What kinds of words and imagery do you associate with the classic conversation pit? Shag carpeting, almost certainly. “Retro” and “kitsch,” for sure. You might even go so far as to say “tacky.” But what about words like “bold,” “fresh,” “chic,” and “futuristic”?
From the moment you first spot its sleek contemporary facade from the curb, the McGovern Residence in the Queensland, Australia town of Mooloolaba seems like an unlikely place to find such an outdated feature. Pass through the garden gate and into its high-ceilinged concrete interiors, and the idea becomes ever more ludicrous. But believe it or not, this stylish modern space only offers more evidence that the sunken conversation pit is having a bit of a moment right now, broaching the possibility that the trend might even make its way into everyday interiors sometime soon.
Previously, we’ve featured updated versions of the conversation pit in multiple contemporary homes, including a cozy reading nook in a minimalist Czech home and a luxe, well-padded amethyst lounge pit within a glass-walled room in Cupertino, California. Both of these examples saw the pit padded and upholstered to create more space for lying down. At the McGovern Residence, designed by the Australian firm Reitsma, a modern conversation pit echoes the shapes of the 60s and 70s originals with a sunken semi-circular couch, but it somehow feels natural in its very of-the-moment surroundings.
Upholstered in a rich smoke-colored velvet, the sunken feature lures you in with soft surfaces and views of both an adjacent reflecting pool and a theater-style screen. Its round shape also mimics that of an opposite wood-clad volume and the ceiling tray directly above it, bringing some organic curvature into a space that’s otherwise quite hard and linear.
Other intriguing details seen throughout the interiors (all photographed by Kelli Black) include lots of strategically placed skylights, glazing directed only at private outdoor spaces to avoid views of the neighbors, and a stunning stone backsplash in the kitchen.
“A landmark site, a radical client willing to take risks, and a sensational builder: the dream commission,” says Reitsma of the project. “The south-facing riverfront allotment was occupied by a very charming but exhausted 1940’s worker’s cottage. The cottage was casually nestled between two mature trees: one to the street and one to the river. The secluded, sheltered feel needed to somehow remain. Surrounded by high-rise construction [on] either side, this would be the only house left in the street, [so] it had to be excellent, not wasting a single inch of the expensive potential development site.”
They add: “In an unusual move, our brief went against the typical trend. A lowest three-bedroom home with one living room would set the agenda, [and] this would be an exercise in quality over quantity. The modest size would not only allow for generous landscaping, but it would also ensure the new home would be of a manageable scale for the years to come, [and] a special place to enjoy for a lifetime.
“The built home may be modest in size, yet it is rich in thought, detail, and specification. In contrast to the original lightweight worker’s cottage, this new home presents [itself] as a very permanent structure, anchored to the ground with an extensive use of off-form concrete. The new home [also uses] frameless glass and large volumes to capture the [forest] surroundings, maintaining its original connection to both the site and river.”