Australian architect Rob Mills may be best known for his sleek contemporary residences, glamorous interiors full of sumptuous organic materials, and signature spiral staircases, but for 12 years he lived in a humble industrial space in Melbourne’s Armadale neighborhood without any extravagant features besides a generous amount of living space. As you might imagine, that gave him plenty of time to get to know the space intimately, daydreaming about the ways he could transform it into a spectacular family home.
When it came time to give that former factory the makeover it deserved, Mills was more than ready. His firsthand knowledge of the way industrial spaces should be used and changed has resulted in a dramatic transformation, with an emphasis on precise acoustic engineering to dampen the building’s tendencies to echo while preserving the sounds of adjacent parklands. The factory is now an opulent five-bedroom home built to house three generations in comfort and refinement.
“When you design for yourself, there are no frames of reference,” he says. “I was keen, however, to ensure that there is enough light, that the materials push a strong design ethos and, moreover, that it becomes a family home as opposed to a bachelor pad.”
The heart of the home is a shimmering golden kitchen almost entirely outfitted in brass − a material that’s carried throughout the rest of the home in the form of lighting and bathroom fixtures, ventilation grates, fireplace surrounds, and the lining of each recessed doorway. Materiality is one of the most important elements of the renovation, and Mills’ work in general. He works with things like stone, wood, steel, brass, glass, and stucco to create a sensory experience that’s both visual and tactile.
The velvety stucco creates smooth curves that complement the angular lines of the cabinetry and the gleam of the metal, and it also helps absorb sound. The black and white spiral staircase, which itself has been topped with a round skylight, stands as a sculptural centerpiece that connects the ground level, which serves as its own self-contained apartment for guests and extended family, to the main living spaces on the first floor and the private bedrooms above that.
The black marble that lines this staircase, sourced from a sixth-generation quarry in Verona, contrasts with the paler Fior di Pesco Carnico stone flooring, appearing again in the home’s striking bathroom. Oak, velvet, leather, and linen help make the space feel warm and welcoming, and wide expanses of glazing on the rear walls ensure plenty of natural daylight.
Sustainability was another hugely important factor, Mills explains: “With Armadale Residence we aimed to create a healthy building. To achieve this we looked not only at fresh air and the proximity to the trees and the park but also at the use of organic and low-VOC paints and glues, indirect lighting, cross-ventilation, and low-e glass. It is the experiential aspect of architecture and we are paying more and more attention to it at RMA.”