Bringing nature to urban living

Words: Thida Sachathep
Photography: Derek Swalwell

“Our brief was to create a family home,” says John Bornas, design director of Workroom. “A real home. An oasis from the outside world that connects interior and exterior.” And the result? Kooyong Residence – an inner-city Melbourne home – that truly reimagines the shape and experience of urban living today.

As a site of calmness and retreat, the design of Kooyong Residence provides the conditions for a balanced lifestyle with intimate connection to the one thing that inner-city living often has in short supply: nature. “Large open spaces,” says Bornas, “allow for the togetherness of family but also provide a secluded sense of space and refuge.” With a spatial layout that deliberately blurs the divides between internal living areas and the lush exterior gardens, further nods to nature exist throughout the home’s various touches of biophilia.

Whether through generous use of raw, organic materials such as stone, or even the array of timbers used across furnishings, flooring and paneling in this five-bedroom home, Bornas and the Workroom design team evidently placed the residents’ health first and foremost in the design process. To further enhance the sense of holistic wellbeing, Workroom selected the HydroTap by Zip Water to engender better hydration at the convenience of a fingertip for everyone in the family – proving once again that leading residential environments need to embrace design that is not only good, but good for you.

Australian designers, in particular, are at the very front of this recent turn in design thinking. Aware that our cities are in a sustained boom period, more and more leading homes are reimagining new futures for urban living. Lending more emphasis to questions surrounding wellbeing, amenity, proximity to nature and holistic sustainability, Australia’s inner-city suburbs.

“The materials,” says Bornas, “are kept deliberately raw and minimal, creating an immediate tactile warmth that allows you to experience the building on multiple levels. You sense the scale, you can’t help touching the concrete walls, the dark timber panels. It goes beyond the visual, creating a direct connection with the fabric of the building.”

For Kooyong Residence just on the fringes of the Melbourne central business district, this is particularly important. Set to become Australia’s most populous city within a decade, droves of new citizens continue to inflate Melbourne’s demography and the sprawl of its urban infrastructure. But in offering city-siders living spaces conveniently located to the central business district, many have noticed the measurable impacts than an urban lifestyle has on overall wellbeing – not to mention a potential threat to Melbourne’s consistently high indexing liveability ratings.

In recognition of wanting to provide a solution that is “an oasis from the outside world”, the design of Kooyong Residence combats the increased production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline that are exacerbated by an urban milieu. By stimulating the neural receptors that register calmness through exposing its residents to biophilic features, promoting greater hydration and a more intimate connection to the natural environment, Kooyong Residence makes a bold statement about the future of residential design. Home is no longer just where the heart is – home is where our health is, too.