It’s been a while since I’ve heard a place described as a brothel. That the place in question is a hole, a dive. You know, not very nice.
Besides, I’ve probably never written about a home that was once a legitimate brothel. At least not knowingly. But there is always a first, and today, my friends, is the day we indulge in a supremely clever transformation of a former, yes – umm, brothel.
This cunning Residential Alterations & Additions project saw Fieldwork architects add a new dwelling to the rear of the existing six-metre-wide terrace.
Connected by a shared bluestone and timber-deck courtyard, this unique-looking home occupies one of the back streets of Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Fitzroy.
Even at first glance, it’s pretty clear this is a home with a colourful past.
The repurposed “Exquisite Ladies” neon sign alone is probably enough to pique anyone’s interest.
Fieldwork made a conscious effort to embrace and honour the site’s former life, rather than erase it. They took cues from existing materiality and colour schemes (think various shades of pink and gold accents), and overlaid it with a bold and unexpected mix of elements.
Rather than create a singular gesture to unify spaces, Fieldwork have taken a far braver approach that celebrates the quirkiness found in the original brothel.
Nothing seems to match, yet everything works so perfectly as a team.
Salvaged red neon and custom pink LED lights, bespoke leather and velvet banquette versus the vintage leather armchair in the front room, timber herringbone parquet and granite tiles on the floors, lightly waxed brass benchtops versus the cheerful pink colour accents in various shades present throughout the interior.
“This is a space focused on detail, surprise and tactility – and the junctures between the old world and new, Apollo and Dionysus,” says Quino Holland, director of Fieldwork.
One of the main problems with the original house was its lack of natural light.
Fieldwork integrated a skylight over the new staircase to the east, while implementing a one-metre setback to the west, providing glazed access to a raised garden bed. In doing so, they achieved not only better access to natural light, but also opened the interior to landscape.
The central planted courtyard acts as a transition between the primary residence and the rear outbuilding. This area transforms from a bright, tactile and green urban sanctuary by day into a space bathed with a saucy and mysterious ambience, due to the combination of red neon and pink LED lights. Grrrr, baby.
The rear building retains its external walls, while the interior was completely gutted. The ground floor presents as a simple white box with an open living and dining space.
Gold accents and a pink neon strip light wrap the entire interior, leading upstairs as a continuous line to two glowing pink bedrooms. Bizarre and saucy, but somehow appropriate. Such a “brothel” moment, except in this instance, Fieldwork have managed to completely reframe the meaning of that word, at least when it comes to explaining the spatial and aesthetic qualities of an interior. Massive respect.