FREDERICK STREET: Q&A WITH THE DESIGNERS

Transforming a tired, rundown two-bedroom Surfers Paradise apartment into a sophisticated, modern-day bachelor pad in just four weeks was the renovation challenge undertaken by Luli, Raquel and Renee from ABI Interiors.

We sat down with the trio to discuss the innovative design decisions that helped satisfy the brief so successfully, how easily they implemented their ideas with the design requirements and which space was their proudest achievement.

Q1. WHAT WAS THE MAIN PROJECT OBJECTIVE OF FREDERICK STREET AND WHAT DID YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE?

Renee:
The main objective of the Frederick Street renovation was to turn a tired, old apartment into a modern-day bachelor pad. As the client runs his business from home, we needed to ensure that he could seamlessly transition from a professional office space by day and a place of refuge at night.

Luli:

As our first renovation series, it was really good to see how we collaborated to take on this project together. Experiencing that dynamic between myself, Renee and Raquel was a thrill and I think our styles complemented each other. The client was attracted to a more moody, masculine vibe, which was completely different, however, we were able to positively adapt to the challenge.

Q2. WERE THERE ANY SPECIFIC DESIGN REQUIREMENTS FROM THE CLIENT AND IF SO, HOW EASILY DID YOU IMPLEMENT THESE WITH YOUR OWN IDEAS?

Raquel:

There were several design requirements from the client, including incorporating a dishwasher into the kitchen, creating an entrepreneur workspace, being able to entertain on the balcony and creating a masculine look and feel.

As an interior designer and working closely with Luli and Renee, space planning is embedded into our design brain, so we could easily achieve all of [that] and much more. This included adding a buffet breakfast bar; 3.6m stackable doors to maximise the dining space to the balcony; incorporating the laundry into the hallway linen cupboard; designing the office so it can also facilitate as a second bedroom; creating a double vanity and walk-in shower; maximising the storage space wherever possible and overall creating a Melbourne Modern, masculine, high-end apartment with soft coastal accents.

Q3. WHAT DID YOU ANTICIPATE WOULD BE THE TRICKIEST PART OF THE RENO?

Renee:

Obviously, from the get-go, our biggest roadblock would be the four-week timeline, which proved to be true. This short timeframe created limitations, particularly around ordering stock and ensuring it would arrive on time. When things don’t go to plan, you have to adapt quickly and provide a solution on the spot, which happened more often than not throughout the four weeks. Anyone who has ever renovated knows that this is just part of the renovation game.

Racquel:

When Luli [told us] the project timeline, I knew then and there, this would be the most challenging part of the renovation. Four weeks is an unrealistic timeframe for a fully renovated two-bedroom apartment. However, I could not be prouder of our team: we pulled it off in five weeks.

Q4. WERE THERE ANY DISAGREEMENTS ALONG THE WAY?

Luli:

There wasn’t really any disagreements, only perhaps tile choices, and I think that one came down to timing and budget—everything else we tended to agree on, which was great.

The timeframe was interesting – from demo day to completion day, there is just so much that can go wrong that you can’t always anticipate in the renovation. You think that you’ve planned for everything, but I didn’t know there was a hot water unit in the kitchen cupboard, for example. So, when I designed the cabinetry, I didn’t design it to fit the hot water cabinet. Things like that can go wrong so quickly.

Q5. WHICH PART OF THE RENO ARE YOU PARTICULARLY PROUD OF AND WHY?

Luli:

The study was probably the funnest one to figure out. The client was willing to give up the second bedroom, but he wanted to ensure someone could still stay over. He said they would sleep on the couch, but for me, that wasn’t an option – you need to have a bed in there ready for them.

Then there was the idea of turning the cupboard into a study. It doesn’t look or feel like a cupboard; it feels like a study in there. So, it’s an efficient use of space, especially in such a small unit – the client hasn’t lost any square metreage. We were also able to add more clothing and bulk storage too.

Another big one was the laundry. The client was intending to keep his washing machine down in the garage, however, now it’s in a great spot [in a linen closet], and you can close it off. You also now have a full shower in the bathroom. Overall, I think a fun part of the reno was trying to figure out how to make the most of a tiny space.

Renee:

I would have to say the bedroom is the space I am most proud of. The way the client was sleeping before was painful to witness. We spend most of our life sleeping, so it’s integral to create a beautiful environment for us to wind down in at the end of the day. We achieved this in the bedroom by using quality, soft textures from the Miss Amara rugs to the lush Cultiver green linen.

Racquel:

I’m particularly proud of the living, dining and kitchen. These spaces flow on from each other and now have purpose, functionality and cohesiveness within the styling. It is an entertainer’s dream, especially for a two-bedroom apartment. We were able to create sophistication, ambience and a whole lot of style throughout the entire apartment.

Q6. WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY OR LEARNING CURVE FROM FREDERICK STREET?

Raquel:

With any fully renovated project, sourcing all the furniture and storing it at a warehouse until install day is great. However, you need to ensure you check every item; even if it says they have been delivered, it’s not always the case. The last two days before the reveal to our client, we had a few key furniture pieces just sitting at a random transport centre. We were fortunate it was in Queensland, but it had caused a bit of stress and uncertainty around the reveal date. After the reveal, you instantly forget about the last week leading up to this moment, including all those other mini stresses you encountered along the way. This is why you do this job: seeing [the client’s] reaction and how grateful they are for all your hard work.

Renee:

Plan, plan, plan and check three times. Having a well-thought-out plan will minimise any sneaky expenses or roadblocks. This will come with experience, but it is important to work closely with all your trades to seek technical advice and map out any structural limitations before designing and selecting your fixtures. Assure everything has arrived well and truly before starting your renovations and triple-check that everything is correct. Don’t be left having to make last-minute decisions.

Q7. WHAT IS THE MOST SATISFYING PART OF THE RENOVATION PROCESS FOR YOU?

Renee:

There is no greater satisfaction as a designer than seeing the look on the client’s face once the renovation is complete. Seeing them so pleased and starting to envision what their life will now be like in their new home is truly a wonderful feeling.

Racquel:

The most satisfying part of the whole renovation was hands-down seeing the client’s reaction when he walked through the door of his brand new, fully renovated and furnished apartment. He was literally speechless. He could not believe how we did it.