streetscape.’
‘We’ve chosen to use bricks similar in appearance to those used to build the 140-year-old theatre that’s across the road, plus other materials that have a semi-industrial warehouse appeal, yet modernised in a way so as to meet the streetscape design as desired by the Shire.’
The townhouses feature two types of external cladding, forming a second level above the brick and concrete block ground floor level. A Colorbond product called Standing Seam Cladding, in a deep neutral basalt tone is a fantastic choice. Fire retardant Axon flat-panel sheets are also used to elegantly frame upper balconies in a detailed split-section layout design. The overall completed row of townhouses, with their slanted roofs and gradient-stepped earth and eucalypt-toned Axon panel painted colour schemes, mimic the undulating folds of layered alpine peaks as seen in the distance.
The Penthouse features exposed steel beams internally. Steve explains this was to apply a masculine look, showcasing the backbone of the building. This works well with the variations in the building shape – it’s not square – as well as the choice of an open-plan living space with adjoining balcony, complete with black steel balustrade. The same black gloss, painted steel, vertical-railed balustrade design is repeated in each of the rear townhouses, framing the staircases. ‘They of course confirm to Australian safety standards, but I also wanted something with slender lines that were easy to see through, but also something that created a strong visual impact and a sense of everlasting soundness and safety,’ explains Steve.
Another unique factor within the Penthouse is the polished select-grade spotted gum timber flooring, which faultless in quality – lacking any knots that require fillers – has a deep colour tone that appears almost antique –– just like a restored historic warehouse floor. The overall effect is convincing, ultimately making the space feel as though it’s a cool converted warehouse, rather than a new building. North-facing slim horizontal-style windows, minimalist ceiling light fittings and charcoal porcelain kitchen bench tops bolster the industrial feel – a look with a modern edge to it. Added comforts include underfloor heating, heated towel rails and area-focused designer light fittings, allowing for multiple mood changes.
In each of the townhouses the wide stairwells are a striking feature with graduated-fall pendant dome clusters lighting the space. Climbing the stairs reveals the upper balustrades as sleek, straight-edged painted Gyprock panels that seamlessly connect to the living room/kitchen wall. The design opens the space up and brings in direct northern sunlight to illuminate the stairwell. At ground level, entry areas are large enough to lob your suitcases or wheel a bike in, making it perfect for a late-night first arrival. There’s also inbuilt bench seating here, providing space to sit while changing footwear.
Bedrooms are ultra luxurious with thick wool carpets underfoot and elegant slimline windows which allow light to sneak in while maintaining a desired comforting sense of privacy. Master bedrooms each feature King beds, large ensuite bathrooms and private alcoves with small table settings, suitable for outdoor reading or morning coffee. Afternoon cheese platters and local wine is best served on the large north facing balconies. Each of the townhouses are two bedroom with a second combined bathroom/laundry; the Penthouse has three bedrooms: two with ensuite bathrooms plus the second bathroom/laundry positioned opposite bedroom three.
Other impressive specs include solar hot water systems plus double-glazed windows throughout, which reduce noise and further add to the effectiveness of wall and ceiling insulation – combined, these properties deliver the 7 star energy rating. Heating and cooling are provided by reverse cycle split systems which are cleverly integrated – all that can be seen are understated upper wall-panel ducted outlets (linear wall registers). Each bedroom includes its own temperature control, separate to the living spaces.
The Townhouses and Penthouse each feature fine Australian art prints produced by celebrated contemporary artists Margie Sheppard and Dean Bowen. Centred around the art, the soft furnishing elements within each apartment draw on tones and textures found in the colours and moods of the museum quality art on the walls. Two of the four townhouses has been named in memory of Sunday Reed, the patron of artists at Heide – now the Heide Museum of Modern art – and one of her artists, the marvellous Australian modernist Joy Hester. The Penthouse celebrates the renowned contemporary abstract landscape painter John Olsen. The remaining two townhouses have been named for the aforementioned, Margie Sheppard and Dean Bowen, in recognition of the luminous and warmly unique approach taken in their art.
Jacqui Walker of Bright’s Bowerbird Alpine Interiors has applied her skills in delicately balancing earth tones, fabrics and natural timbers with other more modern furnishings. Cookware, stemware, cutlery and crockery are hand selected by Monique Hoedemaker, owner of Bright’s Ginger Baker Cafe & Winebar. Together their finishing touches compliment the series of townhouses and the Penthouse, to offer some of the best tourist accommodation to be found anywhere in Victoria.
Each individual townhouse: Sheppard, Bowen, Hester, Reed and Olsen, showcase interiors of limited edition art prints, flat screen TVs (lounge and bedrooms), free WIFI, plus generous living spaces dressed with the finest in European and Australian made designer furniture.
Art House Townhouses
Wills Street, Bright, Victoria
Bookings can now be made by contacting Kellie Gray at Dickens Real-estate Bright.
Tel 03 5755 1307