Behind the unassuming façade of an old factory in central Melbourne lies a spectacular modern home with a ‘floating’ swimming pool suspended between floors and a living room that looks like an upscale art gallery.
Built in the early 20th century, the industrial warehouse in Prahran, five kilometres southeast of the CBD, started life as a metal fabricators and joinery workshop before falling into disuse.
It stood idle until late 2016, when it was transformed by local architect Nick Travers for an art collector couple who asked him to design a house that was a ‘private art gallery first and a home second’.
Mr Travers exceeded his clients’ expectations by turning the historic shell into an artistic paradise called Prahran House, a ‘building inside a building’ still surrounded by the original red brick perimeter wall.
The result of the conversion – which took 18 months to complete – is a unique four-bedroom ‘dream’ home split over two storeys with a gym, wine cellar, rooftop sun deck and luxury kitchen, as well as three bathrooms covered in ornate Japanese finger tiles and a sprawling living room that looks more like a museum than a private residence.
An industrial artistic paradise: The industrial façade of Nick Travers’ Prahran House suggests a business still operates behind the roller door – but in reality, the exterior hides a spectacular modern home
The standout feature is undoubtedly the suspended swimming pool that spans the space between two outdoor terraces
But the standout feature is undoubtedly the suspended swimming pool that spans the space between two outdoor terraces, overlooking the courtyard below.
Mr Travers believes demand for factory conversions like Prahran House is growing as more Australians look for a piece of history inside their homes.
‘The markings of time and past uses is always quite captivating to people, and we always try to bring that history out in the work,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I think [factory conversions] are also popular because they typically have a robustness to them and are constructed with authentic solid materials like brick, concrete, steel and timber.’
Mr Travers’ art collector clients asked him to design a house that is a ‘private art gallery first and a home second’
Japanese finger tiles run from floor to ceiling in the bathroom, which has a freestanding bathtub and ‘his’ and ‘hers’ sinks
Mr Travers used those materials throughout Prahran House, with black timber ceiling beams towering over polished concrete floors.
The installation of the custom pool was the most technically challenging aspect of the entire renovation, but definitely ‘worth the effort’.
‘The clients were absolutely committed to having this dramatic feature in the home. It fits with the scale and nature of the overall project,’ Mr Travers said.
Per their request, the gallery covers most of the ground floor which also houses a study, toilet, laundry and a black steel staircase in the main entry way that is a work of art in itself.
Living in art: The gallery covers most of the ground floor which also houses a study, laundry and home gym
The black steel staircase in the main gallery area is a work of art in itself
Mr Travers believes demand for factory conversions like Prahran House is growing as more Australians look for a piece of history inside their homes
Sunlight floods through enormous windows, providing a natural spotlight for the couple’s collection of artwork
Three bedrooms and a spacious master ensuite with its own dressing room are spread across the upstairs, along with additional living space, two of the three bathrooms and a terrace with views of the city skyline.
Japanese finger tiles run from floor to ceiling in the master bathroom, which has a freestanding bathtub and ‘his’ and ‘hers’ sinks.
Mr Travers feels the privacy provided by industrial-fronted houses is another major draw card for modern factory conversions.
‘From the outside they can be quite unassuming,’ he said. ‘It isn’t apparent whether it’s a commercial or residential property.’
Mr Travers said the installation of the custom pool was the most technically challenging aspect of the entire renovation, but definitely ‘worth the effort’
Black timber ceiling beams tower over polished concrete floors throughout the house
Mr Travers exceeded his clients’ expectations by turning the historic shell into an artistic paradise
A rooftop terrace overlooks the skyline of Melbourne CBD, five kilometres southeast of the house
This is the case for Prahran House which is fronted by a sign over the exterior roller door that reads ‘Holt and Sinn Industries Pty’ – suggesting the building still operates as a business.
In reality, Holt and Sinn are the names of two previous owners from different eras which Mr Travers took from the title search register to create a fake business name, adding a layer of privacy rarely found in residential properties.
Mr Travers did not disclose the cost of the project and its worth has not been valued at current market rates, but the exceptional interior speaks a thousand words – it certainly wasn’t cheap.