At home with Chris from Luxe, St Kilda
When it was completed in 1998, Luxe by Neometro was an exemplar of mixed-use development in Melbourne’s epicentre of eclecticism – St Kilda. Drawing on the work/live model so successfully integrated into European life but not surpassing Australia’s collective desire for the picket-fenced single family home back in the late 90’s, Luxe exuded a visionary commitment by its development and design team to harness eminent flexibility of use, informed by an empathy for its surrounding neighbourhood.
Chris was one of the first residents at Luxe back in 1998. “I was looking to lease some space for myself to use as a design studio,” he recalls. “As a St Kilda local I used to drive past a watch the development of the building and, when I found out it was a Neometro project I wanted to explore it further.”
This sentiment was driven by Chris’s admiration for both Neometro’s design language and its ability to combine complimentary disciplines to create a sense of community. In his endeavour to find a space that would have the physical and contextual flexibility to evolve through different uses, Chris was drawn to Luxe’s industrial bones, unique location back when the neighbourhood was still defined by its raw griminess and astounding diversity, and the expansive spatial qualities of the interiors which lent it to varying uses.
“Originally, when the building was completed in 1998, I started a design studio. Neometro was downstairs, we’d just moved in upstairs,” Chris recalls. As other businesses filled out the building, the Luxe restaurant downstairs and the wine bar next door to it became a social core for the building’s inhabitants, St Kilda local’s and patrons young and old who were drawn by the magnetism of St Kilda in the early 2000’s. “Once upon a time in the 90’s St Kilda was a vibrant destination,” says Chris. “It’s somehow changed now along with the profile of the street. There used to be cars and noise and you could walk to the top end of Fitzroy Street, down the Esplanade and around Acland Street and it would be buzzing all the way. I think the fabric of it has largely disappeared now.”
As St Kilda, like many other parts of Melbourne’s inner-urban fringe, morphed through gentrification over the past few decades, Luxe building’s commitment to flexible use across both work and live dialogues has seen it retain and leverage on its relevance. “In 2016 I commissioned Architect Maria Danos to have a look at the space,” says Chris who had decided to renovate his space which was then leased to a couple of other designers. “Maria worked with Neometro back when Luxe was completed and I wanted any changes to be in line with what was originally created.” The result, which included a retention of the brutalist bones and architectural volumes while integrating contemporary innovation, was a space that stayed true to the work/live narrative established back in the early days.
Today, Chris has realised a space that fuses residential short-stay accommodation and a large boardroom space. The 1 bedroom plus study nook residence is huge by comparison to a hotel room or other short term rental options and subsequently attracts executives who covet the spatial qualities and the adjoining boardroom facilities. For Chris, his access to the boardroom space for his own business needs is as convenient as the area’s proximity to Melbourne CBD, and the short-term offering of the apartment means he can block out consistent boardroom time for his team once a month.
Just like the surrounding neighbourhood, Luxe has “transitioned through the decades really well,” concedes Chris. “We’ve had colourful people come and stay. A movie director, writers and various dubious characters,” an honest reflection of the breadth of diversity which gives St Kilda its magnetism. And even as the oily lustre which layered over St Kilda back in the 90’s becomes sterilised by affluence, the Luxe building continues to morph as its flexibility allows. Embracing the freedom to reflect the social, economical and cultural needs of both Chris and all the other inhabitants (long and short term) who gather within its walls to live and work.